This year is turning out to be a very interesting and exciting one in terms of web development. We’re shifting toward an Internet experience that’s embracing the popularity of mobile and tablet browsing, as well as making use of high-definition displays.
Combined with a growing interest in more creative non-fiction style writing and a move to using the webpage almost as an artistic medium, 2014 is about innovation while focusing on a streamlined visual identity that thrives on a minimalistic and unified experience through the use of flat design, easy navigation and focused colour schemes. Developing a site with these top trends in mind will ensure the best possible reception of a site’s content and overall function.
Fixed Navigation Bars
To start, if there’s one fact to make clear about web design trends in 2014, it’s that users should be able to easily navigate the content of the site. The days of clunky user interfaces in an attempt to showcase complex code are over. Fortunately, there’s no secret amount of internet wizardry to master here; it boils down to a straightforward design with the use of a fixed navigational bar.
Nova Crystallis, a site covering a popular video game franchise, demonstrates this design technique very well; everything is easy to navigate and find here. Regardless of where you are on the site, you can quickly access other areas.
Additionally, the animations in the menus aren’t terribly distracting and flow quite naturally; they allow ease of access to different portions of the site while still keeping everything in one central location that the user can find. Here’s what to take away:
Fixed navigation facilitates ease of transition through the site
Animations should work in a simplistic nature that’s unobtrusive and aids the user.
Slide Structure and Arrangement
Another growing trend is the use of slides to make up the look of a site. These are commonly orchestrated in a grid-like fashion. Sites like WNYC’s homepage use this to good effect, and the influence of this design has extended into apps like Flipbook or Windows 8’s new user interface.
Organizing slides into a grid-like style helps to lay out content in a way that’s visually appealing, works with contemporary trends, and also makes for easier browsing on tablet computers.
Speaking of tablets, 2014 is also looking to become the year of endless scrolling. Skittles’ own website is a good example of this. While it slightly departs from the fixed navigation mentioned earlier, it still allows for information to be accessed quite easily.
How well this works on a desktop environment is debatable, but one fact is certain: The endless scrolling trend is clearly an extension of the growing numbers of tablet and smartphone users, and this is not something to be ignored. All recent reports have indicated that 2014 ought to be seen as the complete embracing of a more mobile accessed Internet, and endless scrolling fits best here. It’s also an opportunity to make something creative with the technique.
Endless scrolling sites like Skittles follow the nature of tablet and smartphone browsing
They allow for a unique and creative presentation of content.
Scrolling has also paved the way for inventive forms of web design in 2014 through the use of parallax design: positioning two-dimensional images in such a way that through simple animation or scrolling, they move and create the illusion of three-dimensions. The question of how long this is going to remain popular is certainly worth asking; it’s easy to think that this might just be another craze similar to the overuse of Flash sites in the 2000’s. Right now, however, it’s certainly one of the top trends and helps to offer an interesting aesthetic to work with the nature of endless scrolling.
Parallax design offers a way to achieve an animated look that can work right alongside sites that utilize large amounts of scrolling.
Responsive Web Design
Given that smartphones and tablets are becoming the new standard of web browsing in 2014, it goes without saying that responsive web design is worth understanding. Offering a duplicate version of a website that redirects mobile browsers has proven to be a clunky and more difficult solution to this, and will most likely see a steep decline in its use throughout the course of 2014 and beyond. This will be much to the benefit of the user, who can access the same content regardless of the device used, and to the developer who can focus on one main site.
There are very few reasons, if any, to offer a sub-domain mobile version of a website in 2014. Responsive design achieves unity across different devices and gives developers a more focused task.
Websites in 2014 are less interested in skeumorphic design (the simulating of real world, tactile objects, like those seen in earlier versions of iOS software) and are trending toward flat design. Again, Apple’s iOS shows a very good example of this aesthetic preference after their update to iOS 7; the same can be said for Windows 8.
There’s no need to try and make websites simulate real-world objects like physical paper notebooks or actual buttons for your links and items on the navigation bar. The average Internet user in 2014 expects and prefers a flat design that they’re already seeing in their computer, mobile and tablet operating systems. Working with this trend facilitates a seamlessly integrated nature with other sites and the devices being used to browse them.
Flat design is hugely popular across websites and operating systems. There’s a general desire to work with the nature of computer screens and not to try and make it look like anything it’s not. It’s honest design. User interfaces across web sites, software and operating systems are all moving in this direction.
Focused, Simple and Monochromatic Colour Schemes
Colour is another hot area in 2014 with the goal being to create a uniform or thematic look to a site and its content. This is where monochromatic trends and the use of very simple colour motifs come into play. This can be summed up into a few basic ideas and points:
Colour schemes are about simplicity, unity and can help to foster brand identity.
