It’s a truism that the only constant thing in life is change. When considering developments on the internet, it’s even more true than normal. Last year was the year mobile really took off, with the overall time spent on online on mobile devices finally overtaking desktops. Likewise, Google announced sites without strong small-screen UX would be penalised. Here then we outline some of the key trends in responsive web design and take view on how they will play out in 2016.
1. Ever-increasing Storytelling
Unsurprisingly, the use of stories that captivate ensures website content is more memorable and certainly more engaging. It is now being utilised by writers to convey information in the way that facts and figures just cannot. In general it means: a) a compelling start above the fold; b) ensuring story-line lengths are appropriate for both large and small devices; c) using visual material wherever possible but being mindful of download speeds and file sizes; d) making content sharing as easy as possible, especially on layouts made for smaller screens and touchscreens.
2. Less Is More
It’s no longer a good idea to have masses of pages so that sites can rank highly in search. For multi-device navigation this can be confusing and clutter the user experience, and often they’re impossible to keep up to date. Instead, the trend is towards smaller sites, even single-page websites, as well as massive simplification of sitemaps.
3. Card Layouts – More to Come
Made famous by Pinterest, this layout trend is on the rise. In simple terms, it means presenting to the viewer pieces of content that are easily scannable. This means they can be easily rearranged to make a more responsive experience given the need for screen-size changes and layouts. Many more large sites have taken to this layout, including Twitter and Google, and it seems more will follow this approach in 2016. This would be a key trend to discuss with your web design company to see if it might work for your site.
4. Hidden Menus – Benefit or Challenge?
This UI device has been around for a while and can take a variety of forms, including drop-downs and fly-outs revealed on mouse hover or navigation drawers and many others. In the main, they are used as space-saving devices whilst still making navigation visitor-accessible. It is believed 2016 will continue to see debate over them as a tool, given that in some instances they have been shown to cut user engagement, especially on mobile devices. The challenge will be for designers to provide an alternative that doesn’t clutter but maintains viewer navigational options.
5. The Hero/No Hero Image Debate
In general, sites have swung between the two extremes of one huge hero image spanning the entire screen versus the opposite use of only rich colour and typography. Again, we expect the debate to rage in 2016, as images mean increased visual flair but generally slower loading time, whereas removing those images might mean a more appealing site according to recent Google/YouTube research.
Whatever your views, it seems the only certainty is that the multi-channel experience is here to stay. It is highly likely that many of the trends outlined here will still be up for debate as we exit the year, but watching how they play out will be one of the highlights of the year.