So, over the past several weeks I have read a number of my favourite web design magazines, web design blogs and articles and viewed a number of cutting edge websites, particularly outside of North America, so that I could share some thoughts about what appears to be some of the major trends in website design for 2011. There is nothing scientific contained here, just some observations.
1. Less Use of Flash
It is not the fact that Flash is not a great technology...(when used appropriately it is)...but in the past year or so it has been over used, misused, abused to the point that it has developed a bad reputation. Certainly, the ongoing shenanigans between Adobe (creator of Flash) and Apple (iPhone and iPad) are not helping the situation. Today, websites need to have a clean, uncluttered design, fast loading and above all must be Search Engine friendly. This is a problem for Flash and now with the coming of the new web coding languages of HTML5 and CSS3, together with the explosive growth of web surfing on mobile devices perhaps it is the beginning of the end of Flash in web design.
2. Simpler and Cleaner Design
Simple. Minimal. Uncluttered. There's nothing quite as "attention grabbing" as an honest, straightforward message on a quiet backdrop. Quiet can be interpreted several different ways. Forget black and white or shades of gray, although these are still very popular in certain industries. Think of green, yellow, red or even blue as your primary color. However, limit your palette to two or three colors. Work within the shades of each color for variety and depth. It can be truly remarkable what a few colors can do for effective messaging.
3. Mobile Ready Design
Smartphones, tablets, netbooks, the list goes on and on. There's a dizzying amount of mobile products available to the consumer in 2011. This means your web design must be responsive to multiple devices. Creating a mobile ready website is not simply removing the bells and whistles from your existing design. One of the most important advances is that you can design a whole site and allow your coding to conform to the user's viewing medium. It may be tempting to just create a dedicated mobile site, but that may no longer satisfy your audience. Increasingly, mobile sites include the option to visit the original site. If you do not offer this option or if your original site is not optimized to mobile standards, you are simply not ready for 2011. Forecasters predict that smartphones will outsell personal computers this year, and by 2013 more time will be spent surfing the internet on a mobile device than on a personal computer.
4. Large Photographic Backgrounds
Large scale backdrops will surge in 2011. These images will be high resolution, and covering the entire site. Large photos are an instant way to grab your audience. Massive images were once taboo for web designers, but thanks to better image optimization, faster internet connections, and smarter loading methods, designers can gain a lot in some sites by pushing image sizes to the maximum. Trends also point to soft and slightly transparent imagery that does not overshadow your content, but harmonizes with it.
5. QR: Quick Response
You may have noticed those square barcodes (looks like lots of squiggly unrelated lines) popping up on business cards, magazines or elsewhere, so you may already know that they are a hot trend for 2011. These barcodes are called QR, short for Quick Response. And how exactly does QR translate into web design? Quite well, in fact. Simply take a photo of the unique barcode with your camera phone. Like magic, your phone will call up the website associated with that barcode. The beautiful thing about QR is the flexibility. Feature your QR on your website, in order for site visitors to have a shortcut to your mobile site. 2011 is all about mobility and it will be smart to take advantage of this new medium.
6. Thumbnail Design
Our good friends at Google have introduced the average internet user to thumbnail browsing. The days of clicking through to see the content of a website are now gone. Now, you just click on the magnifying glass and hover. And just like magic before your eyes is a glimpse of what waits on the other side of your click. This is another issue for Flash-based design that is definitely going to be a problem. The preview will not display those elements of your design. As the average internet surfer becomes more internet-savvy in 2011, expect to see more people navigating by these means.