Minimalistic, app-inspired, responsive, adaptive, agnostic, single page, touch and gestures, media queries, retina display, webfonts,…?
In this increasingly digital society, a good website with its unique look, feel and functionality is what brings a business to life. Unarguably, it is the customer’s first touch point. A well designed website is what makes customers want to click around and even bookmark for return visits.
As a technology entrepreneur and part of 3 online platforms, I have seen the web change quite a bit over the past few years. However what we have experienced so far is nothing compared to the paradigm shift I see coming in the near future. The growing influence of portable devices, big-data, personalisation, gesture and voice is creating a whole new set of opportunities, albeit not without new challenges. In the future we need to develop products that algorithmically adapt and respond to a user’s, behaviour, needs and maybe even moods, in real time.
“The future of web and mobile design is that there is no distinction between the two.”
You have to reach your target user, wherever they are, whatever device they use. Responsive web design (RWD), a relatively new approach to web design, allows building websites that are optimised for screens of all sizes; small mobile devices, tablets and large desktop monitors. We will see RWD drive the decline of standalone mobile optimised sites and native apps. In fact, it is already the trend and the right path to follow.
“It not just desktop vs. mobile anymore, but desktop, mobile, wearable, interactive TV and much more.”
In addition to RWD, we will also see websites and web products become increasingly agnostic. Concepts like pixel agnostic, technology agnostic, device agnostic, browser agnostic and resolution agnostic will rule the future of web. It’s something that emanates from the need to create a single cross-platform version that is adaptable to all devices. All this will reinforce the ideal of a unique multi-platform product.
“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
Simplicity, minimalism, clear layouts, app-style interface, focus on typography and less decoration will dominate the design principle. The idea is to throw away what’s unnecessary. Content, UX, usability, accessibility and visual design must be guided by this new paradigm. We can expect to see simpler single colour icons, single page layouts, text-based navigation, and lots of empty space.
In the process of simplification we will see typography become the key design element of any web project. Custom fonts will become essential creative asset, contributing to the overall usability.
“If you agree to user-first approach; you have to agree to content-first because that’s what the users consume.”
This proliferation of platforms isn’t going to stop. We’re going to see increasing numbers of wildly divergent platforms like interactive television, in-kitchen devices, in-car audio interfaces & wearable devises. This means that instead of building containers and then creating content to fit, we have to work it the other way round.
Our content is going to find its way to places we never even dreamed, and we don’t have the time, resources, or budget to create new content for every platform. Instead, designers, developers, and content strategists will work together to create the right content, structured for reuse, and then design around it.
“Design must become even more pixel agnostic. I think designers will start using an SVG-first approach.”
Scalable Web Design (SWD) is a methodology for designing websites capable of being displayed on screens with both low and high pixel densities. Like RWD, it’s a collection of ideas, techniques, and web standards. The SWD approach ditches raster for vector, utilizing Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) capable of scaling in size without a loss in detail or sharpness. The idea is to serve a single vector graphic that works well in all environments and has excellent performance on broadband connections.
“The world is flat and so is design.”
‘Flat Design’ is a style of interface that doesn’t employ any three dimensional realism. It employs no gradients, bevels or shadows to simulate three-dimensional designs. Among the main reasons driving this shift are the concepts of RWD and SWD. It is a lot of work to create 3D designs for multiple screen sizes and resolutions. Designers can save a lot of time by using flat design concept as it just need to be created once and it will look great on all screen sizes.
“We’ll see digital experiences merging with physical objects, to enrich one single experience.”
With Internet of everything (IoE) making its presence felt, we would be able to communicate not only with our fridges and televisions, but also with devices with tiny LED screens like Google glass.
How will we be able to evolve towards a rational unification of all this, or at least towards a peaceful co-existence. We will need to devise new responsive interaction patterns, make the most of device sensors, experiment widely with touch and voice enabled interfaces and work on integration of services and user accounts.
“We will see a lot more applications in integration with other services, taking the web beyond the browser.”
Driven by big data technologies, in the near future it will be the users who request content from our systems instead of receiving the content we assume they need. It’s possible we’ll never again design a web like the one we know; new interfaces may be completely standardised or designed for each device, and these devices connect to our servers to request personalised content and data.
New solutions will be behaviour driven and built on more sensitive algorithms working with diverse data sets, such as location and social. For example a fishing enthusiast will receive coordinates on his fishing rod to catch a swordfish while his Google glass screen shows him how to prepare a delicious recipe with the unfortunate animal.
“Technology agnostic, of course, is the main idea.”
“The thing to focus on is not how a website’s design, layout, UI is executed but Why.”
“Design is how it works” – Steve Jobs. The statement has a totally different connotation in the future of web. The “it” of that quote becomes not only the experience on a device but a composite experience made up of a multitude of touch points, defined by not only what we can see and touch but by an increasingly unseen and diverse set of features. The “it” is not a fixed static thing, but a growing; evolving experience that ultimately can begin to mirror our ideas of life itself.