With the rise of Instagram and other largely-visual social media platforms, it comes as no surprise that web design trends focus on aesthetics rather than substance.
While this may sound like a bad move, a shift towards simple designs over recent years has forced web copy to become more concise and clear. The introduction of new user-friendly design platforms, ever evolving creative software and the need for responsive designs have meant that cluttered pages and awkward stock images are a thing of the past.
Here are my top ten web design trends:
- Let's look at the big picture - see blue homes (USA)
Following the boom in HD background images last year, big is definitely still beautiful. Large professional photography dominates the global design scene and it's easy to see why it's such a widely-used template. Big pictures and big typefaces make for a big impact. In addition to less coding work and the appearance of a clean and simple user interface, large images make a strong impression and can provide a site or business with a memorable and distinct visual flavour.
- An introduction to ghost buttons - see RD Construction (Russia)
Over the last three years, there has been a real emphasis on the importance of simplicity - and some elements of it are thriving - particularly these little gems. Flying high on their sudden jump in popularity in the last half of 2014, Ghost buttons aren't a feature that seems to be going away. Typically slim and trendy, ghost buttons are 'invisible' hyperlinks that give the appearance of blending seamlessly with the site design, while simultaneously catching the eye. See it, like it, click it. Simple.
- Break it up - see Aquatilis (Russia, USA, UK)
Following an increase in the number of people browsing the internet on mobile devices, long single-paged websites have skyrocketed to the top of everyones' must-have lists. On sites utilising this trend of 'endless scrolling', visitors are presented with a smooth and uninterrupted user experience. To prevent tedium and seemingly never-ending information, designers have taken to breaking content up into sections. Almost like the layers of a cake, what might have been multiple different pages on a point-and-click site have become one single tasty pile of varied and complimentary design.
- When it comes to typography, go big or go home - see kontor (UK)
Bigger is better. Not only are big background images in demand, but big typography is too. Large fonts have long since been regarded as easier to read and when the purpose of the text is to promote a site name or brand, it's crucial to be big, bold and memorable. Leaving a lasting impression is the trick to success here. Recently, typography-centric pages have been standing out from the crowd with custom typefaces, animation and carefully choreographed combinations of the two. The fact of the matter is that these days text can be just as "ooh" inducing as images are, only without the hassle of colossal file sizes or compromised loading times.
- Designs are taking centre stage - see Exit Film (Japan)
Centred content is very commonly integrated into responsive designs, meaning that pages can be viewed on any device with an internet browser without a drop in quality. Starting in 2014, the need for responsive designs really took off. So much so that they're almost an established standard rather than a fleeting fad now. Keeping the content central directs the users focus to what's important, allowing them to concentrate on the most prominent points of interest and get the most relevant information quickly. The main drawback to centred content is how it can constrain the size of certain elements.
- Interactive innovation - see Oh Deer Games (Australia)
At the rate technologies are advancing, it's becoming easier and easier for creative designers to really push the boundaries of innovation. The unusual is slowly becoming usual. Trying to impress with quirky and interactive UI is edging on commonplace. As HTML5 and other coding languages continue to progress, the limit of what can be achieved stretches further into the distance. Interactive environments, games and innovative navigation methods are just a few of the things that developers are finding to add colour to the design landscape.
- Less is more - see Vangarde Music (Belgium)
It feels almost too easy to say that less is more, but it's true. This year minimalism is forcefully maintaining it's space at the forefront of digital design. Simple layouts, single-colour backgrounds and sans-serif font faces are just a few of the many minimalist features that are asserting their dominance in popular design spaces right now. And it's not without good reason. Keeping things simple allows designers to strip away unnecessary features and focus user attention on the bare essential bones of a page. It removes the distraction of overly complicated design elements, while retaining a stylish feel and sleek appearance.
- Out of site, out of mind - see Tomas Bata University in Zlín (Czech Republic)
Having followed in the wake of the movement towards cleaner and simpler design, the appearance of hidden menus is hardly unexpected. Removing potential bulky lists of links from immediate view allows for more dramatic first-impressions, with a greater emphasis on page content. While they can work wonders in cleaning up cluttered pages, hidden menus are not to be implemented lightly. They can easily impede quick access to menus, making subsequent site visits slower and less satisfying. So are they worth it? Whether or not hidden menus are worthwhile is just one of those things that is best assessed on a case by case basis. Think hard about the purpose of your site before making a snap decision.
- A more refined palette - see Gogoro (USA)
With so many sites utilising white space and minimal layouts, it can be difficult to make a unique mark amongst them. It's not news that designers are making sites stand out by sticking to limited colour palettes, but this year it's being taken to a new extreme. In addition to solid background colours (usually white), palettes are being limited to one or two lively shades of a central colour and nothing more. If used right, this technique can be useful for highlighting the most important elements of a site, while simultaneously adding a unique zest to minimalist designs.
- Cinematic spectacular - see Leidgens Piscines (Belgium)
Streaming speeds and coding languages, such as HTML5, are advancing in leaps and bounds. Along with these advancements comes the utility to embed HD videos into websites in place of background images. If 2014 was the year of photography, then this is looking like it's going to be the year of video. Any site capable of handling HD videos at high speeds deserves to show off about it, but be careful do so with caution. Titles and ghost buttons can be very tricky to read atop certain types of moving images. Without proper care, designs with video backgrounds can easily become confusing or difficult to navigate.
Charlie is on a work placement at Rippleffect following her graduation in creative writing from Liverpool John Moores University. In addition to the written work, her passions and talents include digital art and web design.
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