The (Not So Distant) Future of Web Design
5 emerging trends in web development according to Nico Flojo
You don’t need to be a web developer to notice that Amazon’s home page doesn’t look like it did in 2008.
You don’t need be a graphic designer to notice that Google changed their logo’s typeface in September 2015.
But, you may need to be a web developer to notice how web trends have changed from 2016 to 2017.
For a non-web developer like me, it seems like web design trends don’t necessarily have a guiding force. I imagine a room full of the world’s best designers randomly choosing next year’s fonts. But for Nico Flojo, Agency Media’s lead web developer, there’s reason and rhythm for each web design trend.
For the past 10 years, Nico has worked in a variety of agencies as a graphic designer, front end web developer, back end web developer, and lead web designer. With his years of experience, he was the perfect person to sit down with and talk about up and coming trends in web development.
Here are the top 5 emerging trends in web development.
1. Web layouts are getting more complex
In the last few years, web design has been largely, what Nico calls, flat. Websites have been designed without shadows or depth perception and they have a lot of grids and pastel colours. This style of design was “popularized by Google,” said Nico, and was designed for ease of use.
“I think we were married in the past to putting everything in grids, everything is symmetrical,” said Nico, “But now, we’re seeing all the other elements overlap. The background, a block element here, some typeface here. It’s all kind of laid out in a very chaotic fashion and I really enjoy it.”
With the average user becoming more and more accustomed to web layout, web developers have felt the freedom to make their design a little more complex. One example Nico gave is the hamburger in the corner of many websites. It’s those three horizontal lines that you can click to see the site menu.
Nobody told us to click here to see a menu, but through experience, most users have become fluent to the fact that these three lines equal a menu.
2. Fonts that speak
Another trend to watch out for is bigger and bolder type.
“Type is the stylization of words,” said Nico. How you stylize the words on your website is extremely important to how viewers understand your brand. “You can have one word written a certain way, but if you use a different typeface it communicates something else.” Your brand’s personality, the way your brand is portrayed, is reflected in the type you choose. Designers and developers are taking this to the next level, choosing more expressive typefaces to communicate the brand’s personality.
In the past few years, skinny and clean type, popularized by companies like Apple, has generally ruled the typography realm. But, these times they are a changin’. “The trend of big bold type is, I love it. It’s loud in your face. It kind of reminds me of the ’80s.” Just like the ’80s were an expressive time, the trend is going towards more expressive types.
When you open the page and see a headline in an interesting font, the designer behind it isn’t only communicating the words written down, they’re communicating brand personality with the type they choose.
3. Video will be everywhere
Almost every article highlighting 2017 design and development trends will mention that video is really big right now — and it’s true. We’ll open a website and a video will play on the banner. We go on Instagram and half of what we scroll through will be video, not to mention the stories at the top of the page. Users are seeing and accessing video everywhere and it’s becoming an essential part of the web user’s experience.
“We’ll always have photos, we’ll always have typefaces, we’ll always have different colour palettes, but video on the web is starting to be the staple,” said Nico.
One of the main reasons video is so big is because technology has developed to deliver us an amazing video experience. Smartphone screens are getting bigger and better. Computer screens — like the new 5K iMac — are becoming extremely impressive. Just recently, it’s become possible to play video banners on mobile devices, which means the same video banner that shows up on your business’s website will appear on your smartphone.
Video is now an essential tool in the web developers kit. They can’t only have static images, copy, colour palettes, and typefaces to think about. They need to build video into the structure of the website.
4. Delightful animation is key
Whenever users interact with your brand, you want them to have a delightful experience. One simple way to do that is a new trend in web design called micro-animations or micro-interactions. This is when you click on a button or scroll on a page and there are small animations that react to your movements. This might look like little bubbles popping up when you click a button or a menu appearing when you scroll past a certain section.
“I think we need to make our products not only usable, but also delightful,” said Nico, “We’re bombarded with ads and so many different things on the internet. When something makes us smile a little bit, we have an emotional attachment to it.”
This trend towards animation is an effort to make the web feel a little more human. “When you click a button and it doesn’t do anything it just takes you to the next piece of content, it doesn’t feel like you’re doing anything. It feels like you’re interacting with a machine.” However when you add micro-animation it gives the brand the user is interacting with a little more personality and warmth.
5. Content will lead design
Which came first — the design or the content? In the early days of web, developers would create a page’s layout according to the functional needs of that page and then the content would be modified to fit the site. But, the trend is changing and content is starting to determine page layout.
“I think in the past, we had a design and we placed the content inside there.” said Nico, “Now we create the content and we see how we can best present it for the user.” In other words, when content comes first, the web layout is designed to better communicate the message of the content.
A good example of content leading design is The New York Times. They consistently generate articles that present the content in interesting ways. In the article “25 Songs That Tell Us Where Music is Going”, you get to interact with each song as you scroll through the list. While it’s a long article it’s made fun with large banner animated images and an interactive menu where the user can jump to any point in the article.
For Nico, the content is the heart and soul of whatever he’s making. When design comes after content, the heart and soul of your brand is revealed.
For a non-web developer, it can seem like design trends are relatively random. But, for Nico, each design trend has a purpose. They improve the user experience. There are real people interacting with these websites and design trends are there to enhance every click.