7 Web Design Trends For 2016


Web design has changed a lot since the explosion of HTML5, CSS 3 and mobile responsive websites. In an exciting field there are a lot of new opportunities on the horizon to improve your web presence and better engage your customers. In this article we take a look at five emerging trends which may help shape the face of web design in 2016:

1) The End of Cookie Cutter Websites?

You’ve all seen them. A ‘cookie-cutter’ website is composed of broad horizontal stripes into which copy, graphics, apps and other content are inserted. Over the past couple of years this layout has become the new normal in web design.While allowing for considerable variation, countless thousands of business websites now follow the same general pattern. There was good reason for this. The cookie-cutter website is the first generation of web designs intended to be responsive for use on both mobile and desktop screens. 

Older websites tend to be optimised entirely for desktops and look awful on mobile devices. The text is either small and illegible or completely tangled and confused. Responsively designed websites are coded in order to change to suit the resolution of the users' screen. So the same website will appear radically different on an iPhone than it would do on an HP laptop, for example. The desktop version may have more large graphics and written content, whereas the mobile version may rely more on interactive apps to get the message across. As you can imagine, coding a website that changes so radically depending on the screen size is no easy task. The cookie-cutter website uses a grid system that makes this task comparatively easy. No wonder it has become so popular.

Add to this the enormous popularity of the WordPress engine, which is one of the first to use this layout, and the trend is easy to understand. However, the unfortunate result is that many websites look pretty much the same, and in an age where EVERY website is now becoming mobile responsive, simply looking operating on a smart phone is not enough to make your website stand out from the crowd.

2016 may see the beginnings of a reaction against cookie-cutter websites. It is not clear how this will develop. However we are aware that HTML 5 and CSS 3 have the potential to create enormously creative websites.

2) Return of Original Design

The New Year may see the beginnings of a return to quirky and original websites, prompting a new boom in web design. Vibrant colours, bespoke graphics and artistic touches are already starting to creep into websites again after an absence of several years. Now that the practical method of responsive design is well-established, designers are feeling more able to utilise their skills and let their creativity flow. The new generation of original design will be solidly mobile optimised but will allow for more flair and personality than we often see at present.

3) Interactive Apps

The dramatic growth of mobile and web-based apps has already transformed the nature of websites and how they are used. Interactivity will become the watchword for website design in 2016. Designers will continue to look for new ways of engaging their website visitors through apps and embedded workflows. It will be interesting to see how this develops. As mobile becomes more and more important than desktop, there is a strong chance that apps themselves will take over the traditional functions of a website, completely transforming how web designers approach their task.

4) Less Height, More Depth

The fashion trend with web design, is to have tall pages with bloated, over indulged content. The reason for this is Google’s decision to give advantage in its search rankings to pages with a hefty amount of written content. However, from a user perspective it can become tedious having to scroll down the page through unnecessary content in order to find what they're looking for. A return to shorter web-pages would be a welcome trend, and there are signs this may be happening with the increasing use of short landing pages to improve a business’s web presence. 

We know that Google takes note of landing pages and as a result they are becoming arguably more important than the websites core pages. It is now not uncommon for a website to have many hundreds of landing pages, dwarfing the footprint of its core pages. If this attitude is reflected in the next change of Panda algorithms, we can expect to see the demise of skyscraper webpages before too long. Only time will tell if this prediction will come true. In this matter Google holds the trump cards, rather than the web designers.

5) A Proliferation of Fonts

Choosing and designing fonts is one of the most enjoyable parts of web design. Unfortunately, until recently most browsers had a very limited number of supported fonts, meaning that a website can look very different from one browser to another. In 2015 the number of different fonts supported by Google dramatically increased, opening the doors to a golden age for web font enthusiasts. Fonts are important because they encourage a company’s personality ethos to shine through, even when using a cookie-cutter website template. Let us hope that this will continue and that the web becomes populated with thousands of subtly different and quirky fonts.

6) Dynamic Content

Technology is now making it possible to show different content to different types of website visitors, for example:

  • UK-based vs international
  • Mobile vs Desktop
  • New vs returning

It is possible, for example, to use a different headline for visitors from the US that is tailored to them or uses their spelling or vocabulary. Likewise, it is possible to show fewer form fields to fill in on mobile landing pages and more to desktop visitors where the conversion rate will be less affected.

7) Personalised Content

As well as changing content to broad groups of website visitors, with advanced visitor tracking and marketing automation software it is possible to show very personalised content to returning visitors. You can show different offers or calls to action to different users, so for example you may want to show:

  • A first time visitor an offer to download some free infrmation
  • A sales prospect a call to action to get in touch or request a quote
  • An existing customer a link to some helpful resources or a referral incentive

As well as showing different offers to different users, you are also able to personalise sections of the site. Just as with using personalisation tokens in email, this is now possible for website pages and landng pages, for example, see a 'Welcome back {insert first name}' on key pages.

Web design is fundamentally a creative profession. Although designers are constricted by the requirements of coding protocols and the parameters of search marketing, they generally love nothing better than to express their client’s brand identity in the most individual and passionate way possible. Clients commonly prefer to stand out from the crowd. Mobile web design has now come of age, giving designers and their clients the freedom to play with the new technologies in fun and unexpected ways. Expect 2016 to be a springtime for the internet, with colourful and original new forms of website bursting forth in places you would least expect. We can hardly wait.

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