Editors Note: We have updated this blog article for 2013 to reflect the most recent trends in website design.
In an age where organic products, green lifestyles, and holistic practices prevail, websites are leaning towards a more modern, Zen approach by drawing upon minimalist design. As far as the success of website goes, it is no secret that “content is king,” however, in 2010 it is about keeping the superficial layer of the website less…. superficial. Akin to Feng Shui , everything in web design should serve a purpose, placement is key, and the absence of clutter is essential. A website should feel natural while being aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly. The last thing a website’s design should create is a disruption to a user’s online chi.
Minimalist web design goes hand-in-hand with the changing tone of media communications in general. As society becomes more Internet savvy and media literate, they are less likely to surrender to noisy, manipulative marketing schemes. Like the persistent salesman in the room who is trying too hard to sell everyone everything, people are avoiding cluttered websites for ones that are less intrusive. Websites are beginning to remove all the useless bells and whistles and strip down to their bare essentials. Now more than ever, the focus of modern web design is on clear, effective communication and content. Though a trendy minimalist design might be just as calculating as it’s predecessors, it produces a more tranquil and raw experience for users while being more intuitive and efficient.
The notion that history repeats is universal. In the realm of design, to repeat history is to pay homage to its predecessors. Repetition emerges as reinvention and reinvention transpires to become a trend. “Design trends do not exist to be followed. They exist to be broken, reshaped and abolished by the spirit of creativity rippling through the design community” explains Vitaly Freidman, Editor in Chief, Smashing Magazine. The following are design “trends” have been manipulated to sustain the changing web atmosphere.
Back to Basics
Web design is shifting back to its origin, from the bad boy flash to HTML. With the spotlight back on HTML, attention is given not just to the particular content but the way it is presented. Recently, web pages are looking more and more like a page from a newspaper or magazine, relying heavily on typography (perhaps due to the growing popularity of blogs). In this case, the balance between modern web design and traditional print design aesthetics can produce a webpage that feels credible and sophisticated. In these layouts, there are fewer pictures and icons and, in some instances, just one full screen image. Simplicity like this does not equate to boring- think of it like blank walls at an art gallery, attention is paid solely to the image and its meaning.
Many websites today are templated and impersonal. The most successful websites are those that are unique and memorable. Personalization in websites helps achieve that Indie feel, differentiating them from template abusing or mainstream, corporate websites. Trends in personalization include utilizing unconventional hand-drawn designs and hand-writing. “In our design for California Costumes, we used hand drawn fonts, photo frames and pieces of tape to add personalization and re-enforce the scrapbook theme. We also used an unconventional background image that makes it look like the entire browser window is the view from above the desk that the scrapbook is being created on,“explains Erin Tozour, Art Director, Executionists. Incorporating small personal touches throughout the website has an appealing and engaging effect on the user. Keep in mind, the main point of personalization is to be original, starting with individual writing style of the content. Distinctive writing plus personal imagery plus effortless navigation creates a formula for a successful modern webpage.
This remnant from the dawn of web is still in fashion. Simplicity and functionality are crucial, particularly with the advent of mobile web browsing. Mobile browsers often do not support high bandwidth or flash, rendering splash pages and excess content pointless. Touchscreen navigation conforms to minimalist design, as navigation elements are obvious and effortless. A navigation trend to look for in 2010 is utilizing “breadcrumb trails.” Breadcrumb trails create an easy and convenient way to navigate categories without occupying a lot of screen space. This helps limit content overload and reduces the number of clicks. From a marketing standpoint, employing breadcrumb-style navigation enhances the transparency of the website, enticing users to uncover layers after layer, which in turn, increases the page views and amount of time spent on the website.
Design should support the content, not overwhelm or mutilate the content. Taking cues from the past, versatile page layouts and minimalistic philosophies have put a fresh perspective on the direction of modern web design. As more people become savvy web designers, imagination and ingenuity should take the front seat when creating a web page. Trends are not the rule, but rather a starting point. For a website to have staying power (think Madonna), it must undergo a timely reinvention. Creating a website is only half the battle, keeping it current and foreseeing trends results in victory.