Here at Maroon Balloon we naturally keep a close eye on web technology developments so that we can continue to provide a high quality and future-proofed website design service.
At this time of year we like to make a few predictions as to what the next year will bring in terms of web design, functionality and online experience. So without further ado, here are our eight predictions for emerging web trends in 2020…
1. Interaction, animation and illustration
Video and interactive content, already prominent on many websites, will become more widespread as devices and bandwidth handle more data and functionality. We like to think this will mean improved engagement, more intelligent interaction and ultimately better user experience (UX) on websites.
We predicted artificial intelligence (AI) advances some time ago – a bit of a no brainer. Similar humanization technologies are already meaning improvements in customer support, eg ‘live’ chatbot support, and richer content and experience, eg augmented reality (see Ikea’s room planner or Specsavers’s online glasses designer).
Animation generally improves user experience and engagement, and can help break up otherwise lengthy or boring content. Let’s not overdo it though – less is more unless a website has good reason to have things moving around.
Add to that animation some nice illustrative graphic design and you’re onto a winner. With more minimalist design making a return to our screens in 2020 (see below) we think clean, user-targeted interactive animation (it must serve a purpose) is the way forward. So much so that we built a nice little interactive illustration into this website back in early 2019, which we still love.
2. More content on web pages
Google has for some time recommended 800 words per page. That’s a lot, but it does mean Google can really understand your web page’s subject and ultimately rank your website higher.
Yes, it’s a lot of work to write that much content, but you’re the expert on what your website offers, right? If not we can put you in touch with content writers who do this for a living.
Don’t worry that this means longer web pages. With the increased usage of tablets and smartphones over the last decade we’re all used to scrolling more, desktop and laptop users too.
That just leaves the web design element. Only carefully laid out web page designs can accommodate this much content without the page looking uninspiring at best, or at worst like an essay. This takes us nicely to our next prediction for 2020…
3. Minimal web design
We’ve been promoting white space for years as it allows a website to breathe, it means easier screen reading (no more headaches!) and it provides a pleasant visual experience: clean, simplistic and sophisticated. We’re therefore pleased to see minimalist design making a return, with uncluttered website design, clear calls to action (buttons and links) and prominent typography.
We expect minimal web design to become more widespread throughout 2020; certainly many others in the web design community seem to be predicting this too.
If your web designer is good at what they do, they can still build a layout that holds lots of content (as Google needs) whilst looking good. It just needs to be done in such a way that scrolling through a long page on a large desktop screen or a narrow smartphone screen is visually compelling and intuitive. This can be achieved by integrating a variety of carefully chosen layout blocks containing text content, plain backgrounds, illustration, interactive elements, imagery and even video.
Take a look at the Bespoke Textiles website that we designed, built and launched in 2019 for a valued London client. It works nicely on smartphones too, which is really important for users and Google alike; mobile-friendly means being usable on a small screen and fast loading.
But it’s not just about white space. Minimal design also means serious uncluttering of web pages. This can mean:
- using a smaller colour palette (too many colours can make for a busy web page);
- replacing the traditional ‘tabbed’ navigation with a hidden mobile ‘burger menu’ (those three lines you see in the top corner of a web page that reveal the navigation menu when clicked);
- simplified outline illustrations for buttons and icons; or
- our next prediction for 2020 – use of large fonts for headings…
4. Large typography
We’re happy to admit it, we’ve always been a fan of large typography on websites, provided it’s done tastefully. Think of glossy lifestyle magazine headings coming to your browser screen.
Those large hero fonts can be thin weight or big and bold. Your graphic designer and/or web designer will know what works and what doesn’t. Be brave!
Last year we worked with Chichester design agency StudioMoo to put large heading fonts to nice effect on www.fandangodigital.co.uk and www.hounded.uk. With some clever coding behind the scenes met and exceeded SEO best practice requirements, proving that good design doesn’t mean that your SEO should suffer.
