You may notice from time to time similarities in some of the websites you visit – regardless of topic or industry. Layouts may look similar. Functionality may work in the same way and navigation might follow the same basic parameters. The content is quite different but it may be presented in a similar fashion or style.
No, they aren’t all designed by the same company, and no, they aren’t copying each other’s intellectual property.
Many of the current trends in website design make it easier to both create and publish a website. Some are tried and tested (why reinvent the wheel) and others are just the way things need to function. Users also have a certain expectation and familiarity with various components of a website that if presented in a different way, could hamper the way a user interacts with it rather than being received as novel and therefore an engaging experience. For example, you tend to look for navigation as a list at the top or left hand side of the home page. You may also read online content in a F-like pattern.
Here are a few of the current trends you may see regarding common UX design:
Hero slider images.
A picture says a thousand words. Having the first thing you see on the page being a full width image(s) is quite impactful. You can have multiple images here as a series of sliders showing your product or evoking an emotional response. Thanks to faster internet speeds and better compression, these files no longer take forever to load or slow down your site in general.
Background animations and Videos
Rather that having your content sitting on a static picture or coloured box, having a video file or animated image moving in the background again adds an element of movement to the site, attracting the user’s eye and engaging them without the need for them to do anything themselves to begin that interaction.
This is more of a 'best practice' rather than a trend. Building a responsive site negates the need for a separate mobile site. Elements position themselves on the page based on the size of the window they are being viewed on. Rules can be written to govern element size, stacking features or suppression of non-essential items. A responsive website is fantastic not only for being ‘mobile friendly’ in the eyes of search engines like Google, but allows a business to manage one site only rather than a desktop site and a mobile site (doubling the content and any changes needed).
Rather than displaying information in a standard vertical stack, block layouts have become quite popular in offering multiple content topics in the one area. Whilst giving the illusion of being non-conforming in their design, these large and small shapes interlock together in the designated space to provide various options for the user to explore content further.
Hover, SCROLLING & MOTION animations
Presenting the user with a little surprise or chance of discovery when they move their pointer over a text box or image makes for both a great user interaction as well as a space saving device - allowing multiple content pieces to share the same real estate on the page. Adding some motion to a site, these animations reveal themselves only through user interaction. When you scroll or interact with an area on the page, an animation is triggered either displaying new content or revealing a next step in the discovery process.
Above the fold is dead. Long live the long scroll !
A legacy of the newspaper medium, it is no longer a belief or need to display all your critical information in the initial screen or home page. Thanks to tablet and smart phone technologies in particular, users are accustomed to scrolling down a page. What you see isn’t what you get. Some websites are even utilising the long scroll as their entire site. This design trend does away the need for individual pages (often associated with landing pages used in inbound marketing) and simply uses anchor points as links to content further down the page.
Can’t see the navigation menu at the top of the page or down the side ? Chances are you’ll find the navigation hidden behind three horizontal lines. A vague reference to looking like a hamburger, this is a common way to hide the navigation on responsive websites, particularly when viewed on mobile devices, so that you can use the space on the page for other content. Viewing the menus is only a touch or click away.
The most common way to make contact for a website’s owner is to fill out a contact form and click submit. Rather than offer a simple email address for a user to use in their own mail application, many sites these days ask you to complete a series of human intuitive questions as part of an online customer engagement process. This process is designed to provide a faster and more relevant customer experience for the user, while allowing the business to capture more highly qualified lead information so they can learn more about your needs and behaviors prior to making contact.
Certainly, designers strive to make websites unique in design and functionality. This can often be achieved as much through the content as it can through the design. Some design elements are here to stay as great functional pieces that don’t need reinvention. Others will come and go as new and exciting ways to present content are invented or redefined. The exciting thing about the digital environment is that the next great piece of functional design is always about to be invented.
About The Digital Embassy
The Digital Embassy™ is an Australian Google and Microsoft Certified Partner transforming digital business. Our team are ambassadors for best practice in digital business strategy, web design, behaviour-driven software development and evidence-based digital marketing. For over 20 years our business has employed local industry certified personnel to help businesses meet the changing needs of digital users and consumers.
The Digital Embassy™ is a pre-qualified ICT service provider for Government in SA, VIC and NSW.