Are There Trends in Web Design?

As a web design company we get all kinds of clients. Some have a lot of experience building websites, some are totally new to it, and some are people who rarely use the web. While it’s a lot of fun working with newbies and teaching them the ropes, one of our greatest challenges is teaching them about web design trends and usability.

User interaction influences design trends

When the web first arrived in the mid-90’s, it was like a giant brochureware machine, and people basically put up their sites in the same format as their printed marketing collateral. At that time the average user was using a dial up connection, and video would have been unthinkable.

As the web has evolved, new technologies have emerged, and this has changed the way that design is done. With the introduction of high-speed connections within homes, and the emergence of many new technologies, the way we interact today is quite different than the early days. Over the past 15 years, site interactivity has evolved as much as design has:

  • 1996-2002: Commercialization of the web. Most sites were brochureware, informational sites
  • 2002-2004: Emergence of Web 2.0. Multimedia, video, audio, flash become mainstream. Sites begin to be more interactive
  • 2004-2007: Open source CMS becomes accessible and dynamic content generation and user-generated content becomes mainstream. Interactivity is key but not a requirement. High speed internet access becomes available to the average user.
  • 2007-2009: Dawn of social media. Early adopters quickly engage, and the internet as an interactive, global community has truly taken shape.
  • 2010: Universal adoption of social media. Sites without interactive elements are not up with the times.

Web Design Trends for 2010

From all this great input, we have compiled a list of what we believe are the prominent design trends of 2010:

Is your site built using a content management system (CMS) such as Joomla or Drupal? A CMS provides the opportunity to have dynamic content generation, meaning that the pages on your site do not exist until a user clicks a link and calls for them. This provides the opportunity to have up-to-the-minute changes so your site is always fresh and current. A CMS also provides the opportunity for a non-technical user to update the site, which means control is now in the hands of the owner, not the web developer.

Does your company have a social media presence? What are you waiting for? This has to be the hottest trend of all. Integration of social elements into your website has become expected by users. Icons for social media have become prominent graphics on all pages of a site so users always know where you are and how to connect with you.

When users arrive at your home page, they should expect to see a large message with large graphics so they immediately know what you do. These oversized messages have become a trendy way to get your point across.

With the mainstream adoption of the CMS, it makes it very easy to have a magazine-type layout using a CMS template. Information delivered in a news-type format is a trend for companies that have a lot of information to deliver, but don’t want a cluttered page to deliver it.

If you have a website that doesn’t have a lot of information, then minimalism is the way to go. Simple graphics, muted or white backgrounds, and subtle touches of design. Clean layouts make it easier for users to read.

For a while there icons in menus went completely away. This old trend is experiencing a come back as we begin to see universal symbols used alongside text to assist users in understanding the navigation of a site. Some say this trend is influenced by the use of smart phones, but whatever the reason, expect to see more icons as a way to make it easier to navigate.

Providing more links and information in the footer has become a helpful trend that also offers some SEO optimization. Footers have become taller and users do not mind scrolling to view them.

Buttons for calls to action will be bright, simple and large. Users will easily see what you expect of them when they are on a page.

If you haven’t started planning for mobile versions of your site, now would be the time to jump on this bandwagon. Smart phones are quickly becoming mainstream, and having a mobile version of your site will be a must if you don’t want to have a usability crisis on your hands.

With HTML5 around the corner, the opportunity to use any font on a website has finally emerged! This is a trend that will be seized and relished by all designers that have felt limited by the web-safe font we’ve always been confined by.

Backgrounds will be more textured and almost “touchable” as a way to give sites more depth and realness.

Does this mean I have to redesign my website?

You need to look at your website as a marketing voice for your company. Are you in a trendy industry, and will people notice if you don’t have the latest and greatest on your website? Then yes, it’s time to redesign and catch up with the times.

On the other hand, let’s say you run a daycare company, and your website provides users exactly what they need to determine if they want to sue your services. Then no, a redesign is not necessary because what you have works for your users.

Use the Wayback Machine to check out old designs

There is actually a website that logs old copies of websites. It’s called the Wayback Machine. You can put in any URL and see older design versions. It’s sometimes embarrassing, but fun to look back and see how far we’ve come.

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