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Five Current Trends in Web Design

Published on August 26, 2011
Tags: Usability, Web Design London

When the world of the web designer moves so fast, it can be somewhat odd to think that the profession is not actually that long out of its infancy. Like so many other areas of technology, though – and particularly areas that relate to the online world – web design is a industry that is constantly evolving as time goes by.

Arguably, it is also becoming increasingly important as time goes by. In a challenging market where the vast majority of businesses today all have their own websites, the task of the web designer in creating eye-catching, exciting websites that combine style with functionality and that stand out from the crowd can be a hard to get exactly right. Whether involved in corporate web design, designing sites for individuals or another related aspect of the job, hardly a day goes by when there isn’t something new to take into account.

Despite the regular changes, however, there are a few current trends that jump out in the world of web design. These are trends that are having a big impact on the way we work, as well as on the experience of web users who view the websites created by designers. Read on to find out more about five important trends in web design.

Web Design for Smartphones and Other Devices

A few years ago, websites were designed almost exclusively for personal computers and laptops, and Internet Explorer was by far the dominant web browser. This may have created some limitations in terms of design as it meant there were only certain technologies that could be utilised, but it also meant that web designers could largely guarantee that a site they created would display and run as it was supposed to on the vast majority of computers.

Now, however, the landscape has changed. As well as a massive proliferation in the use of smartphones, tablet computers and other devices when accessing the web, there is also an increasing array of web browsers out there, and the market is much more diverse than it was. One the one hand, this is great for web designers who want to make the most of the latest technology and utilise exciting opportunities that simply weren’t practical before. But, this also raises certain challenges, such as the need to tweak sites and apps for different devices and browsers so they run properly and the user experience remains seamless, no matter how a person chooses to view the web.

Web Design for Touchscreens

I’m sure if you regularly commute or have sat in a coffee bar people-watching that it won’t have escaped your notice how five years ago everyone was all thumbs, whereas now they’ll all fingers. The proliferation of people swiping, pressing and tapping away at their touch-sensitive screens has changed the way we interact with the outside world.

Although it may seem like a relatively minor shift, this has important consequences for web design. For instance, when a person is viewing a website on a computer that uses a mouse or track-pad, the on-screen buttons can appear small. However, fingers are somewhat less accurate than a mouse pointer, so allowances need to be made when it comes to the usability and design of websites. Bigger buttons with larger spacing, making links clearer, and alterations on how scrolling works are just a hanful of the issues this raises.

Move Away from Flash

There are several reasons web designers and others are moving away from using Flash. iHate Flash from Apple being the predominant driver with so may iDevices now in use and the usability issues created when Flash just won’t run. Another reason is that search engines don’t really like Flash either, and so if a site is created using it, it can have a detrimental effect on the website’s search engine positions.

Of course, Flash still has its place, but the increasing diversity in the industry means that other players such as HTML5, CSS3 and even JavaScript are opening up new design possibilities.

Quick Response Barcodes

Over the past few months, you might have noticed a growing trend for square barcodes to be used on TV shows, in magazines and even on business cards. The idea is that you download an app onto your smartphone and then use it to take a picture of the barcode, although known as a QR (or Quick Response) code. That picture then translates into a website, contact information, or other details which will open up on your phone.

For instance, if you were to put one of these barcodes on your regular website, it could act as a gateway to your mobile site or to a special mobile offer that could be used in-store. This might in turn help to broaden how people viewed your site, making accessing the information easier than ever before. This links into the trend for web design to increasingly focus on mobile sites; as more and more people use smartphones to access the web, and access sites through increasing numbers of ways (such as these quick response barcodes), mobile sites are becoming every bit as important as ‘regular’ sites.

Google Preview

If you use Google, and you probably do, you will no doubt have noticed that there have been some additions to their site of late. One of these is the ability to see previews of websites before you click onto them. When you type in your search term and the results come up, you can now hover your mouse (assuming you’re using a computer and not a touchscreen device – otherwise touch with your finger) over the link and it will show you a thumbnail image of the website. This creates a new challenge for web designers: making sure the thumbnail preview looks as good as the full site, as people increasingly use the function to decide whether to click through onto the site.

By Chelsey Evans

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