Design Trends: Where Do We Go from Here?

Web and graphic design has always been innovative. It has had to be, due to the nature of the web and the swift evolution of technology. However, trends pop up all the time: some work well, others don’t.

So, how do we identify why the next big design trend is necessary and even if it will be one that sticks and grows?

It’s all about forward thinking really. If you consider how much the web has changed over the past couple of decades, it’s easy to see why some trends have lasted and others not.

Design Trends in 2013

It’s been a big year for several new trends in 2013, most notably responsive web design, flat design, improved UI and UX and the growing use of HTML5. Not to mention the thousands of resources that are available to help designers create stunning sites.

But are all of these lasting trends? Well, to some extent of course they will be, especially HTML5, but as always, technology and design will continue to evolve to deliver the best possible experience to the user.

What next for design?

The ‘mobile first’ approach is becoming more popular with designers now, as web users increasingly access it on devices of various sizes, using a selection of browsers. This is racing ahead at an astonishingly fast pace, as smartphones and tablets become more accessible to people across the world who have previously not had the funds to access the web via a mobile device.

Add to this the increasing emergence of lower-end tablets when it comes to pricing and even those targeting kids and it’s clear that the mobility market will continue to grow significantly in the next few years.

Advantages:

  • Enables sites to reach a larger audience
  • Allows for gestures, location, QR codes and so on

Disadvantages:

  • Can be costly to implement
  • Content delivery is much more limited

Content first approach

Bearing the above in mind, perhaps a designer’s first consideration, then, should be to take a ‘content first’ approach. This means that it can be decided what can be delivered to each device and how.

Client questionnaires

I have found that one of the biggest advantages to helping me to understand a client’s needs is to send out a content questionnaire. You many already do this for the design itself, but as we all have had drummed into us so well ‘content is king’ (and beyond, these days).

Sample questions:

  1. What does your company do?
  2. What is your USP?
  3. Who is your target audience?
  4. What do you hope to gain with your content (traffic, sales, etc)?
  5. Do you have a strong brand persona?

To download a sample template, click here for Word *.dotx or here for PDF.

You can then share this information with your content provider and come up with a workable solution to fit all platforms. For the client, it’s worth providing case studies for success stories to illustrate ROI and future-proofing. Yes it can be complex and so therefore costly to implement, but it will be worth it, especially when you see sites that haven’t taken mobile and content first into account disappearing into obscurity.

Responsive icons and menus

These are emerging at the moment as a trend and I’m not just talking scalable graphics here. Responsive icons don’t adapt to the size of the screen, but a completely different icon is delivered depending on the size of the device.

You can use several methods for creating these, such as SVG breakpoints, media queries and Element Query Polyfills; the latter of which is similar to a media query, but are based on elements instead of queries. It does require JavaScript and will apply some CSS if a condition, such as height and width maximums and minimums are applied.

There’s a good example of how they can be used by Tyson Matanich on Codepen, this one deals with menus.

Click here to download the Codepen Zip file

UI and UX, minus the mouse

Any good designer will know that the user experience and interface is now one of the most important aspects to designing a site that performs for the client and the user alike. As we steadily progress towards interfaces that are touch-based, rather than use a mouse, or even a pen, this is something savvy designers will allow for and begin to build into every site they build.

There are lots of resources out there for app design and the MSDN site has some great guidelines for designing for touch. Whether or not touch-based desktops and laptops will take off is anyone’s guess, unless they’re hybrid of course. I recently had my HDD die a sudden death and so purchased a new laptop with a touch-enabled screen.

It seems somewhat superfluous to me as I rarely use it and when someone touches the screen without thinking, all kinds of things can happen! However, that’s just my experience and since I’ve only owned the device a couple of weeks, I can’t say it’s been tested to the limit.

(Side note, yes it’s Windows 8, upgraded almost immediately to 8.1 and I really don’t get why so many ‘experts’ have struggled to use it; it can be slightly confusing but I’ve found my way around it pretty easily so far.)

User expectations and collaboration

Talking on the future of web design, amongst a panel of others, Fani Sazaklidou, creative director of YouView said:

“People’s standards and expectations regarding the quality of the experience have also increased significantly over the past few years; especially after the extraordinary pick-up of smartphones and tablets. Everyone, from technically savvy users to the mainstream audience, expect exceptional quality, speed and connectivity (in all its forms).”

So, as designers, we should all be looking towards technology and the knock-on effects it has on design, along with what the user expects and demands. Getting clients to understand these changes is rarely a simple process.

That’s why a holistic approach and collaborating with other web professionals such as content producers, SEO and digital marketing professionals, is also a growing trend that you should pay some serious attention to.

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  • Anonymous

    You have raised some important considerations going forward and have provided us with valuable resources and advice. Thanks for another great article Kerry!

  • Kirby

    I think more and more Google and Bing (if it ever grabs enough market share) will drive web design as they continue to demand quality. In my not-so-humble opinion I think they are a bit conceited into thinking they can quantify “quality” completely. For example, they stress quality content yet a quality restaurant site will have a lot of pictures telling the story. We all know a picture is worth a thousand words but it’s going to be a long time before Google can read the story being told. In order to get ranked a restaurant site is going to have to ugly up their site with a bunch of words that nobody wants to read just to feed the Googlebots.