Web Design in 2018: 6 Trends to Watch
As you plan ahead into the new year, take a good look at your business website and your other associated marketing materials. Do they look modern, or dated? Do they currently reflect your business’s positioning or branding, or have you made changes to your company since you originally had them designed?
If it’s time for a new look, pay close attention to the design trends affecting everything from website design, to user interface design, to social media graphics, and more in 2018. Use the following collection of trends and predictions to create new graphics that are both on-trend and likely to support your business’s marketing needs for years to come.
To be fair, mobile friendliness isn’t a new trend. Google has been harping on the need for web design that suits both desktop and mobile users for years.
However, the trend will gather added steam this coming year, thanks to revelations in late 2016 that the search giant would deploy major algorithm updates prioritizing mobile-responsive websites beginning in 2018.
The Digital Marketing Institute reports that:
“Now, in the first half of 2018, Google will be rolling out its new Mobile First Index, placing more importance on the mobile version of your website by making it the first to be seen in the search results. This means that your website must have mobile-friendly design.”
- If you haven’t already, run your website through Google’s free mobile-friendly testing tool for insight into how your pages perform on mobile devices. Make any changes suggested.
- If you’re still running a mobile site on a separate “m” subdomain (for instance, m.google.com), make it a priority in 2018 to transition to a responsive design that automatically adjusts based on the size of the browser detected.
- Add AMP (“accelerated mobile pages”) to your arsenal. Not only is this an important signal to Google regarding your site’s mobile-responsiveness, it could capture you added views if your content is included in the AMP-designated listings.
High Quality Imagery
Stock imagery just won’t cut it anymore in 2018. Instead, we’ll see an increasingly large number of brands seek out lesser-known stock image directories (in the hopes of snagging little-used images) or even investing in their own brand photography.
Abbey of the UK’s Gomie Designs reports that:
“Brands and designers will now be thinking more carefully with regards to the imagery they use on sites, hiring professional photographers to take their shots which frame them in the way they want to be portrayed.”
- Take a look at the imagery on your website and assess whether it meets the “high quality” expectations of current and future visitors.
- If you have concerns about any of your individual images, consult lists of stock photo directories (like this one from Canva) for lesser-known options.
- Reach out to photographers in your area for quotes on having custom brand images taken. If their fees are within your budget, make sure you understand the rights granted by your contract for image use, and put in the prep work ahead of time to ensure a successful shoot. (HINT: you may have the most success finding photographers for custom brand work on the stock photo directories you look into.)
As web technology grows more advanced, expect its design trends to grow savvier and savvier as well. Animation is one place in particular where we’ll see this trend take shape, thanks to the ubiquitous nature of GIF imagery and other types of engaging graphics.
In addition to sharing the example above, Richard Horvath of Thee Design states that:
“Animations used to be flashy and distracting, but 2018 will usher in a new era of subtle, useful animation. Expect to see scroll-triggered animations and animated logos.”
- Evaluate your current website design. Could you introduce subtle animations to any part of it? Rather than requiring a full redesign, building in animation can be an easy way to update the look of your pages.
- Introducing animation doesn’t need to be difficult. Fiverr is full of opportunities to hire website animators for as little as $5. A design agency dedicated to interactive design can help as well, if your needs go beyond simple graphics and banners.
- Watch your usability. As you add animation, pay close attention to your on-page analytics, and consider using a heat map to ensure engagement doesn’t drop. Even if it’s on-trend, animation won’t do you any favors if it confuses visitors or prevents them from taking action on your site.
On a related note, faster web technology and a wealth of available talent means we’ll continue to see custom illustrations influencing web design trends in 2018.
Not only can custom illustrations eliminate the challenge of using the same stock imagery as everyone else, they can help create a consistent, memorable brand image in the minds of readers.
Kate Kucherenko, writing for Upwork, is quick to point out the cost-saving benefits of custom illustrations:
“As a rule, illustrations can be a cost-effective method, as it is cheaper than organizing a photoshoot and it can also give you capacity for your creativity and individuality.”
- As with the animations mentioned above, custom illustrators can be easily found using sites like Fiverr, Upwork and other freelance portals.
- If you intend to incorporate custom illustrations into your site’s design on a regular basis, take the time to test several artists. Don’t commit to updating multiple instances of imagery on your site until you’ve found one who delivers results you’re happy with that nail your brand’s positioning.
Design as Guidance
Another interesting trend we’re watching for 2018 is the use of web and graphic design from a functional perspective – not just a purely aesthetic one.
Chase Buckley, writing for Medium, cites progress spectrums as one of the ways we’ll see this trend play out. He suggests:
“A progress spectrum is a far more natural way of measuring “progress.” Instead of breaking up the user experience into unnatural, linear, paginated steps, a progress spectrum reflects the true experience of the user, one in which progress is experienced along a broad and continuous spectrum, where one event seamlessly flows into the next.”
This progress can be visually communicated to the user with a graphic spectrum – as in the case of LinkedIn’s profile completeness measure, which Buckley gives as an example of this trend done well:
- Progress spectrums require significantly more investment than adding illustrations or animations to your site, as they’re rooted in the functionality of your site’s user engagement mechanisms.
- If your website doesn’t engage users directly (for example, if your restaurant website’s primary purpose is sharing your menu and hours), this investment may not be worth it.
- However, if you teach a course, offer a community or have some other process requiring extensive user engagement, the creation of a visual progress spectrum may give you better results than a more rigid progress bar.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning
The full impact of the latest wave of AI and machine learning on web design isn’t fully understood – and likely won’t be throughout 2018. However, it’s worth keeping an eye on, as these technologies have the potential to revolutionize the way websites are designed.
SpyreStudios notes that:
“Adobe’s Sensei project promises to make AI- and machine learning-based tools available to developers looking to improve their applications and websites, and TheGrid has been offering AI-based web designs since 2014. As AI advances, we can expect to see more of these AI and machine learning developments leak into web design, making certain parts of web development easier while abstracting away some of the messy details.”
- Although it’s too soon to tell what kind of impact AI and machine learning tools will have on website design – or to what degree small business owners will be affected – pay attention. We may not be far off a future where anything from simple design changes to massive development projects can be automated with the click of a button.
Preparing for 2018
Whether you’re a young startup or an established business, design trends are worth tracking, as Maricel Rivera shares that “75% of consumers admit that they judge a business’ credibility based on their website design.”
Is your credibility taking a hit? Are you concerned that your business website isn’t portraying your company in the best light?
If you have any concerns at all, use the trends cited here to invest in improving your website design as we move into the new year.
What website design projects will you be tackling in 2018? Leave us a note below sharing your thoughts: