Reading through various predictions for what will be big in web design in 2015, one common theme emerges: design in 2015 will be driven more than ever by performance considerations. Flat design, minimal design, and a focus on typography rather than graphics, are all mentioned repeatedly in 2015 web design trend pieces, and what’s common to all of these is that they can make for lighter webpages, that will load faster whatever device they’re accessed on.
Responsive web design has been the biggest trend in web design over the past few years. (If you’re not sure what responsive web design is, we have a list of resources to bring absolute beginners up to speed here.) While designers embraced responsive design, there were grumblings from certain quarters that responsive sites were bloated and laggy on mobile – sites designed for retina displays and HD monitors on desktop were just too big to load quickly over a mobile connection, and a disaster for people with older handsets with smaller memories. For online businesses, laggy responsive sites can hit the bottom line, hard – 57% of users will abandon a site that takes three or more seconds to load (see infographic here). Users, it seems, don’t like to wait.
The web design community has taken note, it seems, and the answer is simpler websites that should render gracefully on both desktop and mobile.
Indeed, ‘designing for performance’ might just be the hottest web design trend of all in 2015, and leading industry figures have already started talking about it. See Daniel Mall’s piece here; Brad Frost’s here; and Tim Kadlec’s here.
Let’s take a look at the three trends we mentioned above: flat design, minimal design, and typography. It’s important to point out that none of these web design trends on their own will make for faster, better-performing websites, but they’re all indicative of a new focus on making sites lighter, faster, and more accessible, particularly on mobile.
It’s been around for a while now, but flat design’s popularity shows no signs of fading. So what is it? Simply, flat design is design from which any element that might add depth – drop shadows, bevels, embossing, gradients – are all removed, to produce a flat, two-dimensional result. Interface elements are kept simple, with lots of buttons and icons to click or tap on.
To make up for the lack of depth or texture, colour is used heavily to provide visual interest. Colour hues tend to be vibrant, and over the past year or so retro colours like salmon pink, mustard yellow, and mint green have all been embraced by designers. In many cases, images are kept to a minimum, or are absent entirely, replaced by very simple graphics.
While flat design as such isn’t a design trend driven by performance considerations, its simplicity means that flat websites are lighter than their textured cousins. This might be one reason for flat design’s enduring popularity in recent years, and what will keep that popularity from flagging in 2015.
A design classic, that’s become increasingly popular in web design over recent years, minimal design is one from which all non-essential elements have been stripped out. Large images, sophisticated layouts, sliders: all of them are removed to produce an ultra-minimal site. As with flat design, above, websites with a minimal design are not necessarily ultra-light, but this design trend certainly lends itself to light, fast-loading webpages. If you want to be on-trend in 2015, but feel flat design isn’t for you, go minimal.
With all (or most of) the images gone, what can a designer use to greet a site visitor and catch their attention? Typography is the answer. Huge background images have been very popular in website design over the past few years, but the new trend is to replace them with enormous typography – which has the advantage of being much lighter than those giant images.
Whether you’re a designer or a website owner, it’s important to start thinking about simplifying things in 2015 – if you do, not only will you be bang on trend, even better, your users will be happy, too.