It’s clear that a golden age of web design is upon us. Technological advances are continually redefining what is possible for creative designers and innovative brands. It’s never been easier or less expensive to seek out web design that takes advantage of these new possibilities and enhances the digital experience for users and companies alike.
These are a few of the practices that you’ll see throughout all corners of the web in 2017 and beyond.
1. Original creative assets are replacing stock photos
There was a time in the not-so-distant past that you could exclusively populate your website with stock photos, icons, and other imagery and still feature an experience that was largely unique. Fast-forward to today, when tens of millions of brand and personal websites exist in the digital landscape. Many of these pages utilize stock photos, largely because they are inexpensive and there are now numerous companies dedicated to collecting, organizing, and licensing stock visual content.
Innovative companies are realizing that standing out in the current environment means filling their websites with assets that are wholly unique to the organization. Not only is this a singular way to ensure that your website doesn’t look like anyone else’s, but it lends brands an air of authenticity that can’t be replicated artificially. Visual content works best when it’s specifically relevant to the message that the brand is sending, and while you can find decent facsimiles by scrolling through libraries of stock photos, deploying custom content allows you to truly refine this message in service of your goals. Brands can also recruit help from design agencies too, who have access to talented photographers and videographers who can help you develop unique creatives for your website.
2. User-generated content becomes an integral part of every website’s design
An offshoot of custom visual content, user-generated content is also becoming more common in the world of business websites. Aside from being created expressly for your brand, this has the added bonus of helping your customers to feel more closely connected to your company too, as they can share in the experience of contributing to the organization in a public way.
Many companies choose to integrate user-generated content with sponsored contests, where they solicit followers for images or videos through Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat with the promise of prizes for the best entries. Including user-generated content is often especially attractive from the company’s perspective, because for only the cost of the featured prize they gain access to content from a diverse group of brand enthusiasts, many of whom may be established creators in their own right. Businesses that do manage to successfully leverage this tap into a deep level of customer engagement which is rapidly changing how consumers interact with brands.
3. The user experience is mobile-first, even on desktop displays
The drive towards mobile optimization has been in progress for some time now, but recent increases in data speeds and mobile device adoption rates have accelerated its rise. One of the first significant developments to result from this trend was the wide implementation of responsive web design, which enabled websites to automatically format themselves for mobile devices when detected. Responsive design is such an established concept at this point that it can hardly be called a trend; it’s essentially a necessity for any company that has a digital presence.
Now, the dominance of mobile devices is changing the way that designers imagine layouts. Because users are so accustomed to scrolling through vertical content on a smaller screen, designers feel comfortable including important content below the fold and creating immersive experiences that are enriched by vertical scrolling. Where they were once fearful that content would be missed if there wasn’t a way to click to it from the top of the page, designers are now confident that users are conditioned to look farther down the page for value-added information.
4. Thanks to fast data speeds, designers are adopting dynamic images and complex animations
Estimates may vary, but the top average LTE data speed available via U.S. wireless carriers is now approximately 12.26 Mbps, and the average download speed in other parts of the world is even higher. These speeds are easily enough to sustain HD video streams, meaning that most consumers now walk around with a device that can deliver video content of exceptional quality at a moment’s notice.
Web designers have recognized what this means for them, and they are changing their practices accordingly. Dynamic images which adapt depending upon where the customer scrolls or clicks are now commonplace on company websites. Similarly, crude animations have almost completely become a thing of the past, as advanced browsers allow for high-quality, full-screen animations that can tell a complete story with startling efficiency and beauty. Complex animations have a way of stimulating the viewer and engaging them through content that is familiar yet intriguing. When used successfully they can be a great conduit for adding value, but you must be careful to ensure that an over-reliance on animations doesn’t detract in any way from the user’s experience.
5. Designers can take advantage of screen resolution to include eye-popping colors
A trip through the web in the mid-to-late 90s would lead you past a dazzling array of colors, to be sure. Budding Geocities page designers often made every image look like a neon rainbow, because with an inability to deploy high-quality imagery it was the only way to stand out. It may have been colorful, but that doesn’t mean it was pleasing to the user.
Rich, vivid colors and sophisticated gradients are now a hallmark of many innovative companies’ web experiences. This has been mostly driven by the race to build ever more advanced screens by mobile device manufacturers. With companies such as Samsung and Sony now creating phones that feature 577 and 806 pixels per inch respectively, it’s understandable that designers are eager to utilize colors in ways that truly pop on these incredible devices.
6. Branding concerns and website typography can finally be friends
In the old days when brands had logos developed with proprietary and essential typography, they may have been able to feature it on their website in a static image, but that was about where it ended. This caused an inherent disconnect between such branded content and other text on the site, but the modern web allows designers to integrate branded typography throughout a website.
Companies can now create cohesive experiences that immerse users in their branded materials and reinforce visual motifs throughout multiple levels of the digital journey. With the ability to easily maintain consistency throughout the web design experience the opportunities to fully engage audiences becomes endless.
This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.
This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.