Think about how much has changed since 2011. How many website design trends and new technologies have fallen out of favor? How many new devices made their way onto the market? How many new trends surfaced and gained in popularity? It is no surprise that WordPress has evolved with the web. The WordPress of today is a very different beast from the WordPress of five years ago, and borderline unrecognizable compared to the WordPress of 2003. But that’s a good thing. After all, the only constant on the web is change. As a designer, you know that better than anyone - just as you know that it’s your job to stay on top of both what is changing and what will change in the future. Luckily, if you know where to look, that is not hard. I have done the looking for you - here are some of the most prominent and essential trends hitting the WordPress design world (and the larger web) this year, all of which are closely-related to mobility.
Pageless Design Will Continue To DominateFirst making their way onto the web sometime in 2014, single-page websites have been gaining popularity at the rate of a runaway freight train. Especially well-suited for small businesses, design agencies, and product sites, these “landing page” websites are ideal for both lead capture and storytelling. With this in mind, it is not especially surprising that single-page WordPress themes are also gaining a lot of ground. But what is driving this trend, exactly? Why are ‘pageless’ websites so prominent now? And how can you tell if your own site should follow suit? “Traditional websites have a whole list of equally-damning problems,” explains Chuck Longanecker of Digital Telepathy. “They are the motormouths at the cocktail party, jabbering at anyone in earshot a flurry of self-aggrandizing information without any kind of interest in the person listening...With fast connections and an audience accustomed to long-scroll experiences in mobile apps, pageless design gets out of the way of the visitor so they can enjoy the flow and complete their objective.” In other words, mobile devices have changed the browsing habits of our audiences. As a designer, you need to account for their new habits - their expectation of a simple, streamlined website, their tendency to browse on their phones or tablets, and their desire for easily-digestible content. This market shift has had another, more unexpected side effect: multipurpose themes have exploded over the past several years. Feature-rich and easy to install, these themes allow website owners to easily customize their pages for mobile devices, desktop computers, and everything beyond. They’re future-proof, and allow the creation of well-designed websites that are still highly functional, as well.
More Images, More Typography, More ParallaxClosely-related to the move towards pageless design, websites are placing increasing focus on typography, imagery, and parallax scrolling. Minimalism is the king of the castle here, and the less visual elements a page can throw at the user while still getting its message across, the better. Not only does it help a site look sharper, it also reduces load times by a considerable degree. As for typography, with the shift to minimalism, site owners, publishers, and users alike have begun to expect cleaner designs on the sites they visit. Part of the key to that lies in providing better-looking, better-presented text. Tools such as Google Fonts and Adobe Typekit have also done a great deal to help things along, making it much easier to create websites with better, more professional looking text. Finally, parallax scrolling - which I have always greatly enjoyed - is getting a lot of love recently. For the uninitiated, how it works is pretty simple: you simply configure your site so that the background moves more slowly than the foreground (if at all). This not only creates the illusion of depth of field, but it’s a great way to give single-page websites a bit of extra flare.
Much Ado About Micro-InteractionsMobile apps have kind of spoiled the end user a bit, if you stop and think of it. The best-designed ones are filled with features known as micro-interactions: little bits and pieces of feedback that are given to a visitor based on how they interact with your site. Granted, this concept is not especially new. Back in 2013, Foster of Mysterious Trousers referred to them as bubble wrap interactions. This is because they are satisfying, and greatly enhance the user experience by making things more visceral. For you, this means that - especially given the wholesale shift to mobile - you need to learn about micro-interactions, and how to incorporate them into your site. “In UX, what matters is how you deal with users and how they feel when using the product [in this case, your website],” writes Web Designer Depot’s Dmytro Svarytsevych. “Micro-interactions provide users with needed feedback and an understanding of the ongoing processes, making an interface approachable no matter how complicated the logic behind it may be.” Here is how you can add a microinteraction to your site, according to Creative Bloq:
- Know the trigger: This is what occurs to kick off the microinteraction. It could be anything from a user logging in to your site for the first time to them leaving a comment on an article or purchasing a product. The best triggers are ones where the system observes a user’s behavior and uses it for context - ie. providing them with a page they frequently visit when they arrive on your site.
- Establish rules: ‘Rules’ may be a bit of a misnomer here. Essentially, they are the guidelines that determine how a particular microinteraction works - what can happen, what should happen, and what cannot or does not happen. For example, an ecommerce site might warn you if you inadvertently add the same product to your cart twice.
- Determine the feedback: What feedback will you provide to the user? How will you enhance their experience of your site?
- Figure out how long the microinteraction goes on for: Does your microinteraction end automatically without user input? How does it change each time it is used?