8 Web Design Trends on the Horizon for 2014?

Posted on 10 Feb 2014 by Matt Russell

Allowing for the dust to settle for the first month of the year, it’s time for a few predictions on web design trends for 2014 based on today’s current practices. These are a few predictions that may be worth considering for your existing site(s) that could potentially improve traffic, conversions and ideally build on the overall positive experience for your users.

You will note there are a few familiar predictions for web design trends in 2014 and you may find similar thoughts here that others have shared on the internet about this year’s trends. This list is based on our experience at WebHostingBuzz and we are as optimistic as everybody else about these trends materialising, thus gearing up for a potential big year for the web.

1. Responsive Design on the Increase

Responsive Web Design (RWD) is a fundamental aspect of web design for many and it’s apparent that more and more websites have adopted this approach to best accommodate their visitors. With RWD, you are designing for all devices – not just a select few. Instead of structuring your website around a popular devices such as Apple breakpoints (i.e. the iPhone, iPad and desktop), target all devices so that regardless of screen size, your website is optimised for the viewing screen and not for a fixed device.

The increase of RWD is also pushing back mobile only sites. Mobile only sites are specifically aimed at the mobile market and effectively serve two different websites: one for mobile, another for everything else. In many respects, a lot of mobile sites are a ‘watered down’ version of the main site and don’t feature what the desktop users can view. Generally speaking, mobile specific sites are configured for a better mobile experience, albeit with a lot of elements sometimes removed. With RWD on the rise – especially mobile first development – it is getting to the stage where a mobile specific page may become obsolete as a mobile first alternative can achieve the same results – if not better.

2. Sass, LESS and the CSS Pre-Processors

Exposure of the pre-processor syntax has been so positive for 2013, that more and more people have adopted to this approach. A pre-processor such as Sass is an efficient way to improve the time you spend on the coding of your site. There is an emphasis on the DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself) method.

Larger sites especially will benefit from this practice as you can use many variables, placeholders and mixins to shortcut through any updates or amendments to your site without having to manually find and replace keywords. A pre-processor is a great time saver and in the long run of things, will potentially reduce production time and maintenance to a site.

Many designers and developers have since made that jump to a pre-processor and realise that there really isn’t that much to it in terms of learning a new language – it’s more of a series of extensions to supercharge your existing CSS methods. The likes of frameworks such as Foundation and Bootstrap have brought this practice to the forefront of development and this community, as one of many examples, has informed one another of the many benefits of a pre-processor. Look out for more and more sites compiled in Sass in particular.

3. Focus on Delivering Quality Content

Search engines – namely Google, change their algorithms so frequently and to such a significant effect that sites previously ranking high on the first few pages suddenly see a dramatic drop in their position. No doubt there will be another big shake up for Google this year, so ensure you are producing content for people rather than computers.

Granted, you still need to pay attention to writing a good headline, quality content and ways to appeal to your audience, but stuffing your content with excessive keywords and targeting user searches that may only be revised in the coming year may be a tad fruitless. Website owners are realising that there isn’t a guaranteed way to reach the top of the ranking wars through tried and tested methods. If there are, they could only potentially change in the very near future. Future proof your content by writing engaging, interesting and unique subjects for your audience and not solely for search engines.

4. Hover Effects an Obsolete Styling Feature?

With touch devices key for many users who access the internet, the hover effect appears quite redundant. Developments are slowly leading to whether they are needed as much – if at all.

As touch devices don’t have a cursor function, there is no need for the :hover. Recent revisions to the flat design trend mean that a lot of designers have stripped down their UI’s to remove all effects that include hovers, shadows and other styling that has since been unnecessary.

It’s debatable whether flat design can move things forward, but regardless if a design is flat or applies the skeuomorphism technique, hover effects are potentially on their way out.

5. SVG In, PNG Out

There is an increased push for the implementation of SVG’s as opposed to PNG’s. No doubt you are aware, as vector images, they are limitless in scalability, providing high resolution graphics that are genuinely adaptable for all devices.

Of course the SVG movement hasn’t been without it’s fair share of teething problems. Sometimes compatibility issues with browsers or devices, files that are actually larger than their PNG counterparts and in many cases, an SVG cannot replace a JPEG for items such as photographs or non-vector based artwork.

Support is improving more and more and with so many applications supporting SVG natively now, it’s only a matter of time until these SVG’s replace a lot of the graphics on the web.

6. Flexbox

Flexbox has had it’s fair share of the limelight. As another newer technology, more and more people are pushing for it’s use and how it can potentially change web development for the better.

Again, support isn’t perfect yet, but it’s getting there. In a nutshell, Flexbox is a layout tool that can effectively manage a container and it’s elements to resize and recalculate it’s contents with ease. For a better understanding of Flexbox, read this excellent guide at CSS Tricks.

7. Bigger and Bolder Use of Imagery (and Typography)

You don’t have to look far now to see websites that make full use of the screen with photography, graphics – even large type. In the past these sites would have been a nightmare to load, but with the increased methods on how to serve images – be it through a simple website optimisation, in-app feature or even your own methods of hosting images i.e. a CDN, 2014 couldn’t be a better opportunity for experimenting more with space, colour and graphics.

There are no longer the limitations of sites being restricted to a 960px width. Your page layout could literally expand to a HDTV or shrink to a mobile. A combination of RWD and ways to serve images are key to this.

Another factor for using large images is the increased availability of high resolutions images available – in many cases Creative Common licenses that can be used for personal and/or commercial use too. There is an abundance of imagery available and what better way to apply for the coming year?

8. Less Sliders, More Animation

CSS makes animation a reality in lieu of resource heavy files or embedded clips. Rather than have large images in a slider, more and more people are noting the benefits of using animated backgrounds. Surprisingly they aren’t as difficult as they may appear and can only further enhance your brand/identity on the web with a personalised animated background.

Of course, there are perfectly good slider plugins available for the less tech savvy, but there aren’t a great deal of animated plugins – especially as they are so personal. The beauty of the animations though is that you can make great use of SVG and CSS, ensuring it looks good on all screens, but more importantly, it’s lightweight and no need for endless scripts to be added to your pages. For more on animation – in particular @keyframes, check out an older Smashing Magazine article.

In Summary

As you can see from the above, these are just a select few of some of the predicted web trends for 2014. There are of course a lot more we have omitted – for example the increase of flat design sites, the Parallax effect and the combination of typefaces, but a lot of those occurred and gained momentum in 2013.

It will be interesting to note how these trends will develop and whether there will be any newcomers to the scene this year that can perhaps change the way that we look at and use the web.

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