By Andy Brattle
In a world which is bombarded by visual stimuli, if there is one thing that consumers love to see, it’s a constant flux of products getting bigger and better. Keeping ahead of the game is a realm over which the design industry has become a master, anticipating the next movement in a continuous shift towards the future. In digital design especially, creative digital agencies have seen a pivotal year in tech innovation, as the mobile revolution continues.
Crisp, Clean, and Flat UI
When operating systems like Windows XP, Vista and 7 came out, the look was all about 3Dimensional aesthetics, a way for companies to show what they could do and adopt a futuristic interface. Enter a UI that is clean-cut, geometric and with solid colours, which is similar to current trends in design, and those shiny, chunky buttons start to look a little tacky. Even Apple ventured into the realm of the flat with iOS7, foregoing the classic Mac character for a more practical, professional design.
Scrolling and Navigation
With scrolling (parallax, horizontal, and column-based), many websites are opting for a portion of the page to load and when the end is reached, to load the next set of images and/or text; often, a static background can be used while the foreground moves. While this is easier than a constant clicking to get to the next page, some websites have gone the opposite route. Click-baity domains have taken over the “slideshow” format, loading relatively little information on the page and forcing the user to click over the course of several pages, which collectively contain the same amount of information as one. Sometimes, in the case of a gallery-style website, this can complement an artist’s work beautifully – in other circumstances, it’s just plain annoying.
As pc users ditch their laptops, desktops and netbooks to grab the next tablet or smartphone, mobile optimised websites are absolutely necessary for any company to be successful. Not only does this drive creativity and originality within companies, but it also increases sales as well as usage. With virtually everyone carrying around their own miniature computer with ability to access the net, it’s important to take advantage of the audience even while they’re on the go. For some, the time between work and home is the only time for browsing and buying.
While interfaces have become minimal to the extent that some websites require a little digging for a menu here or there, the cinematics have virtually doubled. With the continued evolution of 4G, HTML5 and other advanced web design and connection tools, more websites are welcoming their viewers with an attractive introduction, which can range from truly breathtaking and spectacular to cool and enticing. These aren’t just restricted to intros, either – video backgrounds and sleekly moving menus consistent throughout the site have become the norm. These work wonders on certain types of websites, provided the theatrics aren’t too heavy that they cause the site to lag and delay the viewer. Now that dial-up is well and truly a thing of the past, most of us don’t have the patience to wait for a site to load.
More Graphics, Less Text
This is a hugely popular trend for branding agencies to emphasise, and not simply because graphics generate more engagement. Combined with the utilisation of innovations like micro UX, which empowers websites with menus, transitions and hover features, sites are getting more sophisticated. While graphics appeal to the senses, they also enable faster comprehension time. A symbol, logo, and picture has the capacity to wrap up the same amount of content that an entire sentence or even paragraph might require. So while sometimes these can take up more space, they can also say a great deal too, becoming a popular trend among visually-stimulated viewers who can navigate more easily and quickly by colour-coded, distinctive symbols versus searching through text menus. What is left of text is becoming more diversified, using varying typography to capture attention and generate interest.
So ultimately, we are seeing a trend that shifts the focus from multiple, smaller features to singular large, multi-faceted ones. 2014 has set a high mark for usability and style, and it looks like this precedent is here to stay, at least for the time being.
Andy Brattle is a director at a leading creative digital agency in London, specialising in website design and professional branding services. He specialises in UX led, responsive design. Andy’s passionate about the power of digital to influence user behaviour. You can follow him on Twitter.