When you start a sentence “wouldn’t it be cool if …,” you’re halfway there. Innovations and trends beget more innovations and trends. And the part that comes after that declaration – execution – has been bending the web in a new direction this year.
In 2013, content became king again. Design morphed into minimalist, clean form. App-style interfaces scaled our designs to fit on smaller and smaller screens. Which trends will continue? Some seem set on course. Visually, the ideas of minimal style, scalable graphics and touch-based user interfaces are here to stay. For technology, retina images, cross-platform building and HTML5 will continue to drive development. But the next great ideas probably haven’t even been put to paper (ok, computer screen) yet.
Who knows what will change before designers worldwide unite in London for the Future of Web Design conference in April 2014? The seeds of those concepts will probably be sown in workshops about responsive design by Jason Pamental, CSS architecture for big front-ends by Harry Roberts, and animating in your browser with CSS3 and HTML5 with Rachel Nabors. Innovators such as Jon Setzen and Paul Boag will also have a say.
Here are three factors that we might be talking about a year from now
1. ‘Crappy bandwidth’ has a shelf life
Rachel Andrew, director of edgeofmyseat.com, pointed out in a recent interview that we believed our future would contain “massive screens and all this space and people are going to have really fast connections.” Instead, “we’ve all ended up on tiny little screens with crappy bandwidth.”
True, screens have shrunk, but the bandwidth doesn’t need to stay shoddy.
Low bandwidth factored in the move toward simple design to cut load time, but pages will load faster and videos play quicker with new fiber-optic Internet from Google Fiber and Verizon Internet. As online video content grows, developers can integrate them into minimalist design for optimal performance.
2. Responsive web design will cover all screens
As mobile device usage increases, consumers are able to see our sites on devices of their choosing. And that means screens of all sizes.
Web and mobile design no longer live in separate caves. The choice to go with native mobile apps or a responsive site is no longer there, because the divide is not between desktop and smartphone. Now, it’s among desktop, laptop, tablet, phablet and smartphone. The “lite” version of a site is already dead.
Tomorrow’s trend will be design that’s simple enough for mobile, but with the functionality of a full screen. Sites that take hundreds of hours to create need to be consumable in a matter of seconds.
3. Immersive experiences will encourage engagement
Once, a site was simply a collection of related pages, lined up in a menu. The current movement toward a narrative arc, built on a storyline that takes a consumer from interest to action (or transaction), goes against the grain of compartmentalized pages and easy mobile navigation.
Web experiences that forsake orderly directories in favor of enveloping navigation that beckons the user not to click this or that tab, but to scroll and read, will continue to win.
Google’s Chromebook and Glass pages encourage discovery without leaving the page. A simple design doesn’t mean a page can’t be interactive: rich media, drawers and even some y-axis animation can engage page visitors and guide them down the page and further into your narrative.
Although the genesis of the next path-bending idea might well rise from the collection of minds in London next April, there’s also a great chance it could emerge from this corner or that, among other developers in pursuit of the balance between beauty and functionality.
It’ll be interesting to see how web design evolves over time. This industry is ever-evolving and always improving. Will the trends above eventually emerge? Only time will tell.