If it's not one thing it's another! This is how we can describe the latest shifts in web design trends. The evolution of modern design is not just rapid, it's spontaneous as it has to keep up with the technology race. Smartphones and tablets have entered the scene. Well, you have to focus on them in the first place. Sorry, desktop. Gadgets have become more powerful and capacious. Then, let's put in more video options, animations and interactive elements. VR-devices? Ok, we have to create a cutting edge design for them. No, desktop, don't look at me with your sad eyes! It's iPhone and Google Cardboard, who set the fashion and style now. It's up to you, buddy, either to adapt or to retire. There is no way out! Even the new Microsoft Windows is now unified across desktops and mobile devices.
I've interviewed Mikhail Bilenko, head UX/UI designer at Anadea, about the future of web design, current and emerging trends. Enjoy reading our thoughts.
Hamburger is a thing of the past
The hamburger menu was invented to save the space on the screen and it served this purpose well for a while. However, there is a classical dilemma: when you solve one problem, two more spring up in its place. In this case, it turned out that the hamburger decreases discoverability of features and it's not good for smooth navigation.
It may be not obvious that the hamburger hides a group of links. To avoid this, designers have to add a circle around the icon to make it look more like a button or simply write "menu" next to it. For example, Youtube's tab panel tells the user where home page, subscriptions and trending videos are located.
Instead of reducing the number of clicks, the hamburger concept has caused a completely opposite effect: you have to first click the menu icon before being able to select the desired option that takes you to the intended page. Youtube and Twitter got rid of the burger menus long ago and moved navigation elements to the top or bottom of the page. As a result, navigation became instant, the number of clicks was reduced to one and it didn't take much space on the screen.
In some systems, the hamburger menu simply didn't work well. In iOS, it was clashing with the standard navigation pattern. Due to this, the navigation bar got overloaded with exessive elements.
However, it's too early to write the hamburger menu off. Despite of all the drawbacks, it is still the easiest way to handle large menus and it works well on many websites. Most likely hamburger menus will stay with us for a while. Probably, these tiny three-bar icons will get a new life within some novel design patterns.
Television as a source of inspiration
Previously, web and mobile app design trends were defined by magazines. For instance, Flipboard looked like a news magazine. It had a complex multi-column layout, typography and other similar stuff. However, advances in the performance and capabilities of devices caused the evolution of media applications. Now they are designed like stories of news channels.
A great example is Snapchat's Discover section. Many big media portals, including BBC, MTV, IGN, National Geographic and Vox, publish their content on Snapchat as snaps. Every story has a preview or cover, just like a TV announcement, with live shots and headlines. Behind this cover you can find an article or a video.
The transition from static to animation is a very popular trend in modern web design. More and more websites incorporate background videos in their actual design. Gifs and animations are used more frequently than usual images. The videozation of the Internet is accelerating its pace, in the near future videos will start playing automatically as soon as you see them (e.g. as at Instagram feed). People will see the pause button more often than the play button (if it will still exist).
Design for VR devices
While speaking about web design and technology trends for 2017, we can't but mention virtual reality. It is progressively penetrating all areas of life and is going to become a daily gadget, just like an alarm clock or a messenger.
The Internet is not an exception. More VR apps and websites will emerge and all of them will need a convenient user-friendly design. Not so long ago, 360-degree videos were released on Youtube. It's quite possible that Youtube will soon set up a separate VR-segment, where the user will be able to switch between videos and perform other common actions without taking off the VR headset. Various streaming services with 360 degree view, apps for real estate agencies with an opportunity to view homes in virtual reality and many other innovative services will be created. All of them will need a trendy design allowing users to access all the functionality of a website or app with no need to put on or off the headset each time.
Nowadays, this part of the Internet is in its infancy. However, there are going to be hundreds of such websites in a year. And it's better to be prepared by this time.
Digression from flat design
Flat design was gaining popularity in 2010-2011, in 2014 it became a new design standard. It was three years ago (three years, Carl!). It simply can't be a trendsetter anymore - users got tired of it. That's why, gradients are returning in trends again and they are coming in a more elegant and sophisticated shape. Take a look at these websites to see what I'm talking about: colemansmith.ca, lighthousebrewing.com, stripe.com.
Along with gradients, shadows are making a comeback too. For example, they are used in Google's Material Design, which takes each UI element as a physical object that has a shadow.
Desktop is dead
The Mobile First trend lives up to its name. This approach isn't new in digital web design but it's going to be trendy for years. The reason is obvious - smartphones and tablets have almost caught up with desktop computers in capabilities. Today, users prefer to access the Internet through their mobile devices.
Manufacturers keep track of such things. The introduction to Windows 10 says that the operating system looks the same regardless of which device you're using - PC, tablet or smartphone. In many social networks, the mobile version has become the primary interface, while the desktop version is treated like a useless ballast. Eventually, desktop simply gets the mobile version adapted to 21-27 inch monitors.
Contemporary design adds volume to the content not only by means of virtual reality but also through tactile sensations. The growing power of mobile devices allows app developers to engage haptic feedback in a new way.
Aside from a virtual keyboard, this technology can be used in the websites to create various engaging tactile feelings with the help of tiny vibrations. It allows you to create a new user experience, gives websites a sense of depth and personal touch, increases attendance and enlarges audience. Haptics may help you manipulate users activities and lure them to click "buy now", "share" and "subscribe" buttons.
A philosophical theory says that behind the visible diversity of the world there is its invisible, eternal and homogeneous basis. Digital design, like any other part of people's lives, is ruled by this concept. Web development trends come and go but the primary goal remains the same - to turn the global network into a more convenient and pleasant place for users. Being aware of modern trends will help you make the right steps towards this goal in 2017.