Modern web design is a constantly evolving process that has to adapt to a steady stream of changes in the medium, the receiving device and popular trends. Web designers have to work in an environment that only rewards them if they are on the leading edge of technology and design. Outdated websites and stale design elements fall by the wayside quicker than yesterday’s boy band.
When personal computers were the only way to look at web sites, the trends reflected the capabilities of those machines. The introduction of tablets and improvements to smartphones means that a web site has to look good across a number of different devices. Designers had to ensure that no matter what device a consumer was on, the website would still be functional and good looking.
As devices evolved, the trends behind web sites also grew and changed. Simplicity and ease-of-use have become as important as looks and the best web sites blend both elements together to create a web site that looks as good as it works.
Product branding is just as important in website design as it is in product design. A unique and memorable product name with its own unique typography is a sure fire way to let your customers know who you are. Coca-Cola, for example, is an easily recognizable name that has a unique typography that cannot be confused with anything else. The Coca-Cola Company has successfully created a brand that is unmistakable and known around the world.
As an element of web designing, typography will be one of the first impressions that customers have about your web site and about your product. Its importance cannot be overstated. Your logo has to be clear and clean, easily read and understood. Most importantly, it has to be all of these things across every device that might be used to access it.
One of the hottest newer trends in web design is the use of hero images to grab and hold the consumer’s attention. A hero image is simply a large image, combined with text that invites the customer to read further. Newspapers accomplish the same thing with headlines and images above the fold, but the flexibility of the web means that each and every item can have its own hero image.
Many times hero images are combined with the background to present a unified theme to the site that keeps the consumer interested in what he is viewing.
Using video as a background can complement the use of hero images to really grab your customer’s attention. Using a background video can start telling your story as soon as a customer lands on your page. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video telling your customer upfront what you and your company are about is worth a thousand pictures.
Videos also engage site visitors by replacing blocks of text and dry information with storytelling. Most people are socially engaged and would rather listen to an explanation or description as opposed to reading it.
Two dimensional design
It hasn’t been that long ago that three dimensional graphics were all the rage and web pages were filled with spinning icons and digital shadows. Two dimensional design is both easier to use than three dimensional graphics and has the added bonus of being easier on the memory of smartphones and tablets. Non-personal computers have a fundamental limitation on how quickly they can display complex graphics and two dimensional design takes advantage of that to create a clean, sharp interface that is comfortable on any device you access it with.
Along with two dimensional design, flat icons are also making a comeback. Allowing devices to load web pages faster and make it easier for customers to use.
In response to the two dimensional design trend, Semi-flat websites are springing up. Avoiding the heavy processing burden of three dimensional sites, but having more visual appeal than two dimensional design, the semi-flat design adds a small amount of shadow and depth to an otherwise boring two dimensional site.
Although these sites are more graphics intense, they still fall far short of many of the interactive three dimensional websites that are hard to access on non-computer sources.
Hamburger menus are familiar to anyone who has ever used a smartphone or tablet on a mobile-friendly site. A hamburger menu hides the navigation menu for the site behind a simple icon – three horizontal bars on most mobile sites – that makes using the website very user friendly.
The most common functions occupy the top layer of the menu but more options become available the further into it you go. The hamburger menu keeps your website clutter free by grouping navigational buttons and links under one icon but allows customers to access more features quickly and easily.
This design element, pioneered by social media sites like Pinterest, simplifies website layout by separating all of the products or services on tiles on your website. A card design layout makes it easier to sort through products and services at a glance and ensures that in-depth information is also easily accessible by clicking on the card itself.
For web designers, card design websites make it easy to update and replace products and services when they become available. Better selling products can be moved to more prominence and updating a product card means that the designer doesn’t have to update the entire website.
Modern web design is following a natural progression as it evolves. As new technologies become more widespread, the internet adapts and web designers have to keep up with the demands of the public while balancing the capabilities of web-enabled devices. The process is never ending and this brief snapshot of what is popular and essential right now, may very well go the way of spinning icons and flickering electronic flames in the web designer’s toolkit of tomorrow.
John Stone is an SEO consultant and designer at Nirmal Web Design. Through years of experience, he became a devout believer in the notion that form should always follow function and that developing the ability to think outside of the box is a prerequisite of being a successful entrepreneur. You can get in touch with him on Twitter.