Some of the design trends of 2012 have been gaining momentum over the last few years. Others have become such a driving force that they have practically become a requirement—there are even a few older techniques that are a seeing a resurgence this year. Here is what we're seeing:
Responsive Web Design
This fairly new concept has been gaining popularity over the last few years and will only gain more momentum over the next year. Search for web design trends of 2012 and in almost all results you will find Responsive Web Design at the top of the list. It is without argument the most important trend.
This framework makes it possible for a site to be viewed across multiple screen sizes, be it a mobile phone, tablet, desktop computer or wide screen, without any issue. Responsive Web Design adopts the usage of fluid layouts (instead of fixed width), scalable images and adjustable layouts that remain consistent across all platforms. The challenge of this method however is to recognize what information users interact with on a mobile device (as opposed to the traditional desktop view).
With the release of the iPhone and then the iPad, Apple has practically squashed the use of Flash since none of their iOS devices support the technology.
As a result, CSS3 and HTML5 will see enormous use this year. There are options like button animation, multiple backgrounds, box shadows, text shadows, rounded corners and transparent images with CSS3. HTML5 is a lot faster and more flexible than its predecessor, aiding in creating layouts that connect with audio, video and drawing with greater ease.
Custom Font Faces
In the past, web designers were limited to a select number of fonts that were available across most platforms. Today, with tools like TypeKit, @font-face and Google Web Fonts, designers now have the ability to use free, custom fonts and create designs that are more unique. This is extremely popular with WordPress designers trying to get their blogs to stand out from the rest.
Social Media Features
Connecting sites to the world of social media is requirement these days. Well-known services like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ give business direct coverage with customers and attract greater interactivity with users. It’s estimated that Google+ will reach over 400 million users by the end of 2012. Facebook use, meanwhile, may see a downturn, as more users become increasingly frustrated with privacy issues and the constant changes being made to the popular site. Finally, expect to see Twitter gain traction while as the company finds ways to monetize their services for profitability.
Oversized Headers and Logos
The use of oversized headers and logos can make a website more memorable and impressive, and is becoming quite popular. A larger header easily replaces the splash pages of old without the user having to click anything to get to the content. Most users are comfortable scrolling down and have no issue doing so.
Sliders are the navigable slideshows found on the home page of many sites today. They allow a large summary of a sites purpose in a relatively small space. This trend grew traction last year and will only gain more momentum in 2012.
Ribbons & Banner Graphics
It’s surprising how many sites have started including this trend over the last year. In the past these were commonly used by beta testers to illustrate the current release version of software and mobile apps. Now they are a design element that is getting noticed a lot more as an elegant design treatment to an overall site design concept.
Infographics are an elegant way to display information combining the use of data, charts and supporting imagery. Often very illustrative, they don’t necessarily impact the overall design of a site, but compliment the user experience and content presentation.
Over the past few years, muted earth-tones were the most popular color palettes. The idea was that these colors created a soothing environment that was inviting to the user. Not so in 2012. Bright hues and saturated rainbow colors are captivating the interest of visitors, though the best designs remain limited to 2 or 3 colors on one page.
Since more than 80% of website visitors never navigate past the home page, fitting all the content on a single page can make a site much more efficient. While not suitable for all sites, like e-commerce sites, more common portfolio or brochure sites could benefit greatly by keeping the content all on one page. Using tools like HTML5, CSS3 and jQuery can help spice up the design and create a fun and interactive experience for the user.
While some trends come and go, other stay and help push the web further forward. While we only touched on in responsive web design above, design will eventually have to focus more and more on mobile users. Regardless, all of the above mentioned trends can apply to both the traditional desktop environment and mobile platforms like smartphones and tablets.
by Jason Holland, Interactive Graphic Designer