How trendy is your website design? Does your interface include some of the most visual and user-friendly tools of the year?
It’s not too late to jump on some of the hottest design trends of 2016. (Most of these concepts are rather timeless and will carry into next year.) Here, we’re going to take a look at five trends that have been going strong all year and look ahead to a few things that will likely shape the 2017 design landscape.
The scroll made a triumphant return in 2016 and we can credit it to mobile user patterns. Small screens make scrolling a necessity, and user returned to it when interacting with desktop websites as well.
And that’s a good thing.
The return of the scroll as an accepted user pattern provides more flexibility in the design and gives you more chances to interact with each visitor. Think of all the opportunities to play games, include scrolling features (parallax!) and develop other creative ways to tell your story.
There are a few tricks that you’ll want to consider when going back to the scroll:
Thank you, material design for re-introducing web designers everywhere to the container element concept. These container elements, mostly employed in the form of cards, are popping up everywhere and they make a lot of sense for responsive design.
Cards are a helpful way to organize information, based on the one element per container theory. Each box asks the user to do one thing, whether it is to click on a video, enter an email address or buy an item.
One of the most usable features of cards – and likely why they are so popular – is that they can work with any visual plan. You don’t need to design for the element. It can match any interface, allowing users to integrate cards into a design without having to change the visual concept.
Designers have been arguing over the hamburger icon almost since its debut. Like it or not, one thing is certain it was the first step toward hidden and pop-out navigation patterns for all device types.
Now here’s why there is an argument over this tiny icon: Does hidden navigation make a website difficult for users? Do they not know where to go or what to click? (The answer probably depends on your side of the argument.)
There are some distinct design pros with hidden navigation:
And a few cons as well:
While the hamburger icon is not the only option for hidden menus, it is still one of the most popular. If you are thinking about using this trend, consider your audience and their web-savviness before making the change. Some of the best examples of hidden nav now come with instructions or a mash up of traditional and pop-out menus, with a few main options and a full menu that’s hidden.
The bold, flashy color schemes associated with flat and material design have crept into design patterns of all styles. (And that’s a good thing.)
Bright color schemes are engaging and can help users feel a certain way when they interact with the design. (Typically bright, saturated hues are connected with happiness and desire much more than darker counterparts.) Color can help bring focus to your message and make users want to emotionally connect with the brand.
Here’s the big part of the trend: Bright color is fun! Many users visit websites for their entertainment value, whether it is to waste a few minutes while waiting in line or to share something with a friend, bright color schemes encourage those behaviors.
What’s nice about the trend is that in addition to the blues and greens that are commonplace, the trend has encouraged more designers to take changes with pinks, oranges and purples. The result is a fun, bold, eye-catching visual presence that draws users in.
While it’s easy enough to remember Google’s biggest algorithm changes in recent years and the far-reaching effects of each, you may not realize that Google’s famous proprietary algorithm changes hundreds of times per year.
Google and others include page load time and site speed in their rankings for key design metrics. This means image optimization cannot be overlooked in your web design and development processes.
Taking time to optimize images is a win-win for both SEO and user experience. As with every other aspect of web design, image optimization is partly intuitive, partly data-driven best practice, and overall A/B-testable. Web designers should follow these five image optimization best practices:
1. Move image optimization into the initial design phase of the project.
Making decisions about size, complexity, and selection of images at this stage can help ensure that pages aren’t overly “heavy” when they launch.
For example, while not specifically an “image” optimization, the use of a large number of web fonts can add greatly to page load time as browsers load these assets. For an optimal UX, limit your selection of web fonts.
2. Select the appropriate file format for the type of image you have.
The number one mistake designers and developers make is using either the wrong or the same image format for every image on a site. Follow these suggestions to determine the correct format for a given image:
3. Optimize images by eye.
Once you’ve chosen the appropriate format, eyeball it to make sure that the image is as compressed as possible without sacrificing quality.
JPEG files employ lossy compression, which means that you must balance quality and file size when optimizing. The difference between a “maximum” 100 percent quality JPEG and a “low-quality” 30 percent JPEG can be astounding. Try taking the quality down low and then dialing it up 10 percent at a time until you reach an acceptable level. Be sure to double-check against the original asset for a final test.
To optimize GIF files by eye, use the minimum number of colors necessary to display your image and test different color palette sizes for quality. The difference between a 16-color GIF and a 256-color GIF can be many kilobytes. Depending on the image, you may be able to reduce the palette a bit further to save space.
When optimizing PNG files, try to use PNG-8 formats wherever possible. These limit you to a 256-color palette, but with the benefit of a significantly smaller file size than a PNG-24 file. Recent tools, such as ImageAlpha, optimize alpha transparency in PNG-8 images, in part by converting them to PNG-8 images that include alpha transparency.
In addition to your typical design tools, ImageOptim is an exceptional application for optimizing PNG, GIF, and JPEG images. Using this tool can easily cut your total image load time in half.
4. Determine what’s best for your website.
Every website, scenario, and audience is different, so there isn’t a specific number that your images should add up to.
Having said that, use images under 200KB when possible — smaller file size is always better! Try to get your total page weight well under 1 megabyte.
5. Give those images meaningful names.
Even though we are primarily talking about file size optimization for images, don’t forget the basics. Website images named “red-shiny-car-part.jpg” contain more SEO information than “image1.jpg.”
Effective image optimization looks like a high-performing, quick-loading, mobile-responsive user experience. Other than that, it depends on the site. Engaging, compelling websites like Wolf-Gordon,Bryan Cave, and Winston & Strawn make use of optimized images throughout for an exceptional UX. While great image optimization impacts site performance and factors in SEO, most companies are most concerned with making a positive impression on their visitors. As with any first impression, the most appealing experiences starts with optimal imagery.