In 2015 new websites look and feel a bit different than they did in 2014.
Among other things, this year’s defining design trends are due to changes in customer preferences, as well as increased capabilities of technology.
Here are a few of this year’s top design trends that are defining the look and feel of new websites:
Customers crave video and interactive experiences, which is driving everything from immersive advertising to immersive websites. HTML5 has risen to meet the demands of today’s web surfer, and we’re seeing everything from embedded video backgrounds to gamified websites to experimental approaches, such as the DNA Project, driven by musician Jonathan Dagan.
While backwards compatibility is a concern for many website developers and designers, the richness that these multimedia experiences can provide can drive many businesses in this direction.
As long as backwards compatibility is accounted for, there are clear conversion advantages to using a multimedia-rich website. The eye-popping “wow” factor can really help a business stand out from its competition.
In 2015 and beyond, expect to see more of these multimedia-rich, immersive experiences, especially as mobile continues to advance towards augmented and virtual technologies.
On the other end of the spectrum, we’ve been finding a trend towards 2D, flat designs. Flat designs have been popular for several years running, and they continue to perform well in 2015.
Not only are they advantageous from a technical perspective – since backwards compatibility isn’t an issue – they lean towards minimalism. Crisp, clean designs are uncomplicated, and every marketer understands how important it is to be clear and concise online.
Flat designs incorporate many elements that are easily managed and scaled, such as vector graphics and icons.
Many designers are making creative use of flat designs by combining flat designs with 3D imagery, such as gradients, photographs, and 3D effects such as parallax.
Rather than creating sites with multiple pages that split content up into several sections, many sites are combining the content into one-page designs. The iPhone 6, for instance, has a very long page that showcases all its features as you scroll down.
There are several advantages to this design from both a usability perspective and an aesthetic perspective. Not only is it easier to scroll down a page, users don’t have to wait for new pages to load. And from a visual perspective, CSS fade effects and animations can be much more appealing than the jerky effects that occur during page loads.
Infographics are an example of storytelling and design applied to data, and we’re now seeing many brands apply storytelling to web design. The Space Needle’s site, for example, uses a multimedia-rich experience, storytelling, and immersion to give users a taste of the Space Needle.
This technique contrasts sharply with trends from previous years, which would focus on a salesy landing page that listed benefits and features. While that approach is still dominant by far, we are seeing a few brands break away from that.
There are a number of advantages to storytelling in design. It avoids the dreaded marketing feel that puts off so many users. Instead, storytelling gives brands an opportunity to communicate their message without being salesy.
In 2015 and beyond, expect to see more brands make creative use of storytelling and direct communication, as opposed to the hard-sell approach.
In the past, it was common to see websites and blogs crowded with flashy banner ads, sidebar widgets, and plenty of other distracting content. This design approach poses problems for site owners and users alike: it can detract from the main content and the purpose of the page.
The antidote, according to some, is to focus exclusively on the content. Minimalism, an ongoing trend in the look and feel of 2015’s new websites, removes unnecessary elements.
Borders, extraneous widgets, ads, fancy effects, multimedia, and other distracting elements go by the wayside. Minimalism, like flat designs, is advantageous from both a technical perspective and a usability perspective. Sophisticated layouts and background images don’t confuse users or devices, so customers can find what they’re looking for in a design environment that doesn’t call attention to itself.
Bigger is Better
Last but not least, bigger is definitely better for many designers. And this seems to be driven by demand.
Like minimalism, bigger designs – such as big images that cover a home page – draw attention directly to the content. While lots of little content can draw attention away from the focus of a site, big eye-popping images and designs grab attention, hold it, and focus it on what matters most.
Bellroy’s layout for Elements Range, for instance, combines big design with multimedia to make a memorable impression. Plenty of big companies have gone big, such as Skype and several of the aforementioned websites, which combine big design and multimedia experiences to tell stories and create immersive experiences for the user.
In 2015, new websites’ look and feel has evolved slightly, but some trends are mainstays. Minimalism, for example, may be permanently popular, no matter how immersive our technology gets. But as devices become more sophisticated and ubiquitous, we should expect to see multimedia-rich storytelling and immersive experiences grow in popularity.