Friday, January 1, 2016

Are New Web Design Trends Really for the Better?

As 2015 has come to a close, we can look back and clearly see the trends that unfolded in the web design sector throughout 2015. You only have to look at the very sites you frequent day to day to see that each follows the same sort of style with everyone seeming to blatantly copy everyone else in terms of how their sites are put together. Originality is seriously lacking and it makes me question whether the new trends of web design are really for the better. Sure, they look great visually but is the usability better than it was a few years ago? Some seem to think not. Throughout this article we’ll look at the comment design trends of 2015 and compare how these trends came out and whether they really are improvements on the “old” way of doing things.

A recent article I read on which can be found here outlines the majority of what we have seen in terms of design in 2015 so I will use that on a comparison basis to compare how things were previously.

Responsive Design

One major improvement (which I struggle to find any negatives in whatsoever) is responsive design. Since Google hinted that they’re reward sites with better placement in the mobile search results if their designs are responsive/mobile friendly it seems everyone has jumped on the bandwagon. Frameworks such as Bootstrap and the plethora of web based responsive conversion tools out there have made the jump from static design to mobile responsive fairly straight forward and I struggle to find any reason for not going ahead and doing this. Providing a good user experience to your visitor, regardless of the device they’re using to access your site should be paramount. Responsive design allows for this and it is a must if you’re serious about your project taking off.

Where Is the Sidebar?

It seems the sidebar navigation has almost died out entirely throughout 2015. People are now favouring top/drop down navigations or completely hidden navigations unless a button is clicked to access them. This is great for mobile design where on screen real estate is limited but on the desktop it can be a little frustrating having to click around, open several menus etc before you find the page you want. With that said though, the search engines have evolved so much and you’re more likely than not landing on the page you intend to view without the need for much navigation around the entire site itself. Whether the death of the sidebar is a positive though is still debated in several circles. The older webmasters amongst us have lived by the trusted sidebar for years and it’s almost sad to see it go.

The Big Splash Area

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you’ll know doubt be familiar with the big introductory splash area with some enticing message and a button to take you through to the service page or scroll you down for more offerings from the site in question. Whilst this looks pretty and gives you a great headline-grabbing piece of on screen real estate to put your pitch out, I must admit it frustrates me. If I land on a page, I want to see the content I am looking for as quickly as possible without the need for clicking and scrolling around the site. Utilising the full viewport to simply show a button and a string of text seems absurd to me but it seems people aren’t really thinking about the user in this case and more bowing to the trend in itself. In my opinion this is something that needs to be stamped out. Following trends is all well and good but it shouldn’t be at the expense of your visitors time.

Flat Design – Where Are The Gradients

Flat design is another area which divides people with many developers opting for a flat design style but feeling obliged to sneak in the odd gradient or a beveled hover state on the odd button. It seems we as designers can’t let go to 2005 and feel cheated if we don’t add at least a bit of flare to our otherwise bland design.

Personally, I’m a fan of flat design, especially the new material design standards but you can go too far with it if you’re not careful and make your design look “unfinished” or too bland in the scheme of things. If you know what you’re doing though you can combine a fantastic user interface with sleek, minimal flat design and still present your product or service in a good light design wise.

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