State of Web Design in 2014

Back in 2013, Forbes, came out with an article on Why Your Business Needs a Responsive Website Before 2014. This article did two things – firstly it brought forth the urgent nature of adopting this designing technology trend and secondly it gave businesses a clear idea of the importance of this trend.

There is no doubt that RWD was the trend to beat in 2013 and website owners took the necessary steps to make their website responsive and thus ensuring that it renders effectively on a diverse range of portable devices (smartphones, tablets) used by their target audience.

There were some other trends that made their presence felt in 2013 as well. Here are some of them:

  • Web design became flatter, which ended designer focus on skeuomorphic designs. The battle between flat design and skeuomorphic design is well and truly on, with both having their own set of benefits and disadvantages.
  • Simplicity Ruled. The focus of designers was on more white space, cleaner typography, and easy to understand user experiences. Design was no longer an ego trip for web designers who wanted to showcase their skillsets, but became more user-oriented than ever before.
  • Web designers rediscovered color in 2013, with monochromatic colors giving way to a color riot on websites. Designers began using color as means of embellishing their flat designs and also giving their designs a bit of a retro look.
  • Minimalism became God with designers using the most minimal design elements to make their point. The ‘more the merrier’ was replaced by ‘lesser the better’.
  • Bigger Images Rocked – There were plenty of websites that sported large background images last year, wherein that one single image was used to make a point, and which in turn allowed designers to bring design minimalism to the forefront.

    Bigger Images in WebDesign

  • Emotive appeal was the parameter used by designers to choose website imagery. The persuasive power of website was given a solid boost with emotive imagery that made an emotional impact on viewers. Buying decisions are largely emotional and websites went emotional in 2013.

This is just a small sample of trends that made their presence felt in the year gone by; while most designers adopted these trends, there were others that just couldn’t build on their technical skillsets that would have enabled them to make use of these trends. For e.g. if designers wanted to make their designs more responsive, they had to improve their proficiency in HTML5, table-less web design, unobtrusive JavaScript and many other advanced technologies. It also required a radical shift in thinking, where in designers had to adopt the tenets of progressive enhancement and responsive behavior to their design. Those who did were able to reap the benefits of RWD, while those who didn’t couldn’t come up with responsive sites.

New trends throw up new challenges and there are plenty of web designers who passed 2013 with flying colors. But, 2013 is over and done with and we are looking at a new year, with new designing trends and all the challenges associated with implementing them.

So what does web design look like in 2014? Will it be more of the same or will witness the emergence of new trends?

RWD will Get Better, which will Ring in the End of Mobile Websites

Responsive Web Design was in a state of development flux in 2013 and we are looking at a continuation of its development in 2014 as well. It will become better and the best practices of RWD will become more standardized this year. Designers will become more aware of the elements that will work responsively and which won’t. What’s more, newer more cutting edge frameworks will enter the market, which will make the job of web designers simpler.

So, what does this mean for mobile websites? The improvement in RWD will be the beginning of the end of mobile web. It won’t make sense to have a website that runs exclusively on mobile devices, and another that runs only on desktops, because RWD will keep getting better and better. Yes, for some businesses having multiple sites makes sense, but this need will go down as RWD picks up steam in 2014.

The rise of the micro UX

The Director of Content at Econsultancy, Chris Lake, came up with an article showcasing Delightful Micro UX effects and Transitions for your Website, back in July, 2013. While micro UX wasn’t the popular trend in 2013, this year the focus of designers will shift from taking a macro view of a website’s UX to giving attention to the details that is going micro. The devil is in the details and with just about every designer focusing their attention on website UX it will pay to integrate micro UX effect in the website navigation and transitions. It will help your site stand out from the crowd. Thank you Chris for bringing up this topic in 2013 and also mentioning it in your list of Pivotal Web Design Trends for 2014!

Merging social with web design

Web design never existed in a silo, but designers could get away with knowing very little about SEO or social media till date. While most designers have already started making SEO an integral part of their web design process, many of them are still to understand the importance of a social media friendly web design. The continuing emergence of social media as a critical component of online marketingmeans 2014 should be the Year of Social Media Friendly Web Design.

