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Just a month and a half has passed in 2012 and there are some patterns which are quite easy to notice in how people design. Sure, most of them are similar to the ones of 2011 – it seems 2011 and 2012 will not be too different, however there might be some small changes which I will talk about soon. There is no doubt that screen size is not an issue anymore and designing for all sizes is crucial – this is the stand point of web design trends in 2012.
Why is responsive web design crucial? Because there are so many screen sizes out there, that designing a solution for each one of them is too costly and there is no real reason to do this. Responsive web design offers us the solution to designing for all screen sizes in the same time back in 2010 and since then it became a trend. Responsive web design is brilliant and the results are more than satisfying.
Back in 2011 many websites started to be coded responsively and while the concept is still young, it is already well known and popular. Media queries are a great invention and only show how web designs keeps running just behind technology evolution. Having a version of your website for a mobile phone is something everybody needs to have today, because let’s face it, who doesn’t (or will not) have a smartphone or a tablet?. Now we have internet wherever we go, 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.
Images courtesy of mediaqueri.es.
Besides making websites work on all screen sizes, building websites responsively taught us something else as well: that content is as important as ever. Content is also in focus when designing responsively, because we need to cut back on too many design elements and make the content easy to read and clear; fonts have a very important role here as well.
If you thought 2011 was the year of responsive web design, I think you are wrong. Buckle up, 2012 will bring even more exciting things.
Grid systems are also partially involved in responsive web design. More and more of them appear on the web and people have started using them more frequently. Now that they’ve been out for a long time designers are starting to trust them and this only makes the web better. Frameworks were very popular in 2011 and will continue being so in the following years. They offer fluidity and give a sense of discipline to every design built on them.
Typography is not something that just appeared last year, it’s been out for a long time. Steve Jobs said himself that he studied calligraphy back in college. That was more than 30 years ago. Typography started as a discipline on the web around 5 years ago, when people realized how powerful it can be and the effects it has over how people perceive content. Typography continues to grow, people continue (or start) to read books about it and get better at combining typefaces and using them properly in order to create the desired effect.
However, for the last year something is worthy to note – people started realizing fonts are made to be read and likewise the content. Using too many fancy fonts that were difficult to read disappeared and this will continue in 2012. Education happens really fast on the internet nowadays and people tend to learn about common sense in design more than everything else. Emphasizing content is still something people have to learn more about, but this is exactly what is going to happen in 2012.
The fold’s importance has been played down a lot in the past couple of years since smartphones emerged. People now think it is OK to scroll. I debated this topic one month ago here. People can have their own opinions and this made some of them start realizing scrolling isn’t a problem for users. And let’s face it, nothing is a problem until you make it a problem. If scrolling is not an issue for you, then the fold’s importance is minimal.
Now that smaller screens have become popular, scrolling is something that people just can’t avoid, so we will have to embrace it. The ones trying to play down the fold’s importance managed to do it thanks to the technology and gadgets which emerged on the market in the last years. With this trend set to continue, it’s clear “the fold” will be history by the end of this year – or at most by the end of the next one.
However, if there is something we will see a lot of during the next years, then this is the parallax effect. It is at its bottom scrolling, but not by using the wheel or the trackpad. You simply scroll to another area of the page by clicking the buttons in the menu. The parallax effect is something I simply love and I can’t wait to see more of it – it is just such a great way to make peace between the fold-lovers and the other people. The only issue is that it doesn’t fit with the responsive web design at all, so this is something that developers will try to sort out during 2012.
Using modular interfaces is also something that has become quite popular lately, although it is still a debatable practice. There is not much research behind it and we are still not sure how well it works – but this is why we have 2012. This year we will see how successful the modular interfaces will get.
People will also keep it minimal. Minimalistic design has been the most popular throughout 2011 and this style will continue dominating the industry – although not very easy to design because of its multiple theories, it is quite easy to code and is very pleasant to the eye. It is simple, gets right down to the point and doesn’t waste anybody’s time – just what everybody looks for – information given as fast as possible.
Simple, eye-catching and elegant designs will emerge even more and will continue to stand out in 2012. People with inspiration and imagination will turn their designs into huge hits. With minimalistic web design being very simple, there are not too many ways of finding something new that nobody thought of before. The designers that manage to do it this year will definitely be the key people of 2013.
Otherwise I don’t see too much new stuff coming in 2012. I see designers and developers continuing on the same track and improving the concepts and tools they use right now. I also see web designers digging motivational articles even more, because this is something that keeps them running.
Until next time… what do you think I missed? Is there something else you consider important enough to mention? Do you have a prediction for this year?
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Christian Vasile is an enthuziastic Romanian web designer currently living in Denmark. He is passionate for the industry and writes about design, usability, coding and freelancing and is a regular publisher here at 1WD. You can follow him on Twitter at @christianvasile or visit his web portfolio by clicking on the link above.