One of the main jobs of designers is keeping pace with the current design trends, this includes knowing what’s cool and what’s not. There are many reasons for this, most of which you should already understand, but in short it’s money. If you are able to know what’s hot and current more people will look to you for designs and it increases your ability to get hired (assuming you’re looking for a job) and get noticed by others in the design community.
1. Content First
A trend that has grown large recently, and will continue to grow, is the content first trend. Rather than building a website and throwing the content in later, more and more designers/developers are working around the content. Creating content first for a website and then designing around it should be what every designer/developer does. It makes for less headaches down the road and it looks a lot better and more consistent throughout the website. It’s not always that simple though because clients aren’t almost always late in terms of content for a website.
Websites that focus more on content rather than the visuals usually turn out better (not always though) because they have a more minimal layout and design (which is another big trend prediction for 2014). Below I’ve gathered some examples of websites that focus solely on content.
A List Apart is a great example of a website that is built around content.
Another great example is zerosixthree.se, built, created and written by Sebastian Ekström. This site uses minimalism and content to create a beautiful design that makes you want to read everything on the website.
I predicted this trend for 2013 but it didn’t quite take on as I had originally thought. Anyways, hexagon shapes will begin to replace the traditional square and circle shapes that you are used to seeing. Below are a few examples of what I mean by hexagon design.
Melborp’s website does a great job of illustrating this trend. The hexagons work beautifully with the website and give users something different and new to look at.
Built by Buffalo is another great example of hexagons in web design, take a look below.
With mobile taking over the internet browsing world, it’s important to make sure your website loads fast. Why? Because cell phones don’t have the high speed internet that you have at home/work. One thing many designers/developers are doing to insure lightweight websites is cutting out all the unnecessary stuff like massive images, logos, “cool” animations, videos, etc.
Focus on things that your website NEEDS not things you think are cool. This lightweight trend goes hand in hand with content first and minimal design, cutting the fat allows you to speed up your website, focus on content, and give it that minimal look.
4. Faster Loading/Fewer HTTP Requests
Faster loading websites goes in hand with lightweight, but I wanted to elaborate a little on other ways websites can load faster. For those of you that are unfamiliar, an HTTP request happens when a user visits your website. The users computer requests styles, scripts, images, web fonts etc. from the server and that in turn loads the website in their browser window for them to view. The more HTTP requests required the longer the website will take to load, for example, if you have 4 different Google web fonts in your header, an HTTP request is sent for each of those fonts.
This will cause a website to load slower because of all the extra work from requests happening behind the scenes. Limiting these requests can help speed up your website. An easy way to cut back on HTTP requests is by creating sprites for images, this way you aren’t loading multiple images individually, instead you’re loading one large image file that includes multiple images on it. Other ways including combining CSS into one file, combining scripts into one file, and limiting the amount of fonts being used on the website.
5. User Experience
The days of flash and crazy animations on web pages are gone. Web designers and developers are focusing more and more on the user rather than trying to get an Awwwards ribbon on their web page (or they should be at least).
The goal of any website is to communicate information easily to the user in a way they can figure out and understand. Websites that are nothing but a ginormous image do nothing but get in the way of what a web page visitor is truly there for. Using an informative paragraph of text or video is a better alternative in my opinion.
CSS3 and HTML5 are helping us out a lot with this. We are now able to provide minimal animations for the user experience without bloating the site to the weight of 2MB+. That’s why 2014 will be the year of the user, more and more developers and designers will create websites that are simple and easy to use; but also be an enjoyable user experience that doesn’t take minutes to load.
6. Mobile First
We’ve been over it many times, mobile is still going to be in this year and you can be sure its use will continue to grow throughout 2014. Websites will begin to be built with mobile in mind; icons that you are familiar with on mobile devices will start to be used in place of text (the menu icon for instance) on websites.
The user experience of websites will also begin to shift towards that of a mobile device where navigating through it will be similar to how you navigate through a website on your mobile phone.
7. Serif Typeface
This may be a towards the end of 2014 web design trend. The use of Sans Serif typefaces are going to slowly fade away, as regards for regular paragraph type, and plain serif type will start to replace it. I am already beginning to see more blogs (that focus on content) switch to a Serif typefaces. I have an article in the works that will dive more in depth regarding this so stay tuned.
Are you noticing the similarities between all these trends yet? I’ll give you a hint, they all have to do with minimalism. Defined, Minimalism is the art of stripping down an element to only the necessary essentials it needs in order to function. When done correctly in web design, it leaves the user with a sophisticated impression and ease of use.
Minimalism really took off last year among the big players and that means this will be the year that it will be fully adopted by others. The basic idea behind a minimalist design is to remove the clutter and use only what you need. Apple has been doing a great job of this for years in both product design and interface design. Below is a great example of a minimal website, for more check out our article 19 Minimalist Website Examples
There you have it, the 2014 web design trends. 2014 will be the year of simplicity which will greatly benefit all designers, developers, and even end users.