By Michelle Barnett
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Design trends of 2018

Design trends for 2018; personalised UX, typography and a lead for visuals.

Data collection means personalised UX

We’re getting increasingly more comfortable with letting companies access our data and use it to tailor our online experience.  There’s a continuing trend towards unifying your various online accounts, or having multiple services run through single providers.  The result of this is that one over-arching organisation can know everything from what our interests are, who we talk to, the real world locations we spend time in, and what we buy.  And of course it’s happening in design too.

For some people this is a negative rather than a positive, but it’s the way things are trending at the moment.  What this means in terms of web design is that a pretty clear picture can be built up of who you are, what you like, and what you will need most from your time online, and websites will be able to start re-arranging themselves to meet those needs.  It’s started already with advertising.  Sponsored ads on a website will offer you the chance to buy things you’ve recently shown an interest in, or suggest other sites you might enjoy.  Expect to see this getting more and more bespoke as time goes on, right down to the layout of a website.

Mobile-first approach

It used to be that digital design would be created with a full desktop computer screen in mind first, and then that model would be adapted for use on a phone.  We all know that this has completely flipped over the last decade.  Mobiles are now the primary digital interface for most of our personal lives, with less portable options like tablets and even laptops relegated to our homes and offices.  Everything from entertainment to banking can happen on a device the size of your palm, at any time and in any place, so it doesn’t make sense to design with a desktop-first approach any more.  Serving the users needs is what makes any design great, and if the consumers are all on their phones, then that has to be the first consideration for any new design project.

Illustration of a mobile phone, tablet, and desktop screen on a blue background

Typography made easy

Cloud-based design resources are increasingly popular, particularly with fonts.  The logic here is that you shouldn’t need to download your graphics programme or font collection onto your personal computer to get access with them.  When you’re logged into an online account like Typekit or Google Fonts, those resources will be instantly available to you anywhere that has internet access.

The range of easy-to-use fonts is growing everyday, but it does come with one caution.  Many website organise their fonts by how popular they are, so the ones at the top of the list risk being overused just because people find them first.  Think of Lobster 2.0, a perfectly good font that nearly became a design contagion!  Scroll a bit further into the font archives to ensure your designs stand out from those of lazier creators who get stuck on the first page of options.

Parallax scrolling

We saw the now defunct carousel menu, which was inefficient in terms of both SEO and the time it took to scrolls round the options, breath its last.  But it seems people just like having things move on their screens, so this year we have parallax.

This is the effect you get when you look out the passenger window of a car and see the street lights close to you whizz past, while the hills in the background slide sedately along behind.   In web design this means that as you scroll down a webpage, the foreground object (for example a body of text) will move, but so will the background image – at a different speed.  It creates the sensation of a 3D landscape within the webpage, which is pretty cool, but we’re all still trying to work out what the point of it is.  Parallax scrolling: a cool user experience trend, or unnecessary faff eating up your screen space?  Only time will tell!

Visuals leading the way

Video content is still stealing the show as the best way to communicate with your client base.  Every day over 8 million videos are watched on Facebook – over 100 million hours of view time.  

Whether it’s an animated ad, an instructional video, a clever gif to spice up your social media, moving visuals is a trend that’s here to stay.  But of course not all videos are created equal.  Production values and loading time are what will separate the best from the rest in 2018.  Authenticity is key, with customer-facing photography continuing to surpass stock photography, and natural hand drawn elements bringing warmth to high quality graphics.  We’re also expecting to see progress in how these moving elements are displayed in web pages.  More complex images with moving parts have a larger file size, so if developers don’t want them to slow down a websites load time, some more ingenious workarounds will have to be found.

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