As 2017 rolls to a close, you might be wondering what’s in store for the coming year.
Nowhere is the future more mysterious and unpredictable than in the world of web design. Trends come and go with lightning speed, technology takes quantum leaps that no one could foresee, and the whole experiment of global social media is breaking new ground every day.
That said, I can see a few trends that have taken root this year which are likely to blossom even more in 2018. Check out this list and find out how to keep your WordPress site ahead of the game.
Layout that emphasizes content
It’s not about looking pretty anymore.
Flat, minimalistic design has been trending for the past year or so, since it allows readers to focus on the content of a website, not getting distracted by aesthetic bells and whistles.
As content becomes ever more interactive, this clarity will only become more important.
While some might lament the death/soullessness of contemporary web design, I don’t see it as such a bad thing even from an aesthetic perspective. After all, constraint is the mother of creativity.
Color (when more is more)
While clean lines and simplicity are ruling the field, there’s nothing dull on the eyes about today’s web design. It looks like as we go into 2018, the colors are just getting brighter.
Exuberant hues, bold gradients and splashy color combinations add a dose of excitement to the most minimalistic layout. A few strikingly oversaturated examples:
Of course, using flashy colors effectively requires some care and sense of design principles. You don’t want your site to look loud or unprofessional. But when done well, it’s both extremely eye-catching and up to the minute.
Wider range of demographics online
More people are going online than ever before, and internet use is reaching far beyond the young adult bracket.
While ages 18-29 are still the most represented online, followed by 30-49, both older adults and younger children are using the internet in large numbers this year. It’s in these demographics that we can see the most potential increase.
What does this mean for your site?
It’s more important than ever to present your site in clear, natural language. Simplicity and ease of navigation are paramount.
While, of course, everything depends on your specific site and target audience, overall we can’t assume that everyone visiting your site in the near future will be tech-fluent.
Video and virtual reality
In 2018, I look forward to onscreen visuals that go way beyond static images.
Video headers are not new, but the inclusion of one in the Twenty Seventeen default theme is a sure sign that more and more sites will be coming to life in this way.
Even more exciting is the combination of virtual reality with WordPress, still very new but full of potential.
All blogs on WordPress.com now support 360-degree photos and videos, and the plugin WP-VR-view makes them possible on any self-hosted WordPress site.
How this will play out in the next few years, we’ll just have to wait and find out.
Interaction with site visitors
We’re in the middle of a paradigm shift. You could say it’s a movement from content to conversation.
As everything online becomes interactive, everything linked through the connective tissue of social media, websites don’t function as stand-alone brochures anymore.
Visitors expect to be an active part of the site. They want to interact, to have their voices heard and get real responses.
This is reflected in the much-touted, if slow to take off, rise of conversational bots.
Beyond this are more subtle but profound changes.
There’s a movement towards more natural, “human” language, which is good news both for content writers and site users.
There’s more investment in user-generated content, including forums, communities and other opportunities for users to engage creatively.
With so much brand presence on social media, we can also say that comments sections are quickly evolving from online basements to vital places of interaction.
Animation to improve microinteractions
As it becomes easier to create animation, we’re definitely going to see more of it on the page.
Design consultant Val Head, at the 2016 Design & Content Conference, stressed the importance of animation that serves a purpose. It should perform useful, meaningful functions for site visitors, supporting the brand’s style and message – not just a flashy distraction.
In 2017, I’ve really started to notice this creative, user-oriented integration of animation on many websites, and it’s definitely a trend to hop on for the coming year.
Thoughtful use of animation can help keep visitors engaged during microinteractions. When users take action on a site and it seems like nothing is happening, it can trigger interstitial anxiety. This tension might drive them to leave the site if they have to wait too long for a response.
Page load spinners, shopping cart and form confirmations are a few common ways to use animation to stay in touch with users. Simple plugins can incorporate them into your WordPress site.
These small details can improve user experience and just might reflect in your bounce rate.
Mobile-first theme design
With more than 60% of searches being performed on mobile phones or tablets, we can’t afford to overlook small screens.
Bad performance on mobile will hit you hard, right where you feel it most: the bounce rate. No one wants to struggle with slow-loading sites, too-large images, layouts that don’t fit the screen or menus that are difficult to use with a touch screen.
WordPress theme designers are aware of this, so you’ll notice most themes are now labeled as “mobile responsive.”
In fact, as time goes on I expect more and more theme design to be not just mobile responsive but mobile first: developed and optimized for small screens, and then scaled up for desktop.
A few guidelines for mobile-first design:
- Design with the smallest breakpoints and scale up
- Build in interactive elements that people can use without leaving the page
- Avoid large, complex graphics
- Sort information into primary, secondary and tertiary importance, and present in that order to ensure the most relevant elements are displayed immediately
- Focus on elements that lead directly to sales, leaving the rest for inside pages
Most importantly, remember to test your site on an actual mobile device!
If earlier phases of the internet were all about making life more virtual, now it’s time to bring some humanity back into the online world.
Most of the trends I’ve touched on have centered around one main idea: the user. It’s all about the experience of the person on your site.
Web design in 2018 will be from that perspective. Understanding how people view your site, what they’re looking for, and how to get them involved. Remember that internet users now don’t want to be just passive viewers – they want to be part of the process.