The crucial 15 web design trends for 2016?

There is nothing constant expect change, and with web design being affected by so many different forces, it is one that can change the most. Not all changes in ‘fashion’ are good though, and as designers we have to make sure we follow only the right paths. The first step here is to see the predictions for 2016, as only then can we test them and see if their merits outweigh any downsides.

It was interesting then to come across this blog post as it gives some idea of what is likely to change in 2016. Some of it is very techie indeed, the article in some parts needing you to go to another page so that you can understand what it is all about.

The first part, the one about ‘Design Patterns’ is one of these, as you need to go to, this page informing you of which design method is used to conquer the problems facing a certain page type. All very interesting (if you are interested in design).

I guess what is saying is that with the web getting ‘cleverer’ that the design of certain interfaces will be driven not by ‘hard coding’ (you always see the same thing) but more by the intelligence behind the site, so that it uses a screen design based on what it thinks you want. All sounds very high tech, and I think for most businesses will be something for 2020 not 2016….

The second topic (Hawks and Doves) is an interesting one, as whilst the first item, to some degree also said ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’. this trend is one that will drive sites to be ‘different’. It is also an idea that is fraught with danger. For instance, to be ‘different’ you could make any user chase a bee around the screen with their mouse before they can see the navigation. Certainly different, but a good idea?, I don’t think so.

The idea of ‘Hover States’ is one that could well catch on, as it does allow uses to see what they are activating and could well be considered a ‘plus’ by Google in their drive to improve the customer experience on the sites they list.

The issue of centered content is another interesting area, driven by the need to make sites mobile friendly, something that is going to be more important for businesses wanting to be found for local searches, Google placing great importance on sites being able to viewed on mobile devices in 2016.

There is much more in the full article, all of it worth a look, but for a precis, see below:-

Lots of publishers reveal their annual web design trends at the end of the year.

I thought I’d be different and conduct a meta-study, bringing you what I consider to be the most cogent predictions from across the web.

Hopefully that means this is the only trends post you’ll need this year. So, put your feet up and read on, as we explore the larger trends, to the finer detail.

  1. Fewer interfaces. More convergence. brings us a brief and admirably clear description of these two trends. I’ll summarise.

    Firstly, the convergence of web design is emerging through comprehensive libraries of interaction design patterns. With these well established, why would you deviate during your web build?

    Unless your service design requires an interaction hitherto untackled, there is likely already a convention.

    Making things familiar for the user can often entail following the crowd, in a discipline where many argue intuition is a fallacy.

    Not only are interfaces converging, they may also slowly reduce in significance.

    That’s due to the trend towards push messaging and the unbundling of content into the mobile OS or, eventually, Facebook Messenger.

    If artificial intelligence improves (we’ve already seen high profile experiments such as Google Now), arguably content and services will be recommended, thus reducing the scale of the customer journey and concentrating it within familiar interfaces.

    2. Hawks and doves

    Though we have already touched on the convergence in web design, there’s a flip side to that coin. Needing to stand out.

    Matthew Mombrea argues there will be an emphasis on originality in 2016.

    Certainly that’s something we might expect agencies to do for bigger clients – but whether it’s done sensitively (through imagery or rich media), or results in hard-to-use white elephants, is another matter.

    Animation and video backgrounds have been used partly because of this desire to stand out, and are divisive design elements to some extent.

    Many tip illustration and animation to be a continuing trend in 2016.

    3. More creative hover states

    An enjoyable detail now. Simplifying design necessitates ‘accents’. Flourishes such as creative hover states help the user determine which parts of a minimal layout are clickable.

    These interactions are also enjoyable, though they are, of course, chiefly intended for desktop.

    Tip of the hat goes to Brian Hoff Design, whose website includes the following interactions.

    4. Centred content

    I saw this mentioned on Wix and it seemed obvious but something we rarely comment on.

    It’s partly a result of mobile-first design and the convergence of templates (such as WordPress).

    Those sites that have decided to use a minimal homepage design, perhaps with a fair amount of page below the fold, have often prioritised a main message, top and centre.

    This main message is often surrounded by a visual, a GIF, perhaps a strong colour or texture.

    Such an emphasis on one clear message previously used to characterise websites with little content, but others are starting to adopt this boldness, knowing that distinctive branding can grab attention and encourage dwell time.

    5. Full-screen forms

    Another result of mobile-centric design is the full-screen form, whether search field or checkout.

    The aim is to focus the user on the task at hand and increase ease of use, and subsequently conversion.

