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The eight web design trends that are important for 2018

Which web design trends should you especially pay attention to in 2018? In the last 20 years, web design has undergone a rapid development, which has been characterized by technological advances and countless new design options. Back then, web design trends lasted a long time, but nowadays they barely have time to fully unfold. What has stayed the same though, is the need for user-friendliness and high informational content, and especially now that more and more people are online.

Modern web design: (Mobile) adaptation with technical innovations

The web design trends of 2018 are headed in a clear direction: optical design is increasingly playing second fiddle to the optimized usability for visitors. This is the new tune that content increasingly dances to: added value for the reader, regardless of the device. It is precisely this reason that responsive design will remain a keyword for web designers in 2018. The website or web app will only be successful if it can respond to the properties of each device and be clearly displayed on them.

Making sure to stay up to date on the latest versions of HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS3, and integrating them in an optimal fashion ensures that your website design remains highly flexible. And no matter what resolution or input method (a touch screen or mouse, for example) a device requires, content and other graphical elements should always be offered in a uniform way, if possible.

The advantages of responsive design are clear: flexible and automatic adaptation make it easier to use the latest mobile device and also ensures a quick switch to future output media.

In contrast to mobile sites, which are separately set up with a template and managed differently than traditional websites, new or changed content on a responsive website only needs to be entered one time.

Eight trends which will dominate web design in 2018

Some of the newest web design trends, which will continue their march into 2018 by focusing on recent topics like premium and personalized content. New influences are characterized by advances in AI research and the increasing digitization of everyday life within the framework of the Internet of Things (IoT). Both trends offer web designers the opportunity to improve the user experience and present new interaction possibilities to website visitors.

Trend 1: Use established layout forms

Since a good and well thought-out layout will quickly be copied, you see this happening often when it comes to web design trends. The user interfaces of many websites and web apps are based on tried-and-tested practices when it comes to the design and structure of content. Here, the layout always influences the user friendliness of a website. Basically, you can’t go wrong with a well-organized website interface. You can get presentation ideas from long-established websites or from blog designs on smaller websites. Two layout trends which are more recent will make their way onto many graphical user interfaces in 2018.

One phenomenon has developed so fast that many users already see it as in integral part of the menu presentation: the small menu button, known as the 'hamburger button'. Initially, it was mainly used for drop-down menus on mobile websites and apps. In the meantime, the sign has been used as the menu button on many desktop versions. It looks similar to a layered hamburger and is illustrated using the mathematical symbol '≡', which actually means 'identical'.

The second, more recent web design trend affects how content is presented. Card layouts (also known as 'card-based design') are being used more and more frequently. Here, text and/or image-based content or 'call to action' buttons are presented in several boxes that are distributed over the user interface. This offers several advantages: in addition to the many ways it enables a website to be clearly and visually presented, the card layout is also advantageous from a pragmatic point of view: since the individual boxes or cards act as containers for web content, they can be easily moved within the website design grid. Redistributing site content is made a lot easier with a responsive web layout. The card layout became especially popular mainly through various image platforms such as Pinterest or web design platforms like Dribbble.

Trend 2: Seamless interaction

Good websites don’t just impress with content. How the content is presented and the user experience (UX) are just as important. UX design focuses on interaction with the visitor. The aim is to present content in a visually appealing way and to facilitate how information is recorded. Interactive storytelling is a story telling process using interactive multimedia elements. It’s a web design that will continue into 2018.

Storytelling is becoming an increasingly popular method for turning even the driest of topics into interesting, presentable content. A New York Times piece from 2012, called 'Snow Fall', illustrates a successful example of mixing factual information with multimedia content. The report covers the events of a group of skiers in a text with over 10,000 words. New life is breathed into this text thanks to the aid of specially prepared interviews, videos, photos, and animation.

The trend towards interaction becomes visible to the user through fundamental changes in the user interface. Interactive trend elements that will be used even more in 2018 include microinteractions, 360° videos, chat bots, and the Voice User Interface (VUI).

Microinteractions: Microinteractions is a trend in UX design where selected user interactions are accompanied by small animation effects. For example, this could be a like-button that makes a user’s smartphone vibrate when they click on it. For UX experts such as Dan Saffer, these are the details that make up the user experience. Examples of successful animations for realizing microinteractions can be found on Awwwards.com or Dribbble.

360° videos: In the past, videos just showed what the camera person saw. 360° videos have changed this tradition since the viewer can decide themselves which direction they want to look. Video platforms such as YouTube have already implemented the technical requirements for panoramic viewing. In 2018, the trend will also become more apparent in web design. Internet users can look forward to multimedia content, which shows virtual environments that the viewer can really immerse themselves in. The following video offers a small preview, which enables the viewer to get close to a herd of elephants.

