The beginning of each year is a time to make resolutions. For brands, this is the perfect opportunity to recommit themselves on delivering user experiences that delight, captivate, and accommodate their customers’ needs.
Let’s take a look at three of the top UX design trends that have already begun to dominate 2018.
As the Internet and technology have evolved, digital typefaces are no longer restricted to just 15 “web-safe fonts”. Designers now have the freedom to experiment and use a wide variety of fonts—often limited in the past due to difficulty in rendering fine details on low resolution monitors. Back then we had to worry about load time, legibility, and countless other limitations. Today, we see font libraries—like Google Fonts and Type Kit—exploding with new fonts that take advantage of new HTML5 capabilities.
With that said, we’re likely to see more sites employing type not just as a method for language or as a means to support copywriting, but as integral design elements. Playing with letterforms and their shapes, using them to form central, visual pieces of a site’s design.
Additionally, there is a distinct type style that seems to be gaining traction—a sort of “puzzle piece” type that plays with serif fonts. The fine connecting lines between a letter’s curves and lines are playfully being removed, causing the viewer to connect the “dots” and form the full letterform in their mind’s eye—a gestalt approach to typography.
In the future, we’ll see more experimentation with type as designers and developers become more comfortable with the web’s improvements and site visitors become more accustomed to innovations in design. Web trends over the years have experimented with more open layouts, no longer placing content into visible containers (à la the late 1990s and 2000s). This gives room for type to “breathe,” the chance to occupy more visible space on a page or to be laid out in more unique ways. Ultimately, type is becoming more of a design element rather than just a tool to write, and we will see this trend go beyond just 2018.
Something that has also been affected by advancements in web development is the ability to introduce organic shapes into designs. More and more sites include hand drawn elements, varying from illustration, hand-lettered type, or just simple handwriting. The addition of these elements creates clear visual contrast against the accurately defined digital shapes. The introduction of handwritten elements adds a touch of customization, humanity, and natural feel to the precise pixels on screen.
As Virtual and Augmented Reality and wearable technologies become mainstream, we will continue to see analog and digital worlds mix. This juxtaposition of real and virtual is exactly what the organic and geometric shapes within web design are mirroring. Whether it be an elegant, curved script font placed closely to a precise, straight-edged type style, or a bold photograph positioned beside an illustration with organic shapes, viewers are reminded of the interplay between the natural world and our digital environments. Our analog world seamlessly informs and is affected by the digital world, and vice versa.
As we’ve seen with these previous trends, tech advancements mean more creative freedom. Over the past five years we’ve seen designs break out of the “grid”, explore menu styles and interactions, and move beyond vertical scrolling.
Horizontal scrolling is growing more popular among many websites. No longer just moving down the page, but instead scrolling across “pages” where the monitor viewport feels more like a magazine rather than a flat screen.
Additionally, experimental layouts mean new ways of navigating through the page. Some sites rethink navigation with the idea of a “timeline” where the user can “scrub” through various design states, like on the CRUX website. Other websites integrate various elements making the design feel more like an experience.
The Carlsberg website adds music, beautiful videography and horizontal scrolling to enhance the fluid experience of the digital visit to Copenhagen.
Still, other sites play with navigation living outside of regular static links. The Diane Martel portfolio site brings links into a moveable “3D” like plane – adjusting with the mouse movements.
As users become more accustomed to hamburger menus in both mobile and desktop experiences, designers are beginning to experiment with icon language and different ways of representing the basic menu navigation. Sites are now trying different icons besides the normal three lines – using dots or words or changing the orientation of the lines. Experimental designs test the boundaries of comprehension and utilization. Users need to be flexible when visiting these sites and understand that these designs are more experiences based on experimentation rather than the standard website structure.
As we continue into 2018, we will see more blending of the old and the new, mixing of the analog and digital worlds. What we’ve seen so far are designers taking elements of design’s past—typography, organic shapes—and integrating them with the technology of today. Trends can be difficult to accurately predict, but we can be sure design will continue to push the limits of technology. And as long as that happens, we can expect more design innovations in the future.