Changing tech and changing times always bring about new web design trends, and 2016 will not be any different. As the New Year approaches, lists of web design trends for the next twelve months are circling the web. So here are our ten web design trends you will probably need to look out for in 2016:
- Smartphone first approach combined with responsive design as firm best practice. Remember the times when web design and mobile design were two different areas of expertise? Those times are no more. Mobile users are the most valuable audience, way ahead of tablet, laptop and desktop users. This mobile-first trend got even stronger thanks to Google’s Mobile Friendly update, and is probably only going to grow in 2016.
- Homogenization of web design due to repetitive UI patterns. We all know them – the hamburger, account registration, hero images and card layouts – and it looks like they will only get bigger in 2016. The upside is user-friendliness and familiarity (you know where you are and what to do with it). The downside is lack of originality, innovation and individuality where copycat competitor websites are sometimes hard to distinguish one from another.
- Rich animations. This includes large scale animations with parallax scrolling and small scale animations such as spinners, hover tools, preloaders, loading bars, and so on. In terms of style and techniques used in them, flat design and minimalism still prevails. Areas of use include portfolios and one-page sites. Subtle loading states are part of the minitrend within this movement, popularized by Facebook. While the user waits, pages load slowly from nothing to content – a little spin on the loading icons we love/hate so much.
- Focus on micro-interactions as part of more human-centric design. Micro-interactions are task-based engagements with the app’s UI in a single moment. Micro-interactions help users perform actions, manipulate apps, see the outcome of actions and so on. They also keep users engaged and coming back to the app, communicating status and feedback in non-intrusive ways that keep the flow smooth. They are subtle and often visible to the product creator, designed to behave like a human. Users may not be consciously aware of where the joy of coming back to the app comes from; all they know is they want to come back. That’s why micro-interactions may well be the 2016 secret to amazing design, usability and adoption.
- Material design as the basis for UI presentation and development. The trend for Google’s Material Design will probably grow in 2016, following its three main staples of realistic visual cues, design theory fundamentals and motion that conveys meaning. Material Design Lite from Google’s announcement in July 2015 will probably go head to head with the evolving Flat. Designers who like more depth and shadow will stick to material, and minimalism fans will go with Flat. The gradual merging of the two ideologies is not out of the question either (see next trend).
- The evolution of Flat. Flat is definitely not going anywhere, as well as the general obsession with minimalism. But flat will not stay the same in 2016, as we can already see. Flat will remain simple and intuitive, fresh and uncluttered, but will evolve into Flat 2 with more vibrant, almost neon over-saturated colors, some shadowing (borrowed from skeuomorphism) and hybrid trends that combine elements of classic flat with realistic photography. Typography will stay easy-on-the-eyes and readable but icons are likely to get bigger and more detailed to shake things up a bit. We hope Flat 2 will stick to content-focused design without unnecessary decorations. Flat 2 will be mixed with other styles, and one easily predictable combination is Flat 2 plus Material: some elements will stay minimal, but animation and parallax scrolling will fight the monotony and boredom of overly familiar design elements.
- Intrusive pop-ups bullying users into doing stuff they are reluctant to do will be out. We’ve all seen those carefully worded pop-ups next to the “Yes, sign me up” button. They make you feel like a complete animal with saliva dribbling out your mouth when you press “No, thanks” (“No, I am not interested in increasing my ROI” or “No, I don’t care about what my customers think”). Users are turned off by this, and we sure hope in 2016 this trend will die a slow painful death.
- Heavy sites will get even heavier. Web pages have been definitely on a diet of fizzy drinks and fast food. Ten years ago, Google watched page size like a hawk, but after it stopped, designers have been making things heavier and heavier (an average page was around 700 KB in 2010 and ballooned to a jaw-dropping 2,220 KB in 2015). Some websites are well over 6 MB, and it looks like the thirst for crisp imagery and video is not going to make things lighter in 2016. One of the newer trends to speed up loading time by 30% is introducing blur and scale techniques, where smaller images are first blurred to gradually load into the crispy pics we are used to.
- CSS3 impacting layouts. This one is a bit techier and will impact developers a lot making them much happier with simpler and more reliable code. Since browser support for CSS3 became solidified in 2015, new CSS3 layout modules will be finally used universally and look great in the latest versions of all popular browsers in 2016. This is not so much about style and aesthetics as it is about pages rendering faster, being cheaper and easier to maintain and also more secure – something that will definitely appeal to many SMBs next year.
Trends are nothing more than guidelines, reflecting changes in tastes or even straight out fads. Some of them are really subjective, and it’s important to always pick the right ones for the job, focusing on business and user needs.
But also, let’s not forget to be more creative and original in 2016. Because if we only follow trends all the time, who’s going to make new ones?