Chat bots: Communication programs are nothing new. Chat bots originate from the research area of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and are already used nowadays on corporate websites or in online stores. Usually, these are small dialog boxes that accept user questions and automatically generate responses. The machine’s learning algorithm creates personalized answers, which gives the user the impression that they are speaking with a human. Chat bots are used as virtual shopping assistants or as an alternative to the classic FAQ section.

Voice user interface (VUI): Language assistants such as Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant, and Microsoft’s Cortana, are growing in popularity. The voice-driven user interface offers users an alternative way to interact with visual controls and could become a trend in 2018, even in web design. An advantage of the VUI is that the user has their hands free and doesn’t have to scroll for the information they want. In addition, language assistants can also compensate for difficulties encountered when users access websites with devices that only have small screens or touch pads that are difficult to use. As far back as the 1950s, researchers from Bell Laboratories introduced the first voice-controlled user interface, the 'Audrey' system. Modern adaptations of this system make use of AI research and enable dialog-oriented navigations to be carried out using voice commands.

Internet of Things (IoT): The Internet of Things is a network of physical devices, vehicles, home appliances, and other similar electronic items, which can be connected for the exchange of data. IoT could also become a trend in web design in 2018. IoT interfaces on websites is an achievable idea, which would enable interaction with intelligent devices such as internet-enabled bathroom scales or refrigerators.

Tip

Informative and 'catchy' at the same time, an interactive presentation is more likely to make the visitor stay on your site and react positively to it. However, you should not install too many complex animations otherwise this may decrease the level of performance.

Trend 3: Personalized user experience

Targeted presentation of web content is one of the basic principles of web design. Especially in e-commerce, the selection of content and its presentation should be based on the requirements of potential customers. In the past, the focus was on abstract groups of people, but in 2018, the focus will be on user experience. While functions such as 'Pages you may like' are used by practically every online store, some companies are taking it a step further and are customizing their products to each user. The music streaming service, Spotify, and the Netflix video-on-demand portal are examples of companies tailoring their services to customers.

A web design trend of 2018 will be personalized websites where visitors see content that matches their usage habits. Web analysis tools such as Google Analytics and Piwik provide the foundations for personalized UI. They give content providers a comprehensive picture of how web users interact with web content.

Trend 4: Scrolling websites - clicking was yesterday

The motto 'Mobile first' doesn’t just apply with regards to viewpoints and loss-free presentations of web content on different devices. The trend of making content also suitable for mobile devices will have an ever greater impact on web content in the future. One of the most important developments in this context is the transition from clicking to scrolling, although scrolling websites are quite well-known already. But design concepts such as infinite scrolling or the parallax effects continue to become more and more popular and therefore will remain as trends in 2018.

Infinite Scrolling: Infinite scrolling enables website visitors to discover new content by scrolling, rather than clicking. When the end of a section has been reached, the next part is automatically shown. Social networks, like Facebook or Instagram, have long since employed this method to present their users with content that is as uncomplicated as possible. 'Infinite scrolling' has also been a common tool used in blogs for some time now and is sure to play a large role in the future.

Infinite scrolling is ideal for websites with a wide range of information. While a blog with 100 to 200 posts can still be easily paginated, the benefits of page splitting on large web projects decreases as the amount of information increases. It’s unlikely for a reader to search for page 812 from a total of 5782 pages, for example. Infinite scrolling on the other hand, is typically used with sophisticated algorithms that pre-filter information and present users with the most relevant blog posts first.

Website operators, who want to jump on the infinite scrolling bandwagon in 2018, should, however, make sure they do so in a search engine-friendly way. While Google initially struggled with crawling scroll websites, infinite scrolling can now be implemented without worry thanks to detailed design guidelines from the search engine market leader. Take the following points into consideration:

  • Individual URL for every subpage
  • Overlapping content should be strictly avoided
  • Visitors should be able to easily locate the sought-for information
  • Loading time should be reasonable

An example of implementing infinite scrolling in a search engine friendly way is on the demo website of webmaster trend analyst, John Mueller.

Parallax scrolling effect: Although parallax scrolling may not belong to the newest web design trends, the next years will still prove to be important for the increasingly popular function. This method has been an essential building block for modern websites over the past few years. The special ability to move various levels of a website at different speeds creates special visual effects that keep the fascinated visitor scrolling and, as a result, staying on the page longer. These effects are ideally combined with elements that prompt the visitor to carry out a desired action. For this reason, parallax scrolling is an excellent feature to use in tandem with interactive storytelling. A particularly illustrative example of this sort of use is the website, 'Every Last Drop'.

