Web design isn’t what it used to be – the emergence of mobile means a one-size website no longer fits all, the demand for data capture has placed a premium on the personalised user experience, and super-fast connection speeds mean users expect web pages to load in an instant.
One constant though is that first impressions count – research has shown visitors can take as little as 50 milliseconds to form an opinion on your site – so as a website developer, it’s vital you keep on top of all the latest design trends to make sure you grab your clients’ attention, while meeting their needs and expectations.
Here are the top three web design trends to look out for in 2017…
1. Card-based design
As the inexorable rise of the smart phone continues, web designers will be required to develop more and more websites that work on smaller screens, which means more card-based designs.
Card-based designs are simply a way of displaying digital information in small chunks, and now responsive design is an essential part of every website’s development process, so more developers are taking a ‘mobile first’ approach whereby they design for smaller screens first and scale up for bigger screens.
Designing in this way often leads to a cleaner and more user-friendly website – because pages are broken down into their component parts, a lot of information can be condensed into these cards and instantly re-ordered to fit any sized screen.
In a sense, card-based design is like developing a number of micro-sites to make up the main site, and it’s a technique that has a really positive effect on the overall user experience, regardless of device.
The increasing popularity of mobile browsing and mobile first development techniques means web designers are going back to basics – those small screens are no place for clutter.
Back in 2014 Google introduced Google Material Design, a set of principles and practices drawn up to encourage designers to keep it simple to help create a unified experience across all platforms and devices, regardless of screen size or resolution.
These material design principles give guidance on all elements of web design and includes everything from full colour palettes and recommendations for material properties and shadows, to guidance on usability and accessibility best practice.
Although these guidelines were introduced a couple of years ago, this was back when the importance of mobile was only just being fully appreciated, as we reached the tipping point whereby browsing on handheld devices overtook desktops for the first time ever.
But now most mobile sites are developed alongside, if not before, the desktop versions, we should see Google’s guidelines shaping the look and feel of an increasing number of websites and web apps throughout 2017.
3. Three item navigation
No matter how big your website is, it’s time to cut back on the number of items in the main navigation bar, to help simplify user decisions and create focus.
The standard that most web developers and UX designers work towards is a maximum of seven items in the main navigation bar, but it looks like that number could be getting whittled down even further.
Comparison site Compare the Market, for instance, offers hundreds of products but its website focuses the user’s attention on its three staples of car insurance, home insurance and energy, while LateRooms has reconfigured its homepage so it’s nothing more than a booking engine.
Similarly, PayPal and Tate have both cut their primary navigation feature down to just three – a figure that is also reflected in the three lines of the hamburger menu, another desktop development that has been influenced by mobile design.
That said, the jury is still out on the effectiveness of the hamburger menu on desktop and even mobile, with major apps like Instagram and Spotify both reverting back to navigation bars.
What we can expect to see in 2017?
All the signs point to 2017 being a year in which mobile exerts and even greater influence on web design and developers gets back to basics, with complicated designs and fussy navigation all being consigned to the same big internet waste bin as flash sites and annoying pop ups.
And we can also expect to see user experience and personalisation taken up a level through better responsiveness and greater microinteractions – those small features, such as simple control settings, that can make the difference between an app you love and an app you tolerate – as well as a move away from staged and stock photos to more natural images and videos, including selfies and drone footage.
Here’s to an all-round better looking and more user-friendly 2017.
What do you think will be the biggest web design trends of 2017? Or what current design trends would you happily get rid of? Let us know in the comments section…