Designing a memorable website means two things – it is aesthetically engaging and appealing, and it is wonderfully usable. As designers have access to ever-evolving technology, their options widen, and they experiment with new elements, layouts, colors, etc. Over time, user tastes change too, although this is probably a generational thing. And so, trends develop. Some are fleeting – experiments that lose favor quickly; some, however, are longer-term. They generate great responses from users and then become a standard that other designers follow. Trends do not last forever, but here are some that will probably be around for a good amount of time.
1. Original and Unique Visuals
Stock photos may still be fine for blogs, but they are becoming boring. Website designs need to have visuals that provide a new experience for visitors. Original photos that tell a story or pique interest are a must. Unique illustrations can engage. As attention spans are not what they used to be, it is also a good idea to change out visuals often.
Tom’s Shoes has a business model that has become so popular, it is copied by many other e-commerce enterprises. It is a one-for-one charitable model that began with a donation of a pair of shoes for every pair purchased. The website is simple in format but is filled with photos that tell stories –
Basecamp is a project management company whose motto is “Chaos Organized.” Here is a recent landing page, one of many that always sport creative illustrations and humor.
2. Video and Other Animation
People just prefer to see/hear than to read. Educators might not like this fact, but it is true for a few reasons:
We like to see faces and hear people’s voices
Emotions are conveyed better through video
We like movement
Our attention spans are shorter, and a video maintains our focus better – we remember more of what we see and hear than we do of what we read.
Probably the most popular types of video for websites are “how to” and explainer videos, which often appear on the home page to provide information on the value of the product(s) or services offered. Video is not going away any time soon. The other reasons video is here to stay is that technology has provided the tools for designers and marketers to make their own, as opposed to hiring an expensive production company.
Dollar Shave club spent $2500 on its explainer video and has not changed it out since its launch. Why? Because it now has about 25 million views. Using humor and a fast pace, the value of this razor subscription club is simply and effectively explained to a visitor.
As far back as 1998, the impact of interactivity in websites was cited as an important “draw.” Users want to be involved in what they are reading or seeing. They are engaged when they can participate, and engagement is always a good thing if the goal is to keep users on a site – the longer they stay, the more opportunity there is to get them to convert in some way. This can occur by means of a survey, a contest, or, as in this example below, clicking on parts of an infographic to find more information. User participation is here to stay:
The information about Michael Phelps, Olympic swimmer and medalist, could fill up an entire page. Rather than present that information in a wall of text, the designer chose to create an infographic. Each element on the page can be clicked for more information. How much more appealing to have a visual, with plenty of “white space” and a method by which users can participate. Even videos have become interactive.
Parallax scrolling is just a cool and often mesmerizing thing to watch. It provides both movement and depth to a page, and, as long as it is not overdone and users have a static background for reading text, it can be quite stunning. The design challenges for parallax relate to making it work well on mobile devices. When it first became popular, PC’s were still dominant. Another challenge is that it slows down load time. But, these “bugs” will be addressed, and parallax will continue to make design interesting.
Time4.online is an app that prompts users to set daily, yearly, life goals, share them with friends, invite friends to participate in events, and much more. The constant scrolling element is the hot air balloon; however, as each new page is loaded with opportunities for the user, other elements begin to move as well. The parallax is perfectly accomplished, and the effect is quite stunning.
5. Mobile First/Conversational Commerce – Convergence of Roles
Of course, this trend is here to stay. With over a billion mobile phone users in the world that use mobile apps and mobile browsers, and wearable now making big inroads, design for these devices will be the first consideration. Add o that the design messaging apps that will be using machine learning and chatbots, and both designers and developers will have plenty to “chew” on. Designers who broaden their skills into development will always be in demand as these new technologies take hold.
6. No More Splash Pages – It’s Over
One of the more recent trends has been those annoying splash pages that pop up upon landing on a website, prompting the visitor to do something in order to enter the site. Recent stats show that there is at least a 20% bounce rate when these are used, and that has a major impact on SEO. Here is one of the worst examples of a splash page ever:
Users who are not savvy will not be able to even find a way to exit this splash page. Further, if they click “accept,” hoping to get to the site after a short survey, they will find that the survey is nothing but a “come on” from a bunch of advertisers totally unrelated to pet products or services. The “exclusive reward” relates to discounts on a multitude of products that the user did not come here for. It’s irritating, and PetSmart has lost potential customers. Companies are abandoning the splash page idea, realizing that customers just want a quick, simple experience.
7. Sleek Simplicity
In keeping with user need for a simple experience, most designs will now be sleek, with lots of white space and small amounts of text. This is in keeping with the rather permanent desire of younger generations to get rid of the complexities of lifestyles. They want to “get in and get out” when they access websites for specific purposes, and clutter is not something they relish.
8. About those Menus
This is a design element that is still very much up in the air. Current designs include traditional menus, hamburger menus, and now even icons as replacements for text. The key is going to be making menus intuitive, and the verdict is just not yet in on this. There will be more experimentation with innovative menu designs, but nothing is yet settled. Using icons is become more popular, but there will be a learning curve for users that may require text as an accompaniment. This rather defeats the purpose of the icons.
Telling stories through videos and other visuals will be an enduring trend. First, people love stories; second, when they are told via visuals and videos, they garner attention. And when users can participate in those stories in some way, all the better. Here is a web page from Philips Razor that lets the visitor choose which story to tell, based upon the facial hair of the main character.
Technology Never Takes a Vacation
There is one goal for web design – attract visitors, keep them engaged, and provide an amazing experience while they are visiting. Design impacts SEO, brand popularity, and, in the case of e-commerce enterprises, revenue. At the same time, newer technology will continue to impact what designer do and create. While these nine trends seem to be long-lasting now, it is difficult to predict even the near future. Stay tuned, watch for new innovations, and adopt them as they fit with the design projects you craft.