    6. Authentic, brilliant photography

    Look at the dude below. He’s a happy chap, but not a very sincere one. By that I mean, he is a stock photography legend.

    I’ve seen this guy on my holidays in Spain (in the window of Caixa bank), he’s adorned an old Econsultancy training brochure (we’ve moved on since then) and I’ve seen him on TV, cracking the same smile.

    Photography now is about capturing the actual service or product you provide, in the wild.

    Not only should the photo be creatively inspired, but it needs to load efficiently and be at a high enough resolution.

    7. Less scrolling

    I’m going to quote Matthew Mombrea here on the evils of scrolling.

    If sites were to consider their content and the goals of the interaction a little more, clicking to trigger a drill down into the site wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

    Combined with micro experiences and modern front end programming, a mouse click or screen tap doesn’t have to mean a jarring page refresh any longer.

    How people got to a point where you have to scroll or swipe 50 times to view the primary site content is beyond me, but I think sense will prevail in the next iteration.

    I have to say, I agree with Matthew. One of the other downsides of pushing content further down the page, and reducing the number of pages, is that you send users to search when perhaps your search functionality is not good enough (or the user may not be accustomed to this behaviour/journey).

    8. More scrolling

    Yep, that’s right, scrolling really is the most controversial web design trend of the moment.

    And as much as I think some have taken it too far, there are others that see long-arsed pages as functional and persuasive.

    Jowita Ziobro on Medium points out that it’s easier to scroll than to click, and smartphones on slow or limited data networks encourage scrolling (over page refreshing).

    Scrolling allows websites to spread out, favouring minimal designs with beautiful imagery spread throughout.

    Jowita cites Time magazine as a publisher that has gone for the infinite scroll, allowing users to discover more and more articles.

    She puts her money on “fewer links, more buttons, bigger ‘clickable’ areas, and taller pages that expect to be scrolled.”

    9. Almost flat

    It would be silly to point to flat design as a trend to watch out for, it’s been here a while, often featuring bright and contrasting colours.

    However, flat design is not just for the partisan.

    As Specky Boy points out, Flat 2.0 uses flourishes such as shadows, and points to (an agency site, shown below) as an example of this trend.

    10. Modern sans serif headings; larger body text

    Sans serif typography is increasingly on trend, befitting larger text on more minimal designs (see TfL’s journey planner below, albeit from an organisation synonymous with sans serif fonts).

    Elsewhere, body text is thankfully growing in size as businesses lose old architecture and move from size 10 font to something more similar to Medium’s trailblazing clarity. is a prime example of service design prioritising larger font (see below).

    11. Bold iconography

    Also motivated by minimal design, iconography is growing bigger, more detailed and generally has the pizzazz needed to enliven white space.

    12. Fewer scripts?

    Pages are getting heavier. And for all marketers and designers are reducing the load time of images and minifying code, it’s third-party scripts that are poleaxing some sites.

    Frédéric Filloux puts it in beautiful black and white in this article on Monday Note.

    When I click on a New York Times article page, it takes about 4 minutes to download 2 megabytes of data through… 192 requests, some to Times’ hosts, most to a flurry of others servers hosting scores of scripts.

    Granted: the most useful part — 1,700 words / 10,300 characters article + pictures — will load in less that five seconds.

    But when I go to Wikipedia, a 1,900 words story will load in 983 milliseconds, requiring only 168 kilobytes of data through 28 requests.

    13. The death of sliders

    I really hope the argument about the merits of scrolling has replaced the one about sliders.

    Sliders are ultimately distracting and add weight to the page, with many businesses (I’m sure) asking for a slider then having to work out what to fill it with.

    When a slider makes up the entirety of the homepage above the fold, this is when they can work better, but I’m hoping that agencies will steer clear altogether in 2016.

    14. Bolder ad formats mean less clutter

    Publishers will be offering more native advertising, both editorial and programmatic formats.

    Better targeting of programmatic, using advertiser data and cross-device tracking, should allow for more impactful ads that allow publishers to reduce scale and improve UX.

    This could mean less clutter on desktop and mobile.

    15. Services not pages

    This is perhaps a middle ground between webpages and AI delivered content – the website as service.

    We’re already there, as the aformentioned UX Pin report points out, with sites such as Facebook and Netflix. These sites are divided into pages but we don’t think of them in that way. They’re services.

    Delivering the right content is of course the main objective of UX with these sites. As users begin to stop thinking in terms of pages, the importance of service design will grow.

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