Web design (and design in general) is perpetually top of mind with serious digital-minded enterprises because they understand that first impressions do count, that user experience does matter, and that there is always a new and arguably better way to accomplish engagement and revenue goals.
That makes keeping atop design trends fundamental to online success. So what design trends impacted the Web experience in 2015? And how can companies and the designers they employ use those trends, and their psychological underpinnings, to their advantage?
Let's find out, but first, let's talk about a few trends we could all probably do without.
Not all design trends that emerge will have longevity - either because they don't work as well as expected, a better way is discovered or simply because users grow weary of them. The hamburger menu, for example, might be the trend to leave most quickly from the digital design world as it is often difficult to notice (on some sites more than others depending on the execution).
Another trend that many hope desperately leaves as quickly as it came is that of ghost buttons - the transparent, empty-appearing calls-to-action that take on a common shape (like a rectangle) but are bordered only by a thin line, and use the page background as the color fill of that element.
Keep in mind that one person's ideal design element is another's design disaster and that what works for one enterprise, website and audience, may not work well for another. The only way to know whether any design trend (be it hamburger menus, ghost buttons or any other) an enterprise opts to follow is effective is through a rigorous process of testing - that applies to both good and bad design.
With the realization that testing is the only way to ensure new elements are effective, coupled with a critical and cautious approach to any new element that will be integrated into a Web design, 2015 has seen numerous trends that will likely, perhaps definitely, stand the test of digital time.
Scrolling & Single-Page Design
In the not-so-distant past the assumption was that users would not scroll past what was immediately visible (what was seen above the fold). That, however, just is not true.
Data analytics provider Chartbeat, for example, found that 66 percent of attention on a normal media page is spent below the fold, and ClickTale (analyzing 100,000 page views) found that people used the scrollbar on 76 percent of pages (with 22 percent scrolling all the way to the bottom regardless of the length of that page).
What this means is that long pages with scrolling functionality are, in effect, no different in terms of their potential engagement impact, than pages that don't force users to scroll. That's good news because there are some great effects that can be put in place including parallax scrolling as well as scrolling-triggered animations.
Simplicity & Minimalism
John Maeda, in his book, The Laws of Simplicity, wrote "On the one hand, you want a product or service to be easy to use; on the other hand you want it to do everything that a person might want it to do. The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction. When in doubt, just remove. But be careful of what you remove."
Simplicity really isn't about less of something (removal and reductionism), however, but rather about comprehension and clarity of purpose.
Designers across the Web have long sought out simpler, and often more minimal designs (which are not mutually exclusive consequently), in their projects, but the trend toward simplicity has all but taken over in 2015 particularly with luxury brands; chances are excellent it will remain that way for the foreseeable future.
Web design has been "static" for so long that it can be surprising for a user to encounter sites that feature or offer up any animation at all. And that can prove to be a very good thing as motion and movement drive attention and engagement as they heavily influence the hierarchy of the visual experience.
Animation can also show how things are related, reveal connections between elements and confirm the successful (or unsuccessful) completion of an event.
In a time when digital enterprises are looking for an edge over the competition, animation and interaction are powerful ways to make a positive first impression and improve the user experience.
The use of typography plays such an interesting role within the digital experience that Web professionals regularly find it within trend pieces like this one. Web design in 2015 leaned toward the use of dynamic typography - text that draws attention to itself based on its typeface, size or weight (its font). In fact, in certain instances, there are some sites that use typography as their primary image of their digital property, and specifically, on their landing pages. That works well when and if the chosen font achieves the goal of legibility and readability; if it can't be understood at first glance, it should not be used.
It's important to remember that if a specific approach or style is effective, it will be around for some time. There's no reason (at least no good reason) to adopt every one that emerges. It's most important to adopt those styles and the resulting experiences that most benefit the audience viewing it because first impressions do count and user experience, as it always has, matters. There are, of course, many other trends (micro and macro) that deserve the attention of Web professionals.
Digital marketing executive with proven experience in all aspects of search engine optimization (SEO), performance-based advertising, consumer-generated/social media, email marketing, lead generation, Web design, usability, and analytics. - 20-year Internet marketing veteran, currently serving as the Digital Marketing Campaign Manager at Antenna Group (formerly Chicago Digital). - Former Editor-In-Chief of Website Magazine, and a regular speaker on Web technology digital marketing strategy - Author of several books on digital marketing Including Web 360: The Fundamentals of Web Success; Affiliate 360: The Fundamentals of Performance Marketing; Domains 360: The Fundamentals of Buying & Selling Domain Names, and SEO 360: The Fundamentals of Search Engine Optimization.