The new year means new predictions for the web. We've been watching the latest industry trends--taking part in more than a few of them--and seeing where the industry is going. And the overarching theme we're seeing for 2013? Better user experience.
Here are the most prominent and relevant trends we see to be making an impact during this year.
1. Increased focus on user experience
The web industry is maturing and realizing that it's not enough to create something flashy if it doesn't work well for the end user. Now it's time to put the user back in the center of development work. In fact, most trends this year are exactly about this--a better user experience. We expect to see many more new attempts at creative user experiences this year, such as this from WWF Earth Hour.
2. Increased focus on quality content
In 2012, Google made it very clear that its change in algorithms was designed to push content creators towards higher quality work. This had a significant impact for SEO, but it also signals a new emphasis on content for everyone in the web industry. In addition to trendsetters like A List Apart, Trent Walton, Jeffrey Zeldman (who put A List Apart on its journey), and Mark Boulton, sites are realizing the value of quality content--after all, we're all past the era of neon brochure sites, right?
3. Responsive design
Responsive design is all the buzz, and for a good reason. Responsive design offers a way to provide a good user experience on multiple devices--something that's a growing concern (or interest, depending on your perspective) for those in the web industry. Sites like Stephen Caver's perfect examples. We expect to see responsive design explode during 2013.
4. More use of CSS3 and HTML5
CSS3 and HTML5 have been here for a while, but their use will be much more prevalent as more designers advance their skills (and discover new uses for CSS3 and HTML5) in 2013. We'll see more sites refreshing with these technologies (with designs dependent on CSS3's capabilities, such as more use of transparencies like here) as the year progresses.
5. Single-page websites
It might seem counter-intuitive given our #2 trend, but single-page websites have been making a comeback. Because they tend to succeed for their focus on user experience (less multitasking can often mean better planning), single-page websites excel at drawing all attention to a specific topic, such as a promotion or single product, like the Guerrilla Cube.
6. Larger search fields
The easier a visitor can find the information they're looking for, the better their overall experience with the site will be. Improving a site's search functionality, coupled with larger search fields, will likely be offset by minimized menus (#10). Projects such as the new Myspace are heading this direction, as well as more corporate sites such as IGN Entertainment.
7. Flat design
Flat design's strength lies in its modern feel and its simplicity--because that simplicity provides more room for interaction with the visitor (and thus, you got it, a better user experience). Just as we saw a trend toward Apple-esque designs a few year back, 2013 will see an influence from the Window's 8 UI. Riding this trend is the popular Squarespace site.
8. Minimalist landing pages
Landing pages have never been more important. But now we're seeing a growing movement toward incorporating minimalism into them, perhaps because "focused" lends itself to better sales.
9. Wider websites
The right balance of white space is good--too much white space isn't. Building sites to suit modern technology--wider monitors, tablets, the iPhone 5, etc--only makes sense. This trend seems to be working right in sync with our #11 pick, incorporating more visual media (like HatBox has done) without compromising due to tight, fixed-width constraints.
10. Minimized menus
This is an interesting trend because of the huge emphasis menus generally receive on a website. But with the increase in other means of navigation, search and the desire to incorporate more user interaction (through gestures), menus have taken a quieter note lately. We see them tucked in single-button locations or greatly simplified into a few large buttons. We expect to see more like Treehouse applied more throughout 2013.
11. Photos as backgrounds
Sharp photography has become greatly more accessible than it was back in the dawning days of the web, and there's no better place to showcase it than on a similar junction of art and technology as the web. Using photos as a background, especially on a landing page, is a well-known technique for capturing attention: it requires little effort on the part of your audience (unlike long copy) and it naturally intrigues. Culinaria is a perfect example of this.
12. Fixed header and menu bars
Also aligned with the user experience theme, fixed header and menu bars provide an excellent way to make site navigation easily accessible, particularly on infinite-scroll sites. As more companies like Bullet look to make sure their visitors don't stray, fixed header bars are being a popular alternative to floating navigation.
13. Return to typography as a focus
Whether it's fullscreen, large text or simply the highlight of a design, typography (good typography) is returning to center stage. Enabled by CSS3, designers can do so much with typography to highlight a site's message that it's hard to miss driving home a point. The New Yorker's site shines with thoughtful typography. We're glad to see this come back--hopefully it'll be more than a trend.
These design trends are on the rise for 2013; it'll be interesting to see how web design continues to evolve throughout the year. Be sure to take a peek at our predictions for 2012 design trends (we're excited to see trends such as "refocus on content" and responsive design continue to grow) and don't forget to drop us a note in the comments below to share your favourite current design trend!