Trends in web design are a bit like trends in fashion. You might not want to wear tomorrow what came down the runway at Fashion Week today, but that cutting-edge fashion is going to influence what you can buy in the shops or online next season – and in fact, due to one of the trends described below, you may even be able to “try on” those clothes online before buying!
Here at Webstruxure’s Wellington offices, we don’t design a website or application just by looking at the latest design trends for inspiration, but we do keep in mind how trends and standards in visual and user experience design can be used to strengthen our designs. Here are seven trends in web design and user experience design to watch out for in 2018.
1. Emphasis on Simplicity
Good web design is functional: it helps users to get things done on your site. The last thing web design should do is impose additional barriers between the user and your website.
That goal wasn’t easy to achieve when nearly all users were accessing your site on desktop PCs. Now, when more and more people are using a wide range of mobile devices to access the web, and desktops and laptops are in the mix as well, it’s more important than ever that your web design works to improve access to your site, not impair access.
So Webstruxure expects an increased emphasis on simplicity to be a key web design trend in 2018. In fact, several of the other trends identified below – such as content-centred design and reducing the burden of remembering all those passwords – tie in with this emphasis.
2. Content-Centred Design
As we mentioned above, the rapidly increasing proportion of users accessing websites on mobile devices has significant implications for web and user experience design. It’s about removing unnecessary elements, but it’s also about ensuring that content is both metaphorically and literally front and centre.
Of course, that’s only going to be useful if the content itself is of high quality: current, relevant, consistent, accurate, and accessible. So content-centred design should draw on your site’s content strategy as well as the expertise of your visual and user experience designers.
Elements of content-centred design include removing unnecessary design elements from pages, and using images in such a way that they complement the narrative or sequence laid out in the content.
3. Are Passwords On Their Way Out?
Passwords are a problem. They are too hard to remember, which means you end up writing them down or putting them in your phone or leaving them auto-filled, all of which create the sort of security problems passwords were designed to mitigate in the first place. And with the proliferation of apps, the number of passwords to create and remember is only increasing.
But passwords aren’t the only way to verify identity – and neither are biometric methods. To try to create a less frustrating experience for users, Webstruxure expects to see an increasing use of verification codes to authenticate users. These short codes, sent to a user’s mobile phone, are already used to (for example) verify the security settings on Gmail accounts – expect to see their use taken further in 2018.
Of course, this approach has its own problems – not everyone has or wants to use a mobile phone. So other verification methods will still be needed. But I don’t think many users will look back with regret on the ending of the password era.
4. You’re Never Too Old For Good Design
Quite apart from psychological factors that may discourage the use of the web, the growing proportion of web users who are above retirement age are more prone to suffer from physical ailments that include diminished vision, hearing loss and reduced dexterity – which affects the use of pointing devices including mice and trackpads. These issues overlap with the accessibility needs of people with disabilities. Yet web design and web development is all too often by and for the young and the able-bodied.
Designing for users who have accessibility issues, including elderly users, isn’t just a matter of meeting a set of standards – it’s a way of increasing your business’s bottom line or your organisation’s ability to serve its users. Whether it’s providing users with the ability to increase font sizes or ensuring that your site works well when traversed by such assistive technologies as screen readers, we expect designing for accessibility in its broadest sense to spread beyond sectors where it’s mandated – in particular the Government sector – and into businesses who have financial as well at ethical reasons to make sure elderly users can view and use their sites effectively.
5. Typography Is Back
As device resolution and font rendering improve, and as sites make it easier to increase font sizes, designers have the opportunity to do more with type, just as they have long been able to do with design for print. That doesn’t mean that designers should go nuts and create a font salad – doing so would be bad user experience design. But it does mean that we expect to see more websites on which such technologies as custom font support allow “non-standard” fonts to be used for emphasis, while not detracting from the core content.
A particular trend we expect to see more of in 2018 is the use of serif fonts – that is, those with the little squiggly bits at the tops and bottoms of the letters. Such fonts are very common in print documents – think Times New Roman – but web designers have been reluctant to use them due to actual or perceived readability issues. We certainly don’t think all or even most web content will acquire those little decorative squiggles, but we do expect them to make a comeback.
6. Sustainable Web Design
Did you know the Internet now consumes about 10% of the world’s energy? Which means the Internet contributes substantially to the growth in the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, especially wherever fossil fuels are being burned to power all those data centres and all those computers.
Loading large web pages and in particular large images burns more energy than loading smaller, tighter web pages. So taking steps such as removing unnecessary text, reducing the size of documents that can be downloaded from your site, and minimising the file size of your images can make a big difference.
The good news is that these solutions are good for users as well as the environment. So whether you’re a Government department required to play your part in meeting greenhouse gas reduction targets or a business that wants to do right by your users and the environment, it’s time to get on the sustainable design train.
7. Augmented Reality
Thinking augmented reality? Don’t just think Pokemon Go. If you’ve ever had your quiet corner of town swarmed by 500 Pokemon Go players chasing a rumour that Charizard is hanging out there, you’ll know how successful one use of augmented reality has been, but in the wider picture, Pokemon Go serves as a proof of concept that augmented reality can have an effect in the real world.
Pokemon Go is a good example of what augmented reality does: via the user’s mobile phone, digital elements or information are layered onto the user’s view of the real world. Real-world applications of augmented reality go well beyond games. They include training sports teams, customising car designs, and giving online shoppers the ability to “try on” clothes before making a virtual purchase.
In 2018, we expect the use of augmented reality will continue to increase. There’s more to it than using Snapchat to give yourself puppy ears, so check out what augmented reality may be able to offer your business.
Webstruxure is here to make the web work smarter. Let us know how we can help you for user friendly, mobile friendly and search engine friendly websites. Our services include:
Tim works as a content strategist and project manager for Webstruxure, helping clients make sure their websites meet user needs and business goals. He is also a published author of fiction and poetry, with seven books published, and has co-edited two poetry anthologies. You can find out more about Tim’s writing on the New Zealand Book Council website.