Web Design Predictions for 2014

Collis Ta’eed over at Envato has written a detailed piece sharing his predictions for web design in 2014 that has the TMBR team buzzing. Seeing as Ta’eed is the CEO of Envato, a “creative ecosystem of sites and services” that includes Themeforest and Tuts+, I’d say that his predictions will undoubtedly turn out to be pretty accurate.

2013 Retrospective

Trends and fashions are fascinating things. In hindsight they always appear clear, but trying to forecast them requires a mix of information, intuition and luck.
— Collis Ta’eed

If I were to sum up the major trends of 2013, I would say that they were all driven by a common quest for simplicity and consistency. From a visual standpoint, we moved away from the box-shadows and gradients that became super popular with the introduction of CSS3, towards flat, minimalistic design. On the development side of things, the 2012 popularity of grid systems made way for a number of packaged skeleton frameworks, which in 2013 were pushed aside in favor of Twitter Bootstrap (at least at TMBR, which in my mind is a microcosm of the industry). 2013 has been a year of streamlining and clearing clutter.

So what does 2014 have in store for us?

Read on for a breakdown of Ta’eed’s article coupled with our questions, thoughts and additions. Want to read the full article? Click here.

Prediction 1: Moving Past Just Flat

There is simply no ignoring the permeation of the “flat” aesthetic into design across the web, and at the rate flat design has and continues to take off, it is not going anywhere anytime soon. But as with any trend, this one shall undoubtedly evolve as visionary designers continue to re-interpret the concept of flat design.

We have already seen variations of flat design this year, such as long shadows and the industrial aesthetic of hipster design. Ta’eed forecasts it will be taken further in the New Year:

…we’ll see some more depth, layering, graduations, and other visual distinctions making their way back in, but in a more refined and subtle way than the old days.

Prediction 2: More Motion

When I began coding in 2008, motion and animation was adamantly discouraged. Does anyone remember text-decoration: blink;? It was the epitome of over-the-top CSS that had a crippling effect on usability. In 2014 however, Ta’eed suggests that:

Incorporating motion in its various forms is another logical build on flat design.

Motion and animation, when executed with certain standards of simplicity have the ability to enhance user engagement. From fine-tuning hover styles with CSS3 transition effects to the incorporation of video content and SVG graphics, simplicity will be the key to this trend’s success. However, Ta’eed wisely reminds us to remember the lesson of text-decoration: blink:

If history is anything to go by, as it gets popular, motion will be not just beautifully used, but also totally abused and inappropriately deployed.

Prediction 3: WordPress Dominates, Challengers Accumulate

It’s very hard to see WordPress doing anything other than continuing to dominate the open source CMS market. Its position feels unassailable thanks to a heady combination of usable software, massive community, and constantly improving product.

At TMBR, we are major proponents of WordPress. In fact, we spent a good deal of 2013 moving older .NET websites over to WordPress. From an active support community of millions to a wealth of plugins offering any add-on functionality you can dream of, the advantages of developing with WordPress remain unrivaled.

Ta’eed predicts that the success of the WordPress model will continue to encourage competitors, whether any of them will succeed in their challenge is something only 2014 will tell.

Prediction 4: Tooling for Modern Web Design

While web design has moved forward incredibly rapidly in the last few years, the tooling for creating it has been going a little slower.

Dreamweaver, while a thing of the past, has left a gap on the market that Ta’eed imagines will be filled by “great indie products”. Personally, I am hesitant to incorporate tools into my process beyond my text editor, FTP client and Photoshop, but I do believe that more tools designed to facilitate the web-build process will come onto the market as online presence continues to become the defacto method for business marketing.

Prediction 5: Changing Nature of Interface Design

What we do know is that interfaces are about to propagate like mad as the Internet of Things develops. From Pebble to Glass, Nest to Fitbit we can expect to see a continued rise of devices going far beyond just mobile screens.

In terms of the type of products that will be on the market this year, I’d rather sit back and watch than forecast the possibilities. However, I agree with Ta’eed’s vision of

“…a world in the future where interface designers will be thinking about how their site or app connects to a new array of screens and displays.”

This will force developers to re-assess the build process and the conversation of fluid vs. breakpoint design may bubble back up to the surface.

What About Responsive Design?

One of my first responses to this article and others predicting what 2014 has in store was, what the flap happened to responsive design? A year ago, people couldn’t stop talking about responsive design and what it meant for web development. Today, mentions of this catch phrase are scarce. I believe that the reason for this is that plain old web development and responsive web development are becoming inextricably intertwined. However, this fusion is somewhat two-tiered.

First, I would say that 95% of the websites I built in 2013 relied on the Bootstrap framework which resulted in sites that weren’t contracted to be responsive, actually being responsive. In other words, this year I built responsive sites without even knowing it. Second, as we continue to peddle websites, it will become our duty to express to clients the imperativeness of investing in responsive design, especially in light of Ta’eed’s 5th prediction. I mean, Google Glass, come on, we’re one step closer to the Jetson vision!

Coding Education

Another topic that I believe deserves mention is the state of coding education. I predict that 2014 will see greater efforts to bring coding into the mainstream. Computer Science Education Week is the perfect example, suddenly celebrities and pre-teens alike are learning to code, pushing the notion that anyone can do it. I believe that in 2014, code will make a major shift away from simply being a language of nerds.

The Role of the Front-End Developer

To wrap up, I found Ta’eed’s prediction regarding the changing role of the front-end developer to be the most exciting.

In the meantime the roles of web designers continue to develop organically into a broader and deeper set of disciplines. Most of the change in the last few years has been the increasing importance of UX-related disciplines and the steady deepening of front-end engineering into an increasingly full-blooded developer role.

Happy Coding in 2014!

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