Note from Dan: I was asked to take a look at a blog post written by Soo Smart from doublesdesign. I really liked it so asked her if we could steal it 🙂 You may think that web design and SEO is unrelated, well the truth is that the more you plan with a designer from the start, the better your website will perform at a later date.
A couple of weeks ago I was researching web design trends for 2014, I do this every year now as I want to be sure that my work fresh and appealing.
Of course, being true to yourself is an important factor in creating great design work (whether it is for web or print) and integrating specialist design skills into websites can go along way. For example there are a great number of illustration styles that designers have nurtured giving their sites, and their clients’ sites some great personalities.
One of the most noticeable changes is from colour-rich skeuomorphic http://www.orphicpixel.com/showcase-of-skeuomorphic-web-designs/ design to flat vector styles in limited colours. http://www.ipswichhistoricchurchestrust.org.uk/
As the internet matures, it looks to me as if designers are being taken more seriously now and influences from print design is finally finding firmer place in web design. Below are some key trends for 2014:
Proper typography at last, the use of Google web fonts http://www.google.com/fonts and Adobe Edge web fonts http://html.adobe.com/edge/webfonts/ has helped bring web typography firmly into the 21st century. No longer are we left languishing with just 5 fonts to choose from, now sites can use typography for what it was meant for – for delivering a message and making articles easier to read.
Of course grouping different fonts together can be a bit tricky, but old-school design staples remain firmly in place – sticking to two font families is safer. Being over-creative with too many different fonts will just make the site look messy.
2. Flat design
Skeuomorphism is out, flat illustration styles are in! Skeuomorphic illustration means a psuedo-realistic, 3D style with shiny highlights. However whilst I love to see bespoke illustration of all kinds on websites, the trend has been moving towards simpler, flatter styles that get the message across quickly.
There are so many businesses online now you need to make your site stands out above the competition, so why choose stock images that hundreds of other people use?
Instead of putting everything ‘up the top’, users are now regarding cluttered sites as a no-go area. It’s not just fashion or a trend that is dictating this, as the internet matures and people become more discerning over how sites should be laid out we see better site design becoming recognised. If you want to check out how people use websites ‘Don’t Make me think’ by Steve Krug who explains just how humans look at web pages. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dont-Make-Me-Think-Usability/dp/0321344758
4. Large Hero Areas
Sliders going out of favour – well some people still love them and I often get asked to create them, but one of my favourite design features is a big image. This takes its cue from print design, using a large image area at the top of a website to replicate a front cover of a brochure is eye-catching.
Splash pages went out of fashion several years ago, but now the battle for higher rankings on search engines is ever more tightly fought, incorporating readable text with a great clear image looks to be the way forward in 2014. Of course, this doesn’t just mean you use any old big picture – the image must have relevance for the site and be crisp and clear – not too cluttered.
5. Responsive Design matures
Continuing on from the last few years – mobile versions appear to be losing out to Responsive design http://webdesign.tutsplus.com/articles/design-theory/responsive-web-design/
Instead of creating a second mobilised version of a site businesses have come to realise that it is more cost effective to have a site that responds to the device it is displayed on.
Now that responsive web design is settling in and clients are beginning to understand the benefits, it looks like it is here to stay. I expect it will start to mature over the next year or so and new technologies introduced on servers to make the delivery of the responsive sites more robust and quicker loading. Browsers becoming better aligned would also be nice to see.
6. Long Scrolling Page
I remember seeing some huge single paged sites towards the end of 2012 and wondered what effect that would have on their SEO. I think the clever way to do this would be to keep the content of a large scrolling page well organised and give the ability to jump to anchor points within the page. Nice Parralax vertical (soft) scrolling would make this a pleasant experience.
But to keep your search results as high as possible, it would be better to link to other pages within the site. This would also help stop the homepage loading time from becoming too slow.
7. Simplified colour schemes
Another one of my favourite design features! The trend towards limited colour palettes has been creeping in for a while now and is certainly easier on the eye. Couple this with a flat illustration style, created as a large hero image and you’re going to have a website that is bang on trend.
Fortunately there are as many styles as there are designers out there, the world would be a very boring place if everyone were the same.
So make it responsive with a large scrolling homepage too? Why not? People have now got used to using the scroll bar, your content is much more likely to be seen now that browser handling is more understood.
8. No more sidebars
This will be interesting to see if and how removing sidebars takes off. My research threw up this as a possible web design trend for 2014. Interestingly a couple of my recent projects have done away with the sidebar – but it really does depend on the type of site you are building.
If the web is taking more cues from print design, then remember one of the golden rules of human interaction is to make reading content easy – so huge wide columns will not be useful if badly implemented. Another interpretation on this could simply be removing the sidebar (and its consistent feature across all pages) and replace it with more columns of content. This would give more pages with diverse information and possibly better SEO.
I look forward to website design in 2014, it looks to be an exciting time.