Future trends in web design: predictions for 2013
Another year has passed, which means it’s time for our annual instalment of design predictions for the coming year.
In technology, one year can make a world of difference, and the changes can shape the way we design, test and market our websites. As we all know, technology changes faster than we can keep up with it!
So, how do you stay on top of the latest and greatest technologies coming down the pipeline? We are not psychics here at Webdesigner Depot, but we can help you predict the future — at least as far as website design is concerned.
To commemorate the end of a great 2012 and to usher in 2013, we hereby present the latest predictions for web design, hot off the press! I spoke with 11 designers and creative professionals about what they foresee for web and UX design in the coming year. Enjoy!
- Demand will increase for single websites that support both desktop computers and mobile devices. Even though there will always be edge cases for which separate mobile-specific websites would provide a better experience, a large number of websites will aim for content parity between the desktop and mobile experiences. The concept of the simplified mobile website that offers only a subset of options for “people on the go” will start to recede, because people want to use mobile devices to access full content and perform all available tasks, even when they have access to a desktop computer. Techniques such as responsive design, adaptive design and progressive enhancement will be in high demand for creating individual websites that work well in all environments.
- Simplified sign-up processes will create the need for more security measures to protect user accounts. Usability testing shows that most users dislike typing on a touchscreen. To cater to the growing number of mobile users, more and more websites will offer the option to reuse user names and passwords from social media websites like Facebook and Twitter in their registration processes. This will create new security issues, in particular for e-commerce websites, which will require additional user-friendly measures to protect customers against security breaches in case their social media passwords become compromised.
- Big data will support better customization of marketing content. As Hadoop and other big data technologies become more prevalent, large sets of clickstream data will be feeding real-time promotional engines to identify the optimal recommendations and promotions to display to each site visitor in order to boost sales.
Adriana Beal of Beal Projects specializes in IT business analysis and user experience design for e-commerce applications. She has two books on IT strategy published in Brazil and work that is internationally published by IEEE and IGI Global. Her educational background includes a BS in Electrical Engineering and an MBA with emphasis on strategic management of information. For the past 15 years, she has been helping a diverse client base, including major US institutions, achieve expected outcomes from complex software projects.
As for 2013, the obvious trend continues from 2010, which is mobile. Actual user adoption of the mobile web has outpaced the predictions that several analysts published, and businesses are still catching up with effective solutions to meet the needs of the mobile consumer. Much like any innovation, dating back to the first websites, which were crude and ineffective for companies at first, we’ve witnessed a massive number of businesses putting mobile sites out there to check off a box on a to-do list, and very few have been strategically designed. 2013 is going to be a year when budgets have recovered from both the economy and the quick-win generic mobile presences that many businesses have done, and we’re going to see some strategic mobile web experiences that are truly designed for mobile-specific initiatives and user needs, not just smaller screens.
Another trend we’ll see more of is data-based presentation of information in retail. Consumers have grown to start almost every purchase with a web search, and they do a lot of research online before making buying decisions; businesses have known this for a while and, therefore, have optimized their sites for search and responded to the market with pricing strategies and creative presentations of information on products and services. The issue is, now that everyone is including the education component in their online retail experience, it’s hard for businesses to stand out. Users have so much information readily available that there is a need for product selectors and other tactics to help consumers interpret data in a meaningful way and to simplify their decision-making process. A specific prediction will be the “death of the home page” in e-commerce, and instead an instant launch into products presented in a way that enables users to quickly isolate results according to their preferences. We’ll also start to see more video and other features on sites to “humanize” the experience and to better connect with potential customers, to mitigate the effects of instant price comparisons that the Internet has enabled.
Ted is a founding partner and the managing director of the Chicago-based digital design agency Clique Studios. He works with about 100 clients every year and helps them innovate their brand and business through online channels. The agency has grown a specialty for user interaction with data-driven design practices to help businesses leverage their site as a tool for gaining market share.
In the coming year, minimalism will be king. Many texture-heavy designs will give way to simpler sites. The skeuomorphism trend will die out, and the cleaner metro look will take its place. 2013 will be full of tall footers, bold colors, rich and subtle gradients, and sharp edges. Fewer sites will be inspired by Apple’s web design, and more by Google’s.
As far as mobile design goes, we will see a continuing increase in responsive and adaptive sites. Separate mobile sites will most likely become more and more obsolete, and designers will be encouraged to adopt a mobile-first philosophy. In addition, all newly designed sites will be optimized for touch. Because of Microsoft’s new line of Surface products, designers will realize that any site viewed on a desktop can now be viewed on a tablet-laptop hybrid and will need to be designed accordingly. For example, designers will trade in top navigation for navigation on the left or right. Changes like this will increase comfort for mobile and tablet users. With this improved usability, we are likely to see an increase in mobile commerce. Sites that have optimized their stores for mobile will have a serious advantage over competitors.