For some of our 2020 website designs and builds we’re already planning similar use of large typography and minimal layouts.
5. More human Google search results
It’s a given that Google, with its immense power and resources, will continue to fine tune and improve its search results. Us web developers, content writers and SEO experts are forever watching closely and listening carefully for the next directives, advisories and announcements, so that the services we provide are as effective and future-proofed as possible.
One of the more recent bits of news from Google concerned their search engine algorithyms, specifically BERT, which we recently wrote a blog post about. Without delving into the technical detail again, expect to see more smarter results for your search terms as Google employs further artificial intelligence, human behaviour and neurolinguistic programming (NLP)-based technologies when deciphering your search queries, indexing web pages and serving up relevant results.
6. Split screen design
We’re already seeing more and more split screen designs where layout blocks are divided down the middle – two 50% width blocks each containing separate content, text, imagery or graphics.
It works well as it creates easy to read, high impact content, rendering nicely on mobile screens too. More clever designs can have independently scrolling columns (beware of potentially negative UX there though) or headings that span both columns – see our recent website launch for Hounded, a Portsmouth-based canine wellbeing service.
Taking this to a more creative level can yield some engaging design, such as video or interactive content to the right and scrolling text content to the left. Early last year we built this split-column layout for a client which we feel works well.
7. Dark mode
With more of us using our laptops and mobiles during the evening and at night time, wrongly or rightly so, it’s safe to say that many of us have experienced that nasty buzzing headache or sore eyes from staring at a bright screen in a dark room. Indeed, prolonged daytime usage of a screen in an office environment can have the same results (occupational health, anyone?).
This is where dark mode comes in. It’s a bit like turning the brightness down so that those glaring brights and whites don’t feel like they’re burning holes through your retinas.
Some software systems already allow you to switch the colour palette of the interface, providing an option of light text and icons on dark grey backgrounds. The Adobe suite is a good example – Photoshop, Premiere Pro and the like – and also the YouTube app. So why don’t websites have this feature too?
Because it means a developer has to create an entire new colour palette for the website styling. That means font colours, icons and buttons, background colours, rollover effects and much more, which is a lot of extra work.
However, back in the day we used to do a similar thing where we’d allow users with visual impairments to increase the font size of a website by simply clicking on a plus icon or a large letter A. This is still recommended practice for good accessibility, but is now built into the web browser’s functionality instead.
Dark mode can work in a similar way – an ever-present link in the corner of the screen which allows the user to switch between dark and light versions. As with all good website design and UX it’s about letting the user make the decision. As a developer or designer you give the end user control over how the screen looks – for example black text on a white background or light text on dark grey.
We expect to see this built into more websites this year, particularly those that attract evening or nighttime usage. And so it should be; it’s good for the end user which means it’s good for your website.
8. Environmentally friendly hosting
Website hosting can be green. Really. Think of all those flashing lights and that power consumption in a temperature-controlled room full of servers (basically racks full of high spec computers that load up your websites).
The hosting service that we offer is powered by 100% renewable energy, and has been since 2017. As a business we don’t want to be responsible for adding to the planet’s woes and so we’re proud to say that we do our bit when it comes to website hosting. The service we offer may not be the cheapest, but as well as being robust, speedy and secure, it is environmentally friendly and therefore helps us to reduce our business carbon footprint.
We sincerely hope that this trend does take hold in 2020. Most of us want our homes to be eco-friendly so why not your business too? If you’d like to discuss switching to a greener web hosting then please contact us for a friendly chat.
Ultimately of course user feedback will determine which of these predictions will make it in the real world of the web. If a certain website layout or feature is a pain for people to use – be it slow loading, unintuitive or headache-inducing – they will vote with their mouse and go elsewhere.
We’re always saying it but user experience and testing are paramount. Get it right for your audience and they’ll stick with you.
Let’s see over the course of the year which of these web trends stick and which don’t.