The future of web design is bright, but there are always a few pitfalls to watch out for.
While broadband speeds are increasing at a phenomenal rate, it stands to reason that web design should become a lot more graphical and interesting. In actuality, it appears to becoming dulled down and less focused on design. This is for a number of reasons which I will go through below.
A big factor is the number of people now using their mobile phones and other devices on the move and still relying on substandard 3G networks to access online data. I understand the importance of fast loading speeds and immediate gratification of an impatient and on the go society, but at the same time, as an artist, I want whatever I am looking at to be pleasantly displayed in an interesting fashion. With the advent of smaller devices taking over we may see a lot more simplified access of displayed snippets of information with links to larger more detailed content. This seems sensible so long as we don’t completely lose track or visual appeal to be bombarded by text snippets that will simply be ignored so we can move on to something more interesting. Hopefully there will be a neat compromise between the two factors of immediate accessibility and visual appeal.
Another reason I believe a lot of projects end up looking very basic or minimal is limited budgets. I can completely understand, if work needs to be constrained to a small budget, then compromises need to be made. I do however try my best to go the extra mile and provide a little extra wherever possible.
Bring on 4G where mobile browsing becomes truly viable for more interesting tasks than checking email and waiting for a website to load.
Looking at some of the major sites out there, (like facebook) with their massive budgets and the specialised teams that they have at their finger tips. I don’t see why they can’t seem to make it all a little more interesting. For example when I use facebook on my ipad I still need to scroll to the left to see all of the page information, rather than the site being truly responsive and fitting the screen orientation neatly. I think they can and should do better with the resources available to them.
Responsive Web Design
The future is definitely responsive design, which provides online content in a different size and layout, depending on the device it is being viewed on. The issue is that for it to be cost effective to design and implement, it is becoming more and more basic, with very simple shapes and fill colours being used while losing a lot of the wonderful creativity that is possible right now.
If designers are willing to put a bit more thought and innovation into their web design projects, they can produce some great looking sites with a bit more visual interest and added interactivity. For example you can use a lot of pre-responsive techniques (like using CSS that was used to create elastic sites) to add some improved tileable imagery and a few extra embellishments, rather than just a single colour box. I was always keen to have elements that resized themselves according to the browser window size (before responsive) so experimented a lot with CSS that allowed elements to grow or shrink to accommodate the browser window being resized. If these older techniques are used in conjunction with the awesome new responsive HTML, I can actually get some interesting visual elements on my webpages.
This is a responsive website design created for Crazy Coffins. Read more here or you can visit the site here.
HTML 5 + CSS
With search engine optimisation becoming a much more prevalent aspect of web design it is also influencing how designers work. This can be viewed as both an advantage and hindrance. It is good because it makes web designers produce content that is accessible and readily available and referenced. So no more flat images created in Photoshop and uploaded as a jpeg being called web design, thank goodness!
There is also a growing importance for unique and useful content, which is brilliant. I hope that this will help make search results more relevant and targeted as well as ensuring that the same content is not simply copied and pasted to be used on multiple sites or pages, forcing some thought to be put into site content that is written for a particular purpose.
A slight disadvantage to SEO is that less and less importance is being placed on actual design and visual appeal. SEO is producing a world of web sites that give text more prominence over substance. While text is the best way to provide information, it is not the most attractive or quickest way to get a message across.
An image speaks a thousand words, and a thousand words takes a long time to read.
Print based advertising relies heavily on imagery to advertise a product or service, and I feel that web designers should always bring in elements of alternative artistic sources into their work to provide the most enjoyable user experience possible, and to also get the all important message across in an appealing way too.
WordPress is an amazing system for creating websites and with the huge array of extra resources available via the plugins and extra functionality it offers, it is likely to be used a lot more in the future. Not only can end users make small content changes easily themselves but it also helps a lot with SEO with the help of a few plugins.
To see more info on my recent WordPress website designs for velo29 cycling events click here.
Using parallax within a site design will really help engage your viewers and it’s likely to be the precursor to other similar features that will add even more interactivity to web design. Parallax and some similar features like CSS animations are not fully supported by mobile browsers yet, although I am sure they will be soon. So they should still be considered an integral part of web design, to give users a sense of movement, on a media that should not be constrained to static information like printing always has been.
Interactivity & Video
The pleasure of web design in the future is the fully integrated and shareable package it offers to its users. See something you like and you can save it, share it, comment on it and play with it. It is almost a tactile experience and is hopefully only going to improve. We just have to make sure we look at the bigger picture and don’t get bogged down or bullied into being a conformists.
Video is likely to play a larger role than ever, because it allows you to add moving imagery and a concise message to your viewing public. Inserting it in parallax elements or behind your content is another interesting way that it can be implemented on your site allowing for a much more interactive and eye catching experience.
The Future: Bleak or brilliant?
There will always be brilliance under the veneer of mass media culture and web design can only get better with the advancement of technology. Saying that I think web design may get a little stagnant on the surface of it all because designers may not want to go the extra mile to produce work that is both innovative and interesting so they may simply go for the easy way out.
If everyone is producing sites a certain way we should be able to add a twist of creativity into our work and push the boundaries further into the unknown. With so many possibilities at our finger tips and the pace that everything is advancing should allow us to produce clever and inspiring solutions to keep everything interesting.
It can be compared to popular culture verses the more artistic underground scene. If you look at the state of the music industry, where charts have the most dull and uninspired music that is continuously pushed into everyone’s face. Whereas the flip side to this a growing number of talented musicians, pushing the boundaries and producing truly amazing sounds and feeling into their work, who are being recognised for their unique talent and skill.
Designers can and should push themselves further, we are the future, and we influence where it goes so let’s enhance it and show off the possibilities.