Every year brings new progress and ideas that fuel web design. Whether it’s learning from previous mistakes, borrowing best practices from other industries, or taking massive leaps of faith on new techniques, trends always emerge as the year draws to a close. This year was no different, so let’s take a look at the top ten web design trends as we head into 2014.
1. Web apps
The concept of a “web app” used to be something only geeks really understood, and most people didn’t know or care what the word meant. But those days are gone. Google’s Chrome App Launcher is taking web apps mainstream by allowing developers to use web technologies to build “apps” that live on the internet but allow users to store information offline as well. This trend will likely continue to dominate into 2014 as web designers, app developers and UX principles from mobile phones, high-resolution displays like Apple’s retina-devices and high-speed processors allow for ever-richer web app experiences.
Okay, at first this one may seem like cheating. After all, HTML5 provides much of the power behinds web apps. But the latest update to the 23-year-old (!) hypertext markup language, used to render basic text, images and links on the web, packs a punch. Its focus on consistency, predictability, ease of coding and the use of rich multimedia are a perfect fit for the modern web. Learn more about how to incorporate it into your web design at W3Schools.
3. Responsive design
It used to be you had to view the same version of a web page on all devices, from 27-inch Apple monitors to 4.5-inch dumbphone screens. Those days are long gone, tough. And while responsive design isn’t exactly new, it really came into its own in 2013. Many popular sites are moving toward it, and platforms like WordPress, Tumblr and Squarespace offer a ton of great responsive themes right out of the box. The proliferation of tablets and smartphones not just in the United States but throughout the world are making it all the more important to put together a web design that looks great everywhere, not only to give the reader the best possible experience, but to save you from having to design several versions of the same website.
4. BIG photos!
This one might not be as obvious as some of the others, but as internet connections get faster and more ubiquitous, and high-resolution screens like Apple’s retina displays find their way into more homes, finding the right high-quality photos for your website are what will make your website stand out from the competition. Take for example the new publishing platform Medium, by one of the Twitter co-founders. Medium encourages large images like this one (it also happens to be a great article on web design tools) to take advantage of the resolution and screen real estate available these days. Low-quality, smaller images will look even cheaper and less professional as 2014 gets rolling.
5. The infinitely scrolling webpage
This one is a testament to our increasingly content-hungry culture. Why make your visitors click “Next” for more blog posts when, like WordPress, Tumblr and other platforms, you can offer publishers a setting to auto-load the next set of posts when the reader gets to the bottom of the first batch? While this isn’t always the best design decision, it’s undoubtedly something we’ll see more in 2014.
6. Single-page layouts
These clever layouts include content you’d typically find spread out across multiple pages on a large, sprawling site. But instead of slapping a bunch of links at the top of the page and making you click your way through the site looking for what you need, they lay everything out on the main page in an intuitive and informative stream of information. Design consultancy YOURSITE.sg is a great example of this, and they even include some engaging animations. Which brings us to…
7. CSS animations
8. Social media embeds
This one isn’t as obvious as the rest of the list, but everyone from Twitter to Facebook is experimenting or has already implemented ways for you to embed profiles, timelines or other bits of their main site onto web pages across the internet. Social media embeds will leave designers with a choice: support the embeds in your site or theme, or go your own way by rolling your own display solution for popular social networks. Many are phasing out RSS, making it increasingly difficult to display content from those sites without using their proprietary embeds. This is one to watch in 2014.
Sites like Visua.ly have made the infographic into a powerhouse of web information display. While this may not be strictly web design since infographics are in some ways more like posters, easily-shared image-based visualizations of complex issues are a great way to control brand messaging and get some exposure all while showing off your design skills. It’s a win-win-win, just ask ChartGirl.
Once the internet was full of bubbly, skeumorphic design concepts that mimicked real-world textures and objects. It was a strange place, where a website often looked like what it was about. No more! Every site linked to in this article (except that last one) will be a great example of the trend toward flat design. That trend embraces broader trends on mobile and the more common use of usability studies to determine the optimal user experience. The truth is that a website laid out like an actual desktop was never very efficient or enjoyable from a visitor’s perspective, and a flat design aesthetic places the emphasis firmly back on the content, whether that’s text, images or video.
There are undoubtedly other trends ahead in 2014, but these are the top ten web design concepts we expect you’ll see a whole lot of in the new year.