As 2012 winds down, many web developers are looking forward to 2013 as a year when Web 2.0 will really come of age and become a viable design philosophy for websites in desktop, tablet, and smartphone form. With a number of new and exiting web design technologies finally reaching maturity, it’s likely that the upcoming year will be one of the most versatile and dynamic design years in quite some time. In particular, web designers and those who merely appreciate good design should be on the lookout for three major trends in website design as 2013 dawns.
1. Responsive Design
The term “responsive design” is perhaps the biggest current buzzword in the design industry, but that’s not because it’s a passing fad or a brief idea that will eventually lose steam. Indeed, responsive design is a term that is here to stay. Websites are gearing up to fully embrace the responsive ethos, ensuring that their designs will easily translate across multiple devices without operating multiple websites, subdomains, or overall designs, to ensure cross-device compatibility.
2. An Embrace of Digital Look and Feel
For the past few years, the design of Web 2.0 websites has been defined by a push to create textures and patterns that emulate the offline world. Many websites decorated their content with wood finishes, vintage wallpaper backgrounds, and a number of other quirky textures that really brought a website “outside the screen.” This will probably fall out of favor in 2013, and designers will have no one but Microsoft to blame.
The company recently unveiled its Windows 8 operating system and, with it, completely ditched the “textures make design better” philosophy. Windows now embraces flat tiles that are not designed to be like offline things. There are no real buttons, no helpful paperclips, and no skeumorphic sticky notes. Now, everything is intended to look like it came from a computer, largely because it did. Websites will follow suit this upcoming year.
3. Big Buttons for Big Fingers
Buttons have long been one of the afterthoughts in web design, treated as though they didn’t really matter to a design’s overall functions and feel. That was turned upside down when Apple released the all-touchscreen iPhone device in 2007, and it has only faded away faster as the company’s competitors have unleashed their own touchscreen mobile operating systems. With the vast majority of mobile phone sales going to smartphone customers in 2013, buttons will take on new prominence in form, function, and presentation.
Buttons must grow in order to be more accessible to the fingers that swipe through today’s websites on mobile devices. Smaller buttons work well with cursors, but fewer and fewer cursors are being found on websites in late 2012 and in 2013. That means web developers must create bigger buttons with more important functions, and they will next year.
Exciting Things to Come
Web design never stops moving toward the next technology, the next design trend, and the next usability hurdle. In 2013, design will fully embrace mobile technologies and innovative, responsive programming languages. All the while, the desktop experience will continue to be robust, impressive, and able to bring websites off the screen and into reality.
Phil Gorman is a web designer and guest author at Best Colleges Online, where he contributed to the guide to the Top 10 Best Online Colleges for a Web Design Degree.