Coco Channel once said that fashion changes, but style endures. Web design is similar – here every year witnesses the rise and fall of successive trends. Yet, some of them catch on and become canons of style that remain with us for a longer time. See what we may expect this year.
1. Flat 2.0 in online stores
Flat 2.0 in use – a website of Google; source: http://www.google.com/search/about/
The first revision of flat UI on the Web was a breath of fresh air after the years of skeuomorphism and also let the most important information be brought to the foreground. Unfortunately, the beginnings were difficult and many mistakes were made on the way; in its main assumptions flat design was far from perfect and that is why we are currently presented with an improved revision, sometimes called flat 2.0. The direction of changes was set by Material Design that originated in Google studios, where the major faults of the first revision of flat design were fixed.
The basic difference is that the new revision is no longer completely flat. The elements are arranged in a hierarchy related to one another in space that informs the user where particular elements are and what relations hold among them. Flat long shadows are now replaced with soft, so-called diffuse shadows, which prove to be better at bringing objects to the foreground.
2. Animations in product pages
Eye-catching animations from Mambo Mambo, web design agency; source: http://mambomambo.ca/
Animation is back in favour, but in a new, carefully redesigned form. We can expect to see more and more animated elements on websites. It allows HTML 5 to develop, which has undermined the importance of overloaded Flash. Apart from that, CSS animations have appeared on the horizon and they are quicker to load.
3. Parallax, that is space
Space on the GE website; source: http://kubio.campaignhosting.se/
The parallax effect is a trend that is developing on websites as a kind of experiment. The usefulness of the parallax is debatable, but can surely expect more of it in the forthcoming year. It is caused, among other reasons, by the fact that bigger players make use of it. The materials that let us test and prepare this effect can be found on Apple’s website, but the Web is full of free codes and tutorials that will be made use of in the months to come. The advantage of the parallax is the fact that it introduces a breath of space into the Web that is dominated by flat elements. The multidimensional surroundings we live in make a completely natural environment for us. Websites may also be designed to imitate the rules we observe in the reality that surrounds us: some closer objects prevent us from seeing the ones further away from us, etc.
Vivid colours on Je Suis Unique website; source: http://www.jesuisunicq.com/
Aesthetically pleasing, light, minimalist websites and elegant dark ones make classic web design motifs comparable to the little black dress for women and the white smart shirt for men in fashion. Yet, in the time to come we are to witness a wider range of colours on websites. Designers seem to like using more and more colour to create sharp contrasts and vivid colour matches. It may eventually benefit the users as colour is one of the tools that is likely to make the website easier to use. Colour allows for the segregation of information, creates a hierarchy and provides the user with clues about interactions.
An example of ornamental font on Pauline Osmont’s website; source: http://www.paulineosmont.com/
Very few designers still want to stick to the standard choice of fonts. A good typography may and should go hand in hand with the content and make the two unite. Google Web Fonts and Adobe Typekit created new opportunities of font choice for designers and developers.
6. Simpler icons
Icons on Lawrence Bones Selection website; source: http://booneselections.com/
Icons have a lot in common with webfonts, as the use of webfont vector icons is becoming more and more popular. They are simple, look great and, first and foremost, they scale very well to different resolutions.
7. RWD in eCommerce
A responsive website of The Guardian; source: http://www.theguardian.com/international
Responsive web design will keep gaining popularity. The traffic generated on websites by mobile devices can no longer be ignored. If any website is still not optimised for mobile devices, the year 2016 will be the last chance to change it. Smartphone screen optimisation will also become more important. Designers will have to find a golden means to match large photographs and animation on websites and to optimise them for mobile devices, often using slower Internet connections, e.g. urban Wi-Fi.
8. More scrolling on product pages
A website with parallax scrolling of Apple; source: http://www.apple.com/macbook/
The increase in the traffic generated by mobile devices has brought about the need to optimise websites for tablet and smartphone screens. It has resulted in the design of long websites meant for the contents to be rather scrolled than clocked on. The reason for it is the fact that mobile devices make it easier to scroll than to click, or rather tap. The depth of information architecture is also decreasing, so that the user does not need to click through the information in search of the materials they want to view.
Read also: The end of design? Machine design.