A number of businesses struggle to keep up with the latest website design trends. Falling behind in this space is dangerous as it may mean losing the attention of savvy customers to competitors who are keeping up-to-date with industry trends. Below we explore eight of the hottest trends among top digital businesses.
The boring static images of the past are rapidly giving way to rich animations that engage and excite visitors. Traffic channels can be more effectively driven by responsive designs that draw attention to favored actions and destinations.
For example, a spinner might burst forth near a hovering mouse cursor to emphasise the desirability of clicking on the acceptance button for a free e-book. A hidden menu may slide forth at a certain point along a long-scrolling page with descriptive images and textual content for top products and services. Larger design components may draw attention away from slow loading times with cute animations or visually striking loading bars that momentarily amuse visitors and prevent them from drifting away.
More sophisticated approaches may tell brief stories that entertain visitors and put them into a buying mood. An animated koala may scamper with joy at the thought of a hefty shipment cakes from a bakery website, for example, after which a thought balloon would pop up with the message, “They’re scrumptious!”.
Instant Product Previews
There’s nothing quite like an instant preview of a product or service in action to sell it to hesitant visitors. Potential customers are more likely to understand the benefits of a product or service if they can watch a video presentation of it being used by a real person. Vector graphics, one of the biggest current trends in web design, also provide a powerful tool for showing complex software functions and other ideas in operation.
The most modern designs in 2016 place heavy emphasis on visually compelling presentations that exploit every possible opportunity to invite potential customers to imagine themselves using the proffered goods and services.
The rise of Google Fonts and other web typography tools has combined with an explosion in high-resolution desktop and mobile-device displays to make 2016 the year of custom typography. Calls to action are more easily highlighted with well-chosen visual hierarchies among textual components.
Maintaining the all-important legibility of textual components is far easier with an expansive toolkit of custom typefaces for different design patterns. Handwritten fonts add urgency and intimacy to direct appeals for immediate visitor action. Another popular tactic is sprawling text across multiple page sections such as images to give a deeper dimension to the intended message.
Despite the almost incomprehensible growth in toolkits and design elements aimed at visitor engagement, many of the best e-commerce websites choose minimalist visual layouts that present only the most relevant elements. Instead of cluttered pages that overwhelm visitors with an excess of textual and visual information, sleek websites represent Zen gardens of focused messaging.
The aesthetic of sheer simplicity is seen by more and more web developers as the best approach to attracting and retaining jaded visitors who are bombarded daily with unwanted complexity. Quite apart from avoiding the risk of confusing and alienating a substantial number of potential customers, minimalist websites load faster and convey better sophistication. A streamlined attention channel also highlights the eventual call to action.
One of the most interesting new trends in web design is how increasingly sophisticated microinteractions have stormed into mobile applications and desktop displays as an effective way to reward visitors for their continued engagement. Consistently responding to user-experience clicks with small animations, numerical counters or localized color shifts tends to increase visitor comfort with the user experience and build loyalty to the website.
The overarching goal of minimalism does call for cautiously testing new microinteractions for negative reactions before rolling them out across an entire website. However sophisticated it may be internally, an effective microinteraction serves a simple, clear purpose that doesn’t infringe onto other user-interface elements.
Rather than break up available content into a fixed number of discrete pages, many website operators increasingly favour infinite scrolling, which repeatedly adds more content to the current page as a visitor scrolls down to the end. Limiting the initial content of a website page to a core presentation that can be extended on demand frequently simplifies navigational design, and infinite scrolling works especially well for touch-operated mobile devices that have limited display space for navigation elements.
Infinite scrolling works best if clear user-experience clues point to more content to come, and an unmoving navigation escape hatch is mandatory if visitors are not to become lost on an enormously long page.
Content-Heavy Card Layouts
Not all websites are well-suited for minimalist designs. Websites that unavoidably must cram a great deal of information into their pages increasingly have seen the adoption of card layouts that cleanly separate unrelated messages. Once largely confined to Facebook, Pinterest and few other major websites, card layouts have spread across the Internet as an efficient answer to the problem of organising torrents of information into easily digestible blocks.
Card layouts lend themselves especially well to the difficult technical challenge of designing responsive websites to work equally well across large desktop displays and small mobile-device screens. For best results, each card should limit itself to a single idea or presentation of that idea. For example, a demonstration video of an off-road recreation vehicle should occupy a different card than the technical description of the vehicle’s features. This practice can actually help with online branding by addressing one simple conceptual layer at a time.
Web design techniques have matured greatly since the early days, and only a book-length guide could begin to cover all current trends in web design. Still, the hot trends mentioned above likely will provide clarity to even the most experienced web developer.