As we close out 2013, I thought this would be a good opportunity to reflect on what’s taking center stage for the new year and what’s taking a final curtain call. Let’s take a look at all of the exciting things that will make 2014 a great year!
I think either I’ve caught up with web trends or they have caught up with me because I see a lot of signs pointing to minimalism as the “hot” item for 2014. I love trying to keep things clean and simple – all without too much clutter. This is true in my daily living as well as my web design strategy. I always felt like the odd man out when the trend to develop complete sites using Flash came onto the scene. I didn’t really like all of the bells and whistles and I never added any full-blown Flash sites to my portfolio Don’t get me wrong, I added plenty of Flash elements along the way, but I still tried to minimize the use. I’m glad that trend is past us, and I’m exciting to see lovely clean designs emerging onto the scene.
With increased internet speed and expanding bandwidth, you’d think we’d be moving in the opposite direction — fancier sites with added extras. But I think with so many people browsing on their phones and tablets, sites that offer clean lines, one or two beautiful images, and succinct content are much better received than a cluttered messy site that is hard to navigate on a small device. The KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) strategy seems to be the guiding force, and I am all over that for 2014!
What’s Not: Clutter, too many pictures, too many columns, messy sites
Flat UI Design
Even though this really IS the quintessential element for achieving a minimalistic design, I’m going to give Flat UI Design its own category since this is such a guiding force for so much of the design being done today. I see this becoming more of the norm in 2014. Flat UI Design showcases the content of a site and works so well for mobile devices and for an ultimate viewing experience on desktops and laptops too. Basically Flat UI combines the use of colors – often bright or bold to showcase different content pieces – along with flattering typography and simple, often monochromatic icons to help make the content pop. Flat UI isn’t for every site, but it can be a powerful tool if done correctly with the right site.
What’s Not: Ribbons, gaudy backgrounds, big images that take too long to load, and small fonts (maybe I’m just getting older, but I want to be able to see what’s on the screen without squinting.)
Responsive design will continue to be the “go-to” strategy for web development in 2014. On the scene for several years, companies and blogs not utilizing this technique may find themselves way behind for 2014. Responsive web design allows for the creation of one site with multiple looks, optimizing for desktop, tablets and phones. For more information on Responsive Design, read Responsive Web Design Trumps Mobile Specific and Desktop Only Designs.
What’s Not: Static sites that don’t respond to different screen resolutions. Don’t make users scroll, pinch, or try to dab at a drop down menu that’s too small for an index finger.
Simple Menu Structure
Gone are the days of stuffing your site with multiple pages to gain a greater SEO foothold. Removing the clutter from your content and laying out your site so that it is much easier to navigate will prove to be a smart strategy for 2014. As mobile continues to dictate our development tactics, simple as a strategy will reign supreme. On a mobile device, 40 menu items just doesn’t make practical sense. If possible, keeping it under ten items is much more reasonable. While you are downsizing your menus for your mobile users, go ahead and streamline your site for your desktop users too. They’ll appreciate it and you’ll be glad you did when your bounce rates go way down.
What’s Not: Too many links, and multiple menu items which can be condensed to just a couple of pages…don’t make users click/tap on new pages unless you think it’s really necessary.
Not “The Big Picture” but big pictures will find their way onto many sites. Full page photos or full width pictures have made a big splash this year and will continue into 2014. These big pictures go hand-in-hand with the minimalism, flat ui design trend. They also work well within a responsive design setup. While the big photo takes over the top spot, I think we’ll see less and less sliding banners. Rotating banners have had their day, and now it’s time they pass the torch. We’ll still see sliding banners used, but I think there will be less implementation as we move forward. I wrote about not overusing the Sliding Banners back in 2012, and I’m hoping we’ll see even less of them by mid-2014.
What’s Not: Sliding Banners for most sites
I think we’ll continue to see animated GIFs in the limelight this coming year. Whether as a replacement for certain videos or just for fun, animated gifs are light and easy to share. I predict that more sites will also utilize animated photographs (a.k.a. cinemagraphs) as their main focal point for their website. Subtle animation laid on top of that “big picture” will become more popular and more mainstream. I’m looking forward to some really creative animations.
What’s Not: Old style in-your-face gifs from the 90s – no one wants to see 100 different things animating at the same time!
Infographics are huge right now and I think we will continue to see them flourish in 2014 with a couple of exceptions. First, I think we will see infographics with better and more concise statistics. I think so many infographics are too long and too cluttered to be effective. Simpler and shorted are better. If I have to scroll and scroll to see the whole thing, I’d really rather just read an article. Also, I think we’ll see more interactive infographics – allowing people to tap, click and slide to see more detailed information on a particular statistic or topic. The interactive element should also help condense these devices and limit the “never-ending” infographic problem.
What’s Not: Cluttered and never-ending infographics. They are everywhere now, if you want yours to stand out you’ll have to up your game.
Maximizing page speed will continue to be a big focus for most sites. If you haven’t optimized your site, you’ll want to. Check out WordPress Plugin Recommendations for Faster Page Speed for a guide on how to get your page speed up to…well… speed. Users won’t wait for a slow page. Don’t let this one get away from you. There are some easy fixes to make your site a well-oiled machine. And if you plan to keep ahead of your competition, you have to pop open the hood of your site and get that baby purring!
What’s NOT: Slow sites (duh, right?!)
Overall, I think we will see a “less is more” design strategy for 2014. Remember Flat UI and a minimalist approach doesn’t have to mean boring. I think some of these design strategies open the door to incredible innovation and creativity. I can’t wait to see and share all of the amazing things this year will bring us. Have a safe and happy new year!