:: By Larry Alton, @LarryAlton3 ::
As always, the world of Web design is moving quickly, and as always, it’s in your best interest to stay ahead of the curve. An increase in mobile technology usage, the emergence of VR systems, new features in common social apps and different user expectations in website offerings are just a handful of trends and news topics inspiring the development of these Web design crazes.
Whether you’re well-versed in their origin points or completely disinterested in the volatile shifts of the tech world, user expectations for your site are going to grow regardless. Keep watch for these major Web design trends as we move further into 2016 (and beyond), and consider updating your site to keep in line with them:
1. The Confluence of Design.
Despite having even more design options and greater technological flexibility, most Web designs are starting to mimic each other. Think about it in your own experience—how many times have you seen a homepage with big, bold, yet simple white text on a darkened or blurred-out background? It’s ridiculously common. Is it because people prefer to copy old ideas rather than come up with new ones? Is it because it’s simply the most effective design from a marketing perspective? The answer to both questions is probably yes. Either way, you’ll face a difficult decision to either run with the crowd in the established grooves of Web design or go it alone in some bold, new direction—each decision has its merits.
2. Long Scrolls.
Thanks to the ease of scrolling on mobile devices (and the difficulty of displaying lots of content at once), long scrolls have cemented their position as a necessary Web design feature. In 2016, this feature is going to become even more popular and even more important. Most sites centered on content should have an infinite scroll layout, allowing users to scroll down as far as they want rather than clicking on new pages. Even non-content oriented sites can stand to benefit from stacking as much material as possible in a single, scrolling page.
3. Increasing Minimalism.
Minimalism has been a dominant theme in design for the past several years, but especially on the Web. Phrases are getting shorter, navigations are getting narrower, pages are getting smaller in number, and images are getting less obtrusive and more suggestive. In 2016, this trend is only going to increase—images and colors are going to become even more basic, words will become simpler, and interactive elements on sites will be reduced to their smallest, least obstructive state.
4. Saturated and Bright Colors.
Saturated and bright, neon colors have emerged as a growing trend. For example, take Spotify’s simple yet impactful logo change earlier this year. All they did was take the shade of green closer to a bright, neon color, falling in line with the increasing saturation in other popular products, like Apple’s iOS. I’m also seeing lots of saturated colors in onsite images of publications and major brands, so I expect to see more of these in websites well into next year as well.
5. Friendlier Loading Options.
Nobody likes waiting for a page to load. Page loading times can negatively affect your search rank in Google and force people away from your site (if it takes more than a few seconds). Forcing users to sit idly as they watch a loading icon spin is rubbing salt in the wound. Starting in 2016, you’ll need a much friendlier loading option, especially if any of your content takes more than a second or two to load. Pre-loading certain content, reducing site loading times overall, and coming up with more innovative loading icons or screens.
6. Tab Menus (Instead of Hamburgers).
The traditional “hamburger” menu often found in mobile sites and apps is all but dead. Hiding the core pages behind a simple and recognizable icon seemed like a good idea at the time, but too many webmasters have found that pages buried in a hamburger menu never get seen or clicked. Instead, more Web masters are opting for a tab-style menu (like Twitter's app), which strongly displays the options available and encourages further exploration and interaction with the site.
7. Less Dependence on Clicks.
Clicks used to be the ruling force in the world of Web design. Getting a user to click on one of your elements was akin to securing a real interaction, meaning your site was effective in this specific instance. As a result, many websites were developed around the idea of getting more clicks by any means necessary. However, since clicking is harder and less common on mobile devices these days, clicks are less important. Instead, Web designs will focus on emphasizing user gestures and actions not relegated to a mere click, such as scrolling past a particular point, playing a video, or otherwise interacting in a specific way.
It’s difficult to imagine that the website fashions of 2015 will be obsolete as early as next year, but consumer tastes and new technologies seem to cycle out more rapidly with each passing year. Early next year, run a complete audit of your current Web design and compare it to some of the trends you think are most important to address. If you find you’re behind on more than one, it’s time to update your site with a facelift and keep yourself ahead of the competition.
Larry Alton is a professional blogger, writer and researcher who contributes to a number of reputable online media outlets and news sources. In addition to journalism, technical writing and in-depth research, he’s also active in his community and spends weekends volunteering with a local non-profit literacy organization and rock climbing. Follow him on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.