Trend 5: Stronger use of typography

What once was out, now is in: whereas large typefaces and multiple fonts were once seen as taboo, a healthy mix of font design has since become a popular trend of web design. When properly implemented, fonts that mesh harmoniously with one another often have positive effects on users. Different sized fonts help the readers differentiate between structures of a text. Through this method, larger elements are perceived first.

Generally, fonts should be carefully selected and should match the product, company, theme, or target group they are representing. One key rule, however, trumps all the artistic freedom in choosing an appropriate font: the text must be legible.

Trend 6: Dynamic background elements

On the internet, there are stock photos as far as the eye can see. Website operators have made it especially easy in the last few years. Instead of creating your own images, the comparatively cost-effective buying of stock photos is now standard practice although it isn’t very original. These images break up text to make the website more exciting and less tedious to read.

The main problem of popular stock photos is implied in their very name: they are available to everyone. Most likely, these photos can be found all over the web and do little to generate additional attention. For this reason, one of the significant web design trends in 2018 is to use as many high quality, dynamic background images and videos as possible.

Dynamic background elements give website creators the ability to convey information faster and more directly than with text elements. In addition, visitors can be addressed on an emotional level using photos, graphics, and videos. A dynamic background design is therefore often used with the hope of conjuring up feelings and putting the visitor in the right mood.

Trend 7: High quality Illustrations

An additional web design trend that allows some websites to free themselves from the typical conventions of content and simultaneously gain more attention involves including hand-drawn illustrations. Illustrations allow designers to echo concepts found in a text in a way that is both easy to understand and complementary to the content’s main message. This approach especially rings true in the context of multimedia. Furthermore, texts with illustrations are difficult for competitors to copy and provide an excellent means of standing out among the masses. Hiring a professional graphic designer is well worth a thought for those who are unable to produce such illustrations themselves. A prominent example of using such illustrations is the website of the online storage service, Dropbox.

Trend 8: Website performance: perceived vs. actual loading time

Design trends of modern web design such as interactive animations, parallax effects, or a dynamic background make the content stand out and improve the way in which information is received (if implemented correctly). Often, however, a complex design can have a negative effect on the performance. Web designers must therefore carefully consider which multimedia and interactive content offers added value for the user, and which slow down the website unnecessary. The general rule here is 'less is more', but it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to return to a boring design.

Take into consideration: a website’s performance has a direct impact on user experience. It is important to distinguish between actual loading time and perceived loading time. Delays are only problematic if the user perceives them as such. Among other things, web designers use the following tricks to hide longer loading times:

  • Progress bar: If the visitor has to wait, they should at least know how long for. The progress bar does not shorten the loading time, but it can at least make it more entertaining if you design it in a fun way.
  • Load the main elements first: Websites should be programmed to retrieve so-called 'above the fold' content first and display it in the browser. These are the parts of the site that are visible to the viewer without them needing to scroll down. If this content is available, the user will find it irrelevant whether the other content (below the fold) is reloaded later or not.
  • Progressive JPEGs: Images incorporated as progressive JPEGs rarely appear perfectly when loading from top to bottom. Instead, the interlaced method is used where the visitor first sees a low quality image that gradually becomes better quality as the page loads.

For further tricks on how to improve website performance, check out the article on website optimizations.

Tip

Plainly stated, the same concepts apply to videos, photos and other forms of graphical media as they do to content: they should be valuable, unique, and relevant for the user. Additionally, content should only be loaded when the visitor accesses it. Users of mobile devices or those with poorer internet connections especially benefit from well-structured sites that are free of unnecessary clumps of data.

Web design trends: a path to success

The web design trends for 2018 are all about interactivity. Additionally, websites should be made even more user-friendly in the future and be quicker for users to access. Web content is not separately tailored to different devices, but is optimized with responsive design so it can be properly displayed on all devices.

Parallax and infinite scrolling are popular styling tools that should accompany the visitor while they navigate through the website. These are also required for the interactive storytelling trend where the customer receives the desired information presented in a short story. Hand-drawn illustrations, premium background elements, and individual fonts all provide websites with a personal touch. It is more important than ever to personally address website visitors. A user-friendly website that attractively presents quality content is the first step for online success.

If you’re building your own website or would like to update your existing site you should let yourself be inspired by the 2018 web design trends.

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