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Website Design Trends for 2016

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What a world. 2016’s barely out of the crib, and web design enthusiasts are already heatedly debating which “trends” will catch on and go viral and which will die on the vine.

The prognosticating business is always a dangerous business – it’s easy to follow the herd, even unconsciously, and hard to make truly original claims that aren’t laughably unrealistic. But such is the task before us.

Whether you’re a blog owner looking to cut down your bounce rate and get more visitors to poke around; or you’re a business owner saddled with a site designed back in the heyday of Flash, you want to take the temperature of the industry. What are the smartest, edgiest designers saying? What are the hippest companies doing?

Well, maybe it’s a good idea to start with what’s OUT.

Here are a few examples of what not to do:

It’s easy to snark at the bad stuff, but we can’t just be a force of destruction. So here are 5 ideas that legitimately talented designers and tastemakers believe will change the landscape this year…

Animation

All the cool kids (and cool companies run by those kids) intuitively understand the power of animation to drive traffic, tell the story of a brand and create share-worthy insights. This shouldn’t be surprising, given that many of those at the helm of today’s big companies were raised on The Simpsons, King of the Hill, South Park and Family Guy. But animation should be used sparingly and strategically. The good folks at Link25 offer the following sage tips:

“First, you should rethink using animations if they slow your website’s loading speed and the overall performance…

  • Make use of CSS when creating animations for your website…
  • Make sure your animations are responsive. Responsive website is a must-have if you wish to succeed…
  • Animations should draw attention… but not too much. Make sure motion isn’t too time-consuming and doesn’t last too long on the screen.”

Be a Special Snowflake

One of the weird things about doing business online is that you need to stand out… but you also need new visitors to quickly and easily categorize who you are, what you’re about, and what you’re trying to sell. If you’re too quirky – with your design, content or anything else – you’ll confuse everyone and drive people away. (Although multipotentialites may disagree.)

So how do you stand out without freaking people out? Matthew Mombrea at IT World has some interesting thoughts:

“Coupled with the ever increasing popularity of WordPress and its booming theme marketplace, it has become hard to even tell sites apart anymore… The biggest problem with the current design trend is that it’s very difficult to be original when using it. Pretty much any site following this pattern will feel the same, regardless of the minor color and image differences. This is a side effect of mass adoption. Folks who got in early on the current trend are no doubt feeling stale today as the trend continues.

My guess is that this originality is going to come in the form of an increase in custom drawn elements combined with carefully produced animations. With the passing from grace of Flash, a dearth of HTML5/JS/CSS3 animation libraries have sprung up to help with this. There is no one-size-fits-all technique for achieving this so most of the well done executions will involve a good deal of effort and planning.”

Of course, avoid being original for original’s sake, and recognize that there are drawbacks to pushing for new and unusual features – as this Oatmeal cartoon compellingly proves.

Drink from the Font of Fonts

Designers have been obsessed with typography from the earliest days of the printing press (and before that, too). We’re rightfully impressed by the creativity of vintage typography, and for good reason. The pictures that you make with your words are often worth more than the words themselves.

Fonts matter. Typography can radically distinguish your voice and elicit powerful emotional reactions from your readers. But what trends are we seeing? What fonts should you choose and why?

Sam Hampton-Smith, writing for Creativebloq.com, has this to say:

“The past couple of years has seen a total transformation in the typographical landscape online as web fonts have become accessible to all, and as a result we’ve already seen a dramatic shift in the way type is rendered online. Colours have remained muted on the whole, and a combination of designers and brands becoming bolder, alongside refinements to fonts and a resurgence in appreciation of good typography leads us to conclude that 2016 will be marked by a lot of colour, and a whole lot of type!”

Smashing Magazine, meanwhile, offers these useful rules of thumb for choosing your fonts:

  • “[Pick] a font as though [you’re] searching for new music to listen to…
  • Develop some kind of structure… [to] mentally categorize the different typefaces [you] run across…
  • Keep it exactly the same, or change it a lot — avoid wimpy, incremental variations… [using] correspondence and contrast…
  • A little can go a long way…
  • There are only conventions, no ironclad rules about how to use type, just as there are no rules about how we should dress in the morning.”

Find That Weird Space Between Pictures and Videos

Here’s a trend that genuinely feels like it’s from the future. It’s called cinemagraphs – a.k.a. “moving images.” If you aren’t yet familiar with this concept, here are some examples. And here are some more.

The folks at Quertime explain why this tool is so nifty: “A cinemagraph, or moving image, expresses more words than a still photo, but uses up less bandwidth than a video. It can also liven up your site’s background, break up excessively long blog posts, and keep a curious visitor entertained for up to 15 percent longer than usual… You can create cinemagraphs on your own, with the help of software like Photoshop. You can also hire a professional to help you all the way, from the creation of the video clip, down to the uploading of the cinemagraph to your site.”

Expand Your Color Palette

Have you ever clicked on one of those Facebook quizzes that test your ability to distinguish faint variations in colors? More and more people are obsessing over color distinctions. In 2016, we should see nimble deployments of color schemes. SitePoint offers up the how and why:

“With the lingering presence of flat design… color holds even more prominence in web design today. Rainbows of bright colors span the Internet, attuned for the both the playfully cartoonish style popular today, and also for the elegantly minimalist style, which must make use of color as one of its few visual elements. Now and in the near future, we will see a lot of these brighter, happier tones, making vibrant colors one of the biggest web design trends of 2015 and 2016… bright colors aren’t just a trend on the web.

They seem to be universal across all industries, especially fashion and interior design, two visually dominant areas that have more than a little in common with web design.”

Conclusion

Are there other interesting trends in website design for 2016?

No. That’s it. Only five, and we’ve covered them all. You’re welcome.

Now that you know all you need to know to complete your New Year’s goal to make your site the best ever in the universe, it’s time to tackle the next resolution on your list — perhaps getting your carb consumption under control?

(Of course, if for some bizarre reason you still need help with your site design or insight into your web marketing strategy, let us know!)

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