Webdesign trends 2016: “What separates design from art is that design is supposed to be functional,” says veteran designer Cameron Moll. A great looking web design without functionality is like a sports car with no engine, and that is what makes web design so complicated. Unlike a sports car, the kind of functionality desired from a website can change with social trends and preferences. What used to be great web design 10 years ago is sloppy today, so you shouldn’t be surprised if today’s design trends are also blown away by the winds of time.
A look around reveals the following major shifts in trends that will impact web design through 2016, and in the years after that.
1. Emphasis on UX
In the last couple of years, the term “user experience”, or UX, has been resonating in agencies, offices and in the minds of developers. The buzz is only going to become more intense in 2016. UX is the reason why responsive web design has become the industry standard. Your users now interact with your website through a variety of different devices under diverse circumstances. It is crucial that they have a smooth experience and can conveniently and efficiently find what they are looking for, otherwise it. Apart from conversion and repeat visits, a great UX is also critical for better SEO rankings. With more and more websites paying attention to UX, there may be no place for design that is created in a vacuum. Pam Negoro sums it up neatly in a conversation with : “Consumers today move freely between devices ( , tablet, laptop) and each device has a specific role based upon what the consumer is seeking. Therefore, brands and retailers must have a deep understanding of the consumer to create optimal content and user interface to meet the consumer need for each device, context/occasion and experience.”
2. Mobile First Strategy to become Pervasive
In February this year,reported that mobile apps had overtaken desktop Internet usage in the US for the first time in history. Mobile Internet traffic grew at a rate of 35% between 2012 and 2013, and shows no signs of slowing down. In this scenario, many businesses are opting for a “mobile first” strategy. Developers now need to consider the user experience across a variety of mobile devices before they start wire-framing their websites. Responsive design is now the order of the day, but this is just the beginning. Mobile apps have opened doors to unlimited possibilities for engaging customers. API led development is gaining momentum. At the end of the day, great web design can only be created around your customers’ needs and preferences. With users spending more and more time on mobile, every competitive business is going to try and put mobile first.
3. Rise of Cloud and Decline of Coding
identifies cloud computing as one of the major trends for 2016 and beyond. There are several already making it possible for people to design their own web and mobile apps without knowing much about coding. Agreed, that these tools generate atrocious CSS, but the future may see these tools become more sophisticated. They might never produce as clean or ingenious a code as a person, but it will be good enough for an average user. For web designers, it means that hand coding websites may not to be necessary anymore. It also means that designers can have access to snippets of code and pre-built, customizable design elements, and can hence reduce the time and effort required for development. Tools like Macaw and Adobe Reflow are already eliminating the need for hand coding front end. Software-as-a-service (SAAS) and third party hosting services will continue to erode the way development is done today.
, a web-based tool that offers free development for public projects.
4. Context Rich Websites and Apps
Highly advanced systems with embedded intelligence will rely on state-of-the-art analytics to determine the context in which they are being used, and respond accordingly. For example, the pay-per-use model can be applied to machines (such as cloud based 3D printers), services (pay as you drive insurance), places (parking lots), and other uses. Just by changing the context, the same applications can create new business products. The future may see integration of web and mobile apps with ubiquitous hardware and machines. Appleis just one example. Future websites and apps will need to focus on the context and environment under which they will be used.
Apple CarPlay an example of context rich apps
5. Rise of Flat Design
Flat or minimalist design has become popular in 2014 and 2015, and it’s not going away anytime soon. A flat design consists of simple elements and fonts and excludes 3D elements, drop-shadows, gradients or flash element. One of the arguments in favor of flat design is that users today browse the Internet on all kinds of mobile devices. They have grown more impatient as well as UI savvy and can interpret popular icons, colors, etc. They don’t want the UI to interfere with their browsing experience and would rather like to have the whole web designed the same way. That’s why the emphasis on simplicity and standardization has increased. There may be only one way to make your website stand out in today’s online marketing environment to offer the best and the smoothest user experience possible. A great UX is more likely to happen if your site or app repeats the users’ habit patterns – these patterns can be. With that said, design still needs to be visually pleasing and attractive, without being complicated. Windows 8 has completely ditched 3D design, as has iOS7.
6. Content vs Design?
In aon CB that has stirred a bit of a controversy among the design community, Paul Boag argues that the website is in a decline. Although the number of Internet users is still increasing, many of them don’t go to individual websites to find the information they want. Instead, they rely on aggregating services and apps. For instance, users find it more convenient to use Siri to find movies rather than going to the movie theater websites. There are apps for everything from news and entertainment to sports and shopping. These services fetch relevant content from across the Internet and eliminate the need to visit websites. One day, Siri is going to be smart enough to talk back to you, which means that design, as we know it, will cease to exist. Come to think of it, we are already making flat websites and praising ‘transparent’ UIs. The demise of design may be arguable, but it seems probable.
7. Miscellaneous Trends
There are numerous other trends that are likely to stick around in 2016, if not dominate the design industry. Custom typography and fonts, single-page ‘newsfeed’ design, and large background images are some of them. More sites may add gamification elements and lead generation boxes in an effort to engage users. We may also see an explosion of new, lightweight app development frameworks, such as ReactJS by Facebook and Instagram developers.
Bonus: Obsolete Web Design Trends
The following trends have already died down and may rest in peace forever.
- Mobile Versions of Websites: Responsive design has eliminated the need for having and maintaining separate domains for mobile.
- Text Heavy Sites: Visual story telling is fast replacing text heavy web pages across the Internet real estate.
- SEO Content Writing: Google and other search engines now penalize you for keyword stuffing. For years, Google has been advising us to build websites for users, not for bots.
I hope this post gives you some food for thought for designing websites of the future. If you are into designing, do let us know about some of the tools and technologies that you see evolving during 2016.