We recently published a post on how how web design is changing, not dying (as many have been trying to argue of late). One of the popular arguments against web design is that all sites look the same, as if designers have done their job and now it’s time to pack up and go home. Well, not so fast – because today we’re looking at five reasons why exciting web design is about to come back bigger than ever. But first let’s recap on a couple of reasons why many (not all) websites are looking a bit repetitive these days.
How web design got a bit predictable
There’s truth to the argument that web design has become too repetitive, but things are about to change (and we’ll explain why in a moment).
The rise of templates and frameworks
The first reason many designs look familiar these days is the explosion of templates and frameworks. These take much of the design process out of development, which is great for coders with limited design skills (or designers with limited coding skills). But it kills the creativity in ‘web design’ – especially when frameworks like Genesis are so widely used.
Relying on the same old solutions, best practices and design fads
The truth is you don’t need to be a designer or a developer to hand over finished websites to clients anymore. This is great in one sense, but it’s making progress in the industry difficult, when so many projects fall back on the same old solutions, best practices and design fads.
The rise of UX design has played a role in this too, meaning fully-fledged designers and developers who try create something new (and hopefully something better) are drowned out by safe players. But safe plays will only get you so far and the next stage in web evolution is going to catch a lot of people of guard.
Reason #1: There are still designers out there trying
This is by far and above the most important reason – there are designers who still try to offer new solutions, create something unique and add something to the industry – not just for themselves but also their clients.
Sadly, these are the designers that have been lost in the background somewhere, as safe designs, frameworks and repetitive UX solutions have taken precedent. But the time for these designers is about to return and the rest of our points in this article will explain why.
First though, let’s take a look at an example of exciting web design that shows new things are still on the horizon.
Histography is an interactive timeline that creates a visual journey through the last 14 billions years, based on events from Wikipedia.
It’s an ambitious project and it comes with a highly niche purpose – not exactly your typical client job. But the implementation is incredible, both in terms of design and code. Is there are catch? Yes, there sure is, and as you can probably guess it’s that Histography is basically useless on mobile. But this brings us nicely to our next point.
Reason #2: Mobile will one day be beautiful too
One of the biggest things holding back web design right now are the limits of designing for mobile. We’ve pretty much decided responsive is the way to go, but this means starting with a site that works flawlessly on mobile and building up from there.
The problem is most of the beautiful stuff we see on the web doesn’t cut it on mobile. Weaker hardware, patchy browsers, dodgy internet connections and a host of other limitations rule out the likes of Histography and the more adventurous side of design.
Technology will come through for us though – it’s only a matter of time. Phones are getting more powerful all the time and connectivity will only improve around the world. Code is also becoming more lightweight and mobile-friendly, so don’t expect today’s predictable responsive designs to stick around for long. Apps may also be winning the mobile race for now, but only because the mobile web is waiting for technology to catch it up.
Reason #3: B2B web design is about to take off
Even though we have years of experience in designing for B2C industries, the more corporate side of web design is still somewhat illusive to us. But B2B web design is about to take off and some of these firms have serious money and influence – sounds good, right?
The standard for B2B sites has been largely abysmal so far, but firms are starting to see the benefits of investing in sites designed to get results. B2B comes with different goals than B2C though, and we don’t have the same experience in this emerging niche to fall back on.
This means newer territory, with plenty of space to explore and often bigger budgets to play with – so grab yourself a bit of that action as soon as you can.
Take a look at this design for Dubai firm Acme – nothing too out of the ordinary from your initial view of the homepage:
But once you hit that “Experience Our Rise” button you’re taken through a sleek combination of scrolling effects, high quality images and minimal text to guide you through their story.
Note the clean layout and balance of floated text against strong visuals – just like you would expect to see in a high-end industry magazine design. The choice of fonts, editorial style and use of imagery are spot on for its target audience, not to mention the highly immersive transition between pages.
Reason #4: There’s still space for creative template designs
If templates and frameworks are killing the creativity in web design then perhaps we need to start becoming a little more creative with how we design them. Sure, it might sound like a contradiction of terms, holding out for something original from a template designed to be reused time and again. It is possible though and here’s the proof.
Build in Amsterdam
Build in Amsterdam is a WordPress theme from Dutch branding and digital design agency, Build.
This theme says goodbye to full-width layouts and half the other trends you’ll see in those repetitive designs we’ve been talking about so much. What you get instead is a template that looks and feels more like an online app, with intuitive navigation and scrolling effects that genuinely add to the experience.
The theme has more to it than visual design though; it’s a fully-functioning eCommerce platform for travel, homeware, fashion and numerous other industries. But what about mobile?
Looks pretty good to me (the design, I mean, of course). The scrolling effects disappear for mobile and its layout moves to a single column box design, where those carefully chosen background colours offer a perfect visual break between images.
Reason #5: Designing the wider customer journey
Yeah, we’ve been hearing that web design got killed off by its UX cousin for some time now. But even the holy grail that was UX design is merely a part of the wider picture now. Designing user experience is no longer enough on its own – you have to design a much wider customer experience surrounding it.
Or, at the very least, your designs need to fit seamlessly within the customer journey, through every interaction – both online and offline.
And guess how many brands have already cracked this by merging their digital and traditional marketing efforts – not many. So it turns out there could be a lot of work ahead for savvy web designers who make it their business to keep offering new things to prospective clients.
Pulling out of the recent lull
So, while there’s truth to the fact web design has lost some of its adventurous streak, this mostly comes down to a lack of actual design in the industry. Frameworks mean non-designers can create websites, while many designers simply fall back on the same trends and solutions we see time and time again.
But it’s this kind of design-less approach to website development that’s living on borrowed time – because it’s too inflexible. And, as technology matures and new demands from B2B industries or user behaviours emerge, it’s the designers still pushing boundaries that will come up with the solutions they need.