Designers being the restless creatures they are, and technologists likewise fond of introducing the next big thing, before it’s strictly necessary, it’s always far easier to comment on what’s happening ‘right now’ in web design, rather than guess at what will still be happening in 5 years time. Nonetheless, we thought we’d have a go…
Drawing on a ‘review of the reviews’, the following design trends feel serious enough to us to still be around in 5 years’ time.
So if you are designing or briefing a web-site today – especially to Copper – consider reflecting the following user-demands in your brief.
Web sites have been designed to be interactive, and adaptive to both delivery format and user-behaviour for some time now. And this trend will just keep going for the foreseeable future as bandwidth increases and multi-channel browsing becomes the norm. According to The Next Web’s 10 trends mobile-like behaviours such as hidden menus and ghost buttons, scrollable content, click-responsive counters and interactive rollover behaviours will become increasingly the norm to declutter the browsing experience and enable scalability of content and structure. Responsiveness will continue to rock for some years to come.
Trust continues to be at a premium in corporate life. While we want to trust more of our shopping spend to web-sites, they in return need to keep making things easy for us. The phase when payment-card logos and third party forms were the best way to build customer trust is passing. In the new phase, brands increasingly using their own brand strength – consistency and simplicity – as the mechanism to build trust. And are thus moving away from third party providers. This ‘back to basics’ approach to building trust is all about intimacy and resembles the aesthetic of the arts and crafts movement in many ways (see Craftsmanship below). The new, more intimate aesthetic takes its inspiration for natural techniques like hand drawing, and is especially evident in emergent trends like Google’s Material Design manifesto.
Similarly web-sites are making use of large, individualised, and hand-scripted fonts. This, plus the embrace of open, community-managed data and increasingly empowered privacy protections all focus on creating a more intimate relationship between user and web-site. Many of these intimacy trends are well called-articulated by the team over at Creative Bloq.
Alongside the trend to a simpler, more trustworthy brand experience, comes the reemergence of handcrafted design values in general. Designmodo gives a good run-down of the trend, covering authentic (unusual, original, community-owned and widely shareable) images, together with the use of video backgrounds or quirky page layouts like that of the widely admired Firebox, which lend themselves to higher dwell-times and deep exploration. These crafted designs are the second hand bookshops of the web and lend themselves to massive levels of animated chaos, even embracing the (probably) lasting trend towards motion design.
There are cycles when the web seems to be coming together under an array of major providers, common standards and consolidating design styles, and then there are countervailing moments when it seems this dominance and consistency is starting to fracture. Right now, it seems we’re about to tip into one these ‘breaking-down’ cycles. Web Designer Depot predicts a wide variety of technology changes ahead, from the end of Internet Explorer (to be replaced by Spartan), to the overdue rise of SVG images. At the ‘hard’ end of web experiences, PayPal is being challenged by payment solutions like Stripe also giving designers more choice, but threatening a wave of confusion for users unless designers embrace item 2 above. This trend towards the emergence of new players and niche solutions will also be echoed within UX itself. Brand experiences will become increasingly detailed through micro-design, or micro-UX, with even the smallest experiential elements like animated shopping carts are used to satisfy users, create smiles of delight and ultimately drive return visits.
With all this potential complexity at play, with universal shareability of content, dynamic notifications, and changing formats, there is an increasing need to help users orientate themselves – not within a multi-linked ‘site’, but within an omnichannel brand experience. Super-navigation has emerged within major web-sites as a way of managing constantly changing content and is being adopted by media owners first and foremost. This trend to always know where you are will migrate to many superficially less complex sites as they strive to give users more control of their experience and move from push to pull marketing techniques. In Copper’s core customer sector – charities – organisations like Macmillan, Cancer Research UK and others are currently moving towards portal thinking. One implication of their supporter-centric drive is that they will eventually need to embrace super-navigability on behalf of their supporters.
For all Copper clients, especially those which are charities and associations, these trends are good news. These convergent trends towards a slightly more home-spun, direct, emotive and real-time engagement suits any brands with a strong aesthetic or a strong cause.
As both the performing and under-performing elements of sites become ever more transparent to their managers, bad content will have nowhere left to hide. Leading brands like NSPCC have made noticeable recent strides towards intimacy and craftsmanship in particular, but still not far enough. at Copper we’re still very excited about the untapped possibilities. True supporter-centric design has a long way to go. These are exciting times indeed for digital communicators, and set to stay so.
Tim Kitchin is client service director and director of consulting at Copper, the digital marketing agency.