What I think will evolve even further than web design itself are web designers. We are constantly taking on new roles. We are now developers, bloggers, problem-solvers, YouTube stars, speech-givers and innovators who just happen to design and implement beautiful solutions. While all this multitasking might make your head spin, it will ultimately prove best for the web design industry. Increasing our skill set and balancing our many talents will only add value to truly great designers. So, move forward, my friends, to a year full of all-nighters, troubleshooting, sketching, coffee-guzzling, testing and analyzing. Can’t wait? Me either.
I believe 2013 will be the year that many of the current trends will mature. With the new and more powerful browsers and HTML5, CSS3 and jQueries and with mobile devices becoming more advanced and readily available, a lot of web designers will have fully transitioned to this new world.
Here are some of the trends that I believe will be mastered next year in both technical and strategy areas:
- Responsive and adaptive design: amid the constant search for future-friendly products, responsive design is the most reliable tool used nowadays.
- User-centric design concepts: web designers have realized they need to pay more attention to the user, to context, objectives, metrics, etc., and not just the technical or visual aspects of the project.
- Mobile first: I don’t need to say how important it is for a website to be accessible on mobile devices. The most respected approach so far is the mobile-first approach.
- HTML5 and CSS3: no return point here. This is the future, and it still needs to be mastered by a majority of web designers.
- Parallax scrolling: I have seen a lot of great websites use this technique. I believe in 2013 we will see more and more websites, even mobile sites, using it.
Also, we will see a lot of Metro-style websites naturally growing from the popularity of Windows 8 next year, just as we saw a lot of Apple-like designs some years ago. Cleaner websites, fewer graphics, more focus on the content and minimalist designs could make the web a little more elegant and easier to use.
David Sachs works as a UX expert at Ci&T. With Ci&T since 2004, he has worked as a front-end designer, technical leader, creative supervisor and creative director. His current focus is on creating software for mobile devices for global clients, including Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Coca-Cola, Sprite and MetLife. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism and a Master’s degree in design.
In the competition for user attention, I foresee more websites using addictive elements from gaming to entice and engage their audience in the coming year. Websites like Slavery Footprint and Type Connection have shown how successfully a message can create a viral splash, because the experience is fun and interactive. When users are asked to play, to input data, to make choices, they become more invested. Brands are beginning to realize this, especially in the realm of Facebook, and I think it will begin to seep into websites more heavily.
Another trend I foresee in 2013 is the decline of both Web 2.0 and skeumorphic styles and the rise of the “authentically digital” style that Windows has recently adopted. This style, which proponents laud as being more direct, more genuine and a better match to the device that the design is seen on, breaks away from the textures, glassy surfaces and realistic 3-D designs that Apple has long been known for. “Authentically digital” has already taken off among design portfolios and startups’ e-commerce sites, and it’s likely to continue its ascent.
Hannah Kokjohn is a senior graphic designer with Envisionit Media.
There continues to be a blending of UX best practices and creative best-in-class brand experiences occurring, and I don’t see that changing in the next few years. The UX best-practice approach to design is based on past knowledge as well as user testing of wireframes, clickable prototypes, final page design, etc. But a creative best-in-class brand experience is a different animal altogether. It’s based on creating experiences that are unique to only one brand. A successful digital experience should surprise and delight users, without creating barriers to accessing the information a user may be seeking. This is the primary creative challenge for the designer.
Also, how and where we access that experience is changing. Comparing prices on the fly in a store via a mobile device is vastly different than shopping at home, browsing via a tablet. Because of these differences, responsive design will play a much larger role in 2013 than in the past. Creating a hierarchy of messaging will fall to the UX group. Making the messaging compelling and engaging falls to the creative team. Making it strategically on target is everyone’s job.
Bob Robinson is Executive Creative Director at Rockfish, a digital marketing company with offices across the US. Bob is widely acknowledged as a digital leader in the advertising community and has been recognized for his creative work with such clients as Walmart, Sam’s Club, Cisco, Coca-Cola and the Los Angeles Times.
Currently, I see two major movements happening. One is the shift of companies to the SaaS and cloud model, personalization, and technological intelligence dependent on user behavior and device. The other involves mobile application development, where iPhone and Android apps are built within the UI so seamlessly that they require the user to complete only one or two steps.
With these movements in progress, I predict we will see more companies using responsive design to make sure their user experience is consistent with access across all forms of hardware—PC, tablet, phone and smart TV. Until now, what we saw was more adaptation than a holistic approach.
Additionally, I believe more companies will focus on creating a simple yet personalized experience and provide users with only the elements they need to see, based on the users’ context (determined by underlying analysis tools).