The focus will shift from social media marketers giving their inputs to web designers for making the site more sociable, to designers coming up with newer and far more innovative ideas to up the social ante of the site. Adding social share buttons, offering Social Login, creation of social media widgets will be par for the course; but the creation of a ‘shareworthy UX’ will be top priority. A website needs to encourage active interaction of the visitors with its content, and this can only be done with extensive audience research. Web design will transition from a visual representation of the brand to a means of pushing targeted web content to consumers.

Web designers will need to look at a website in terms of an online vehicle that triggers social interaction. For e.g. the use of imagery on the site should be judged on its shareability and its ability to build brand credibility on social media.

In 2014, web design will be a tool to build social media influence.

Tangible Returns will Govern Designing Decisions

Web design was always about earning high ROI but it will become more about earning tangible value than anything else. The merit of each trend will be determined solely on its ability to deliver ROI. Businesses are looking at their bottom line and sniping away all excess baggage. This will put more pressure on web designers to choose and implement only those design elements that promise solid returns on their use. Whether its minimalist web design, of flat design, all elements need to be chosen with an eye on the value they bring to the table.

For e.g. Typography affects conversions (tangible returns). As a designer, you will need to choose typography that is best placed to convert visitors into leads/sales. What this means is a designer hasto think twice before experimenting with typography. If youcome across a new font that you believe will look good on your site, its visual appeal shouldn’t be the sole parameter for selecting the font.

Designers will Challenge their Story Telling Skills

Plenty of websites still follow the dull boring routine of presenting information in a lifeless, pedantic manner thathas no interest quotient whatsoever. There is nothing overtly wrong with their designs; it’s just that they aren’t able to hold the attention of the visitors. They aren’t interactive and engaging enough. One way of achieving a heightened sense of interactivity and improving the excitement levels of a website is telling a story through its design.

You’ll need to brush up on your “storytelling” skills if you’re a web designer. Even if you are creating a website for what you believe is the most boring business domain, you can still explain the business concept and services offered by way of a story.

Story Telling Skills in WebDesign

A great example of storytelling is the Range Rover Evoque, which explains the design of the car as you scroll down. It’s beautifully done, and as you keep scrolling, you are shown some of the critical design elements that make this car different from others.

However, storytelling is much more than just telling a story in a downward scroll. The use of the right images, illustrations, background images, mascots and textual content is also critical for telling a good story. As a designer you need to collaborate with the client to create a storyline, and make sure you have an interesting story to tell.

Parallax Scrolling

Images floating on top of other images, creating a nice little cascading effect are just one of the hallmarks of Parallax scrolling. If you are looking for a stunning way to present your products, Parallax scrolling rules. It is a great way of telling a story and bringing in a unique visual appeal to your website. This technology allows designers to enhance the page depth and animation of the site, and also improve its interactive viewing.

Parallax scrolling was around in 2013 as well, but it’s all set to come into its own in 2014, with just about everybody including it in their top trends list.

Here are a few inspirational examples of Parallax scrolling:


Parallax Scrolling - Unfold


Parallax Scrolling - 5emegauche

Jacksonville Art Walk

Parallax Scrolling - Jacksonville Art Walk

Keeping It Simple

Yes, this is a trend that’s been done to death and is being mentioned for ever and ever! But with all the tools and technologies at your disposal this year, the challenge will be to control your need to use the newest technology available out there and to do the simple things right. Simplicity in web design will always be a virtue, and you will have to make double the effort to keep design simple this year as it will be easier to go overboard and give vent to your imagination and visualize your ideas. The point is you will need to control your extreme creative urges! This is why simplicity is the trend to follow in 2014.

The Difficulty in Adopting the Right Trend

To make use of the latest trends you need to identify what they are and you need the skillsets to implement them. It’s not the latter that is difficult but the former. The fact is you can read ten different sources talking about the trends that will be of critical importance in 2014, but the key is to understand which trend fits the idea of your site and will deliver long term results. This is not clearly evident immediately. A case in point being RWD; it was a trend that took its time to become popular. Ethan Marcotte came up with the term way back in 2010, and the technology wasn’t eagerly adopted by designers, from the word go. Even today, when RWD is considered the biggest tech revolution in recent times, there are still naysayers saying it’s really not all that it is cut out to be. This means you never know which trend will deliver long term value and which won’t.

What’s more, even if you think about implementing a particular trend, you need to do it right and be aware of the various issues linked with its use. For e.g. although Parallax scrolling brings a new kind of awesomeness to the website, it is not without its failings. How you tide over these problems, lies at the crux of leveraging the potential of the latest trends.

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