Try to make the most creative use of a limited colour palette. Again, this creates a unity to your content that is very appealing in today’s world.
Correct use of colours helps to create an association between the colour and your site’s content and/or products. This is a classic rule of advertising and can be taken advantage of with the trends of monochromatic themes in web design. Think Facebook’s heavy use of blue, Forbes’ gray theme, the BBC’s red banners, or the video game website Kotaku’s use of pink and yellow over a white background.
Large Images and Photojournalistic Approaches
Large images are another popular and welcomed trend in 2014. The best way to think of this is perhaps by creating a very similar feeling to a large magazine spread with excellent photojournalism - but taking advantage of the flat seamless design that can be achieved on a computer or tablet screen.
A wonderful example can be found over at ESPN’s Grantland feature on the Iditarod race trail. Again, the first image seen is a beautiful vista that nearly fills the whole screen and scrolls on to the content below; this is perfect for tablets, looks great on large, crisp high-definition displays and feels like the layout for a magazine enhanced in a digital environment. This example also ties into a lot of what’s mentioned above: endless scrolling, flat design, uniform colour schemes, and even some very slight and tasteful use of parallax scrolling. The videos mixed in are also a nice and very popular trend we’re seeing across the Internet.
Filling the screen with gorgeous images not only takes advantage of high-definition screens but also looks wonderful and helps to create a strong ambiance on a page that ties into your content.
Fonts and Typography
One last thing in terms of the visual imagery of top web sites in 2014 is the use of different fonts and typography. We’ve shifted away from a central focus on ‘web-safe fonts’ and have begun to embrace the advantages that playing with different lettering styles can offer; this is largely to do with an increase in compatibility. This is something that’s still very much coming into its own form and will continue to evolve throughout the year; essentially, it’s a great opportunity to get visually creative with text.
The old restraints on fonts and typographies have been broken. Playing with different lettering can and should be encouraged. Finding ways to make text work in unison with the rest of the content and visual aesthetics of a site makes a site stand out.
Content in 2014
Content is also undergoing some massive shifts. One of the top web design trends currently is a move toward rich storytelling in an almost creative non-fiction style. This of course will always depend on the content focused on, but the more you can focus on narrative, the better; it’s a beautiful opportunity to invest in some creative talent that can help to create stimulating and engaging content.
Again, the ESPN example above really highlights this. What could’ve been a straightforward fact-reporting news story was turned into an entertaining narrative about sled dog racing.
Another excellent example of this that’s worth taking a look at is the New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize winning feature, Snow Fall. Again, something that could’ve been ‘just the facts’ was used to create an engaging piece of creative non-fiction that also utilizes some great scrolling, large images and video throughout the piece. The same passion for creating engaging content can be used for something as simple as a description of a consumer electronic product, as is the case with Polygon’s review of the PlayStation 4 video game system.
Content that tells a story and does so with good narrative structure is emerging as one of the top trends in 2014. Investing in creative non-fiction style content makes the experience of reading the content worthwhile.
Even simple subjects like product overviews are being done with creative flair. This approach flourishes alongside scrolling, parallax design, large images and video content.
Following with making web pages that have some more creative substance, 2014 is also about the use of portrait pictures that identify with the focus of the site. Taking a look at Andrea Mann’s or Steve Vai’s website, the focus on a large portrait on the home page really gives a sense of what the content is about and both personalizes and humanizes the page. The same basic idea works even if the website isn’t about a particular person. Wizards of the Coast has a great example of featuring large portrait-style images on their site that give a good sense of the types of products, services, or content they offer.
Top websites are focusing on showing what they’re about through the use of large portraits that help to grab the attention of the user.
Portrait methods can be used to stylize content that might not even involve actual people.
The trend towards rich, creative style storytelling experiences on webpages by no means suggests that you need to fill pages with as much text as possible. In fact, there has been a general direction toward less text on web pages in 2014. If a site can always be described with less text, making more use of images and video, as is the case with a site like Phonebloks or even Apple, it should.
Top web trends show that if there’s no need for the text, a site can be received very well through the use of simple, to-the-point text that utilizes images and video to help carry the content.
We’re seeing a lot of freedom spread throughout the Internet in terms of design. The trending nature of flat user interfaces, an emphasis on scrolling, photojournalistic techniques and storytelling styled narratives are proving to be the best designs and are really shaping websites into something more intuitive, human and artistic. These trends are in many ways extensions from user tendencies in terms of web browsing, a sort of bottom up influence and can really help a site fit what’s already expected from the user end.
For more information on top web design techniques, call Activate Design at (03) 409 203, or find out more about us by checking out http://www.activatedesign.co.nz/
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