Danielle Arad is director of marketing and user experience specialist of WalkMe, the world’s first interactive website guidance system. She is also chief writer and editor of UX Motel, a blog for user experience experts. Follow her @uxmotel.
While HTML5 was introduced in 2011, it was still rough and scarcely supported. 2012 was the year of experimentation. It was a year of playing around with new screen sizes and using responsive designs to appease them all. Parallax scrolling and Pinterest-style layouts were suddenly commonplace, and we struggled to standardize HiDPI pictures and graphics. On mobile, we saw apps like Facebook dive into the HTML5 deep end, only to find that it wasn’t ready for prime time as a substitute for native code. These were just growing pains.
In 2013, experimentation will make way for refinement. There will be a renewed focus on simplicity and usability—just because you can animate your header with some CSS3 transforms, doesn’t mean you always should. We’ll continue to inch closer to a web that’s just as good (and fast) as native apps. As Retina-quality images rise, browser font-smoothing improves, and CSS filter effects allow us to skip Photoshop altogether, the web will start to resemble print. If 2013 kills off another legacy version of Internet Explorer or two, the future may be bright.
Jordan Sheckman is a UI/UX designer and developer based in Washington, DC. He’s currently Director of Web Design for Reingold, a strategic marketing firm in Alexandria, VA. Jordan most recently served as design lead on Make the Connection and NFL Life Line.
During 2012, we saw a continued focus on products and services that record data about personal metrics such as fitness, sleep, energy and finances. My prediction for 2013 is that we’ll see a shift from metrics to meaning. Simply showing people their past behavioral patterns will no longer be enough; consumers are reaching a point of having too much data. The next opportunity lies in taking this data and suggesting slight behavior modifications to improve the consumer’s life. Don’t just build an app to help me record my sleep. Instead, tell me the story of what I can specifically do to improve my sleep.
Look for continued growth in social commerce. However, I see an opportunity to move beyond just the products and focus on the makers of the products. Consumers will eventually become overwhelmed by the quantity of products available. The key to engagement will lie in creating platforms that help tell consumers the stories behind the makers.
Creating a great product is no longer enough. Consumers have more options than ever before and are starting to ask themselves, “Why would I use that?” Above all else, ensure that the products you are making will add value to consumers, and be absolutely certain you can communicate the context of how your product fits into the story of their lives.
Sarah Doody is a user experience designer, writer and consultant in New York City. She writes for @uxmagazine and @personalmetrics. Sarah is interested in helping companies create products that add value to people’s lives.
- Parallax scrolling and infinite scrolling: traditional vertical scrolling and the more recent horizontal scrolling are things of the past. Scrolling through a website will be taken to whole new dimensions. Why? Because it’s cool, interactive and entertaining.
- One button, one love: every “hot” minute, another marketing tool for social media icon is created. So, we’ll start to see consolidated social media and social media integration on websites—less clutter, a more consistent brand voice and better analytics.
- Branding and graphic design fundamentals: these will take a front seat to following the latest trend or template in web design. Business logos and color schemes will play a key role in web design to maintain the visual integrity of a business and its target market.
- Interactive touchscreen websites: in a touchscreen world, the hover state doesn’t exist. iPads and smartphones are quickly becoming the primary devices on which many people visit websites. With this coming trend, at least we designers will have an opportunity to use creativity and ingenuity to set the standard for this fast-approaching wave of touchscreen and gesture-driven user interfaces.
- Less will always be more: clean and simple website design will never be out of style. It’s a classic—especially with mobile.
Dana Edmonds, singer songwriter, musician, artist, woman of color and now CEO/Creative Director of Creation Hotcomb Design, branches out yet again to another artist endeavor.
The year 2012 saw the rapid rise of icon fonts, as well as explosive growth of web font services. The purchase of Typekit by Adobe and its implementation in Creative Suite means that in 2013 we will see more of these services added to the designer’s repertoire. Elements such as SVG and canvas are already in use, but don’t be surprised if new services enable them to be used on a regular basis. I also predict that as browser technologies become ever more powerful, businesses will start to reconsider using them to power more mobile apps, to save on the cost of supporting multiple mobile platforms.
A corollary to this prediction is the continued trend of “flat” designs, a la Microsoft’s Metro interface. Designers will continue to eschew images for the power and flexibility of code-generated design elements. However, don’t count out iOS-style skeuomorphic design just yet. While there have been plenty of completely flat (but nonetheless impressive) designs in 2012, expect designers to reintroduce more subtle textures to give their designs a more tactile feel.
David Sutoyo, @dsutoyo, is a web designer living in Southern California. He freelances part time while working with his cofounders on The Game Table.
We would love to read your predictions for 2013. Share them in the comments below!
Featured image/thumbnail, future image via Shutterstock.