With the advent of CSS3, HTML5, interactive media, mobile devices and image-driven social platforms like Pinterest, the Web is evolving quicker than some job descriptions can catch up. Eisner-nominated designer Tom Muller went as far as to say, “The term ‘Web designer’ is eroding away” in a Digital Arts article earlier this year.
According to the 2013 Web Design Survey conducted by the digital industry body AIMIA and Adobe, 95 percent of Web designer respondents felt their roles had changed, and they were now expected to take on new work aspects including digital publishing, interactive design and content for mobile platforms. The survey also revealed that one in four respondents has noticed an increase in time spent working to optimize websites for mobile devices.
The number of smartphone users around the world topped 1 billion people in 2012, according to global research and consulting firm Strategy Analytics. In addition, there are more than 1 million mobile apps available on the market, according to numbers from MobileWalla, a company that collects and analyzes data for all publicly available information regarding mobile apps.
When you combine these mobile-driven elements with the dramatic growth of Pinterest (which has more than 48 million users since its launch in March 2010), it all points to a shift in the way people consume their online information, how designers will design to accommodate this shift, and what clients will expect in this new era of a more visual Web.
With all this in mind, here are 10 key ways designers can evolve to meet client expectations and provide an engaging, user-friendly experience:
Content is Still King
While infographics and other forms of visual storytelling are reaching the saturation point, designing content that supports search engine marketing efforts will continue to grow. Clients want great content supported by great design and compelling visuals.
Keep It Simple and Intuitive
Many elements of design are driven by the simplicity of native mobile apps. This fresh approach is easy to consume and even easier to navigate. Many designers are now creating websites for clients with app-style interfaces that offer a similar experience on a mobile device or a desktop.
Responsive Web Design
From a 27-inch monitor to a 4-inch smartphone screen, designers must design sites that can be viewed on all devices. Responsive websites are flat on design and big on solid colors, photography and typography.
Marrying Mobile and Traditional Web Design
These days, most clients have a mobile-friendly website, or are in the process of developing one. With 1 billion people carrying mobile devices like a T-Mobile 4G smartphone, designers must use optimize everything they do for mobile. As the responsive Web design trend continues, many designers are anticipating the workflow to start with mobile design to deliver the same simplicity on all screens. And, as noted on Developer-Tech.com, “Native apps will stay popular, but cross-platform application development will find more takers.”
HTML5 and CSS3 Coding
In regards to the 2013 Web Design Survey, AIMIA CEO John Butterworth noted, “The results saw respondents name HTML5 and CSS3 as skills to develop over the next 12 months which reaffirmed an increase in demand for interactive design and mobile content development.” Now, designers need to learn and use the latest coding to create elements needed for the new visual Web, including images, gradients and special fonts.
Fixed Headers and Sharing
Clients want users to be able to navigate their website without getting lost. With the help of HTML5 and CSS3 coding, designers are also creating more fixed headers and menus to keep things simple and intuitive for users.
While this technique has been used by designers for a few years, it’s becoming more popular in light of the success Pinterest has had through its never-ending layout. More clients will want this parallax approach to create a sense of movement, rather than make users wait for a new page to load.
Really Big Photography
The use of big-photo backgrounds for Web pages is gaining popularity, as more clients try to solicit an emotional response from visitors through the use of strong images that stand out on any screen.
Really Big Typography
The same design technique for photography is trending in typography. And, just like big photography, oversized typography and unique styles of font can draw users in and be unified across all screens for clients. Just watch out for design practices that hark back to 1999.
Sharing is Still Caring
Clients wants their visitors to be able to easily share their content across the most popular social networks. While this is nothing new, more clients want unique social sharing buttons strategically placed and fixed on Web pages, in addition to the standard header and footer locations.