Every digital agency, social guru, digital commentator, postman and their nemesis of a dog are posting up blogs about what’s going to happen within the next 12 months. As well as what we’ve seen of 2014. That’s just what we do. Predict, practice and reap what we sow. Whilst nipping back and forth between the past and the future.
MOZ recently analysed how well their predictions of 2014 measured up and it was nice to see they got the odd thing wrong. I’m joking. The trouble is that most people separate the years and divide them into trends of that year, as opposed to honestly describing it as one long journey that never ends; overlapping with distant years gone by.
At Kariba, we’ve come to expect the unexpected but we don’t move at breakneck speed. We take our time, test new theories and implement things that we know will work for our clients. So what do we collectively think will work?
The reintroduction of skeuomorphism
As we said last year in our top ten design trends for 2014, flat design is still very much a prevalent part of web design. With a focus on multi-platform simplicity, designers have stripped websites to their bare bones with an air of style and space. Like any blank canvas, things are quickly splattered on the page and before you know it, we’re back to the same piece of art we once painted over. But today is different.
At the end of 2013, the WebDesignerDepot created an infographic that set skeuomorphism off against flat design and never really overlapped the two. With designers coming up with innovative ways to play with the layout of flat design, we’re bound to see skeuomorphism get a new lick of paint. Flat design has been criticised for throwing away days of user learning behaviour, yet the shift wasn’t instantaneous. That may have been the case with Apple’s iOS 7, but it was hardly catastrophic - “It’s too cartoony..” being the brunt of the argument.
We predict a mix of older elements making their way into the barely utilised potential of flat design; slowly merging to signal a flux in design, which will eventually spawn a monster of a trend ("trend" being the buzz... I mean operative word). People are people, however, so we’re guaranteed to experience nostalgic clients yearning for a return to the days of multi-page CTAs that follow the user all of the way home. Your project manager may have some explaining to do.
The "ultimate narrative" - are you a creative storyteller?
Copywriters, content teams and SEO gurus have preached about the importance of storytelling for a very long time. Bringing a product or service to life by narrating a story. Collating data and making sense of it through an account that’s mapped with detailed milestones. Creating multiple blogs and news articles that all point to the same destination but with a different route each time. Do the aspects of this journey sound familiar to you? It's one thing calling yourself a "storyteller" and it's another actually making the effort to compile the necessary chapters to form a narrative. And one that isn't convoluted with pointless filler (now you're skimming this article for pointless filler).
The story apparently begins the moment you visit a website via any platform. Full-screen images or videos are an introductory window that visually sets the tone. Large header background images are fading out and now there's a big emphasis on professional imagery that needs to have enough quality and character to fill your monitor and your imagination. Accompanied by typography that’s simple, lovely and large, judging a book by its cover has never had as much clout as it does today.
Simplicity within a story is hard to get right though. You need creative elements that appeal to more than just the content you've created - especially content that's centred around those persona profiles that are stuck to your wall. Interactive web graphics now trump infographics because they too make a story much more simple. The slow release of information through interaction is an obvious way of making the user feel part of the story; consequently making it more engaging.
At the beginning of 2014, Design Roast posted their 15 favourite web graphics that embraced innovation. Who would have thought Levi's could make the sustainability of water into an entertaining short story? We challenge you to show us somebody who has done the same with cardboard. I know someone who has.
Unfamiliar web design traits that are very familiar
With tablets and mobile devices at the forefront of design, users have become accustomed to mobile and tablet design traits slowly making their way over to the desktop. Minimal looking menus have had a place on mobile sites for a while and website designers are no longer just dipping their toes into the trust of the user. Designers are now completely removing any form of visible navigation on desktop websites and are relying on the user to adapt like they did with mobile devices. A common feature is the menu bar disappearing until you scroll back up the page. This is a familiar trait for mobile and tablet users, but it may take some getting used to for non-mobile, hardened desktop users. But there's nothing like a good bit of forceful learning eh?
Responsive icons will attract a lot of attention from designers as they enjoy working on the digital version of flip books. UX Magazine have put together a nifty little GIF of the Responsive Icons website (which you can see below) and it demonstrates a basic version of how they work (as seen below). They not only aid the website in the way they respond to a shift in size or platform, they bring a creative element to something people tend to passively use. Responsive icons are a nice thing to have and that's what it's all about. The additions that some people think are pointless are probably the reasons why they don't have as many people revisiting their site as they'd like.
The same can be said of UI animations. Integrating animation into progressive functionality can be tricky, but when designers get it right they transform applications into works of art. As Design Inspiration points out, UI animations are a great way for designers to flex their creativity and you'll find many rarely disappoint.
So here's to a year where "trends stop being called "trends" and designers design the unexpected. I hope all of our predictions are wrong in some way.