Predicting the future? Man, it used to be easier. All you had to do was wax prophetic about doomsday, flying cars or a new robot species (which may or may not already be underway). Sadly, these words aren’t the creation of a computerized being—we’ve not quite scaled to such Orwellian heights. But make no mistake: things are changing out there in the World Wide Web.
For 15+ years, our agency has designed digital experiences. It’s an interesting ebb and flow to reflect on. What was considered modern, exciting or plain amazing mere years ago is now obsolete. But hey, that’s just innovation at work. When you focus so intently on a practice like web design, its evolutionary path becomes clearer. So, jettison the present for the future with us. We’ve got some big ideas about where web design is headed, based on both current trends and our expert gut instincts.
First, let’s get some definitions out of the way.
UX (User Experience):
When you visit a website, your experience is the culmination of so many things. It features elements of branding and design, like recognizable imagery or visual aesthetics. It’s also usability and function, which determine how intuitively you’re able to explore and find what you’re looking for. These pieces work together to create something that’s hopefully of value to you.
UI (User Interface):
Contrary to popular belief, UI is not a synonym of UX. UI design isn’t quite as all-encompassing as UX design is. It gets much more insular. Where should the navigation bar go? Is this button or icon in the most user-friendly spot? These kinds of questions and tasks can exist independent of UX-centric things like branding.
But when we look at mobile apps—which garner 57% of online traffic now—there are some elements that just haven’t caught up to desktop yet. Take a minute to think of your favorite app. It probably has intuitive transitions that take you from screen to screen. Assumingly, it might also feel “clean” (a term designer’s often use to describe high-functionality in favor of excessive design). You don’t have to try hard, or at all, to understand how it works.
These kinds of seamless interactions will eventually form the foundation (and the future) of web design. Today, we still struggle with breathtaking websites that are a pain in the a** to use. Expect desktop to start taking cues from its mobile younger brother. The days of guiding calls-to-action and too-obvious menus are numbered. Simple, sophisticated and highly considered design will take its place.
We just talked a lot about UI and UX design. Both disciplines will get a mega boost from a flurry of new devices governed by emerging technologies. This probably upsets tech billionaire Elon Musk, but for the rest of us, it opens up exciting opportunities. Not only will these experiences feel entirely original to most users, but they will supplement the “heavy lifting” content most websites are responsible for.
That content tends to be storytelling a company’s mission, or sales-focused on the latest products and services. Virtual and Augmented Reality, for instance, will take both to another level. Just imagine a headset that lets you sit across from a company CEO, or shows how new purchases look in your home. Likewise, wearable devices can tie your data back to a web experience for added personalization.
Does your audience like all this? You don’t have to be in the dark. Our agency is using emerging prototype platforms, like InVision, more and more. With a Beta experience to demonstrate and test, we learn how to unify digital locales, devices and tools. In a few years, we anticipate such platforms will be a norm in the web design process.
Our advice: embrace new technologies and use them to elevate customer experience. As we discovered in our research study CX Revisited, some people are still wary of VR and the like. All it takes is one stellar experience to get them on board. They’re certain not to forget who did that for them.
Strategists have long relied on Personas and other insights to make websites feel personalized—and it works to a certain degree. However, the idea of there being ONE experience for THOUSANDS of users is starting to seem more and more absurd (if not antiquated). With data integration, it’s possible to offer users an experience that truly is personalized for them.
Armed with info, you can now design a site that changes its look and feel based on who’s using it. Show users content they’re interested in, and omit that which has proven to miss the mark. Magically, one website can take on several variants for greater impact and relevancy.
Doing so will become simpler, too, as design standards move toward the modular. Putting website sections into reusable “building blocks” means content can easily be swapped out or removed all-together. The most important sentiment here is making users feel special and valued—connecting in a way that was previously accomplished in a physical setting.
If you’re in the design world, you might’ve heard about ADA guidelines. Being compliant—which affects visuals, text size and more—helps users with disabilities better navigate the internet. Explore some of our common solves by reading The Creative Approach to Accessible Design.