The web-design landscape is continuously changing as designers and developers experiment and techniques go in and out of fashion. Remember the wet-floor effect? Parallax Scrolling? Fixed-width designs? Web 2.0?
The last thing you want to do is make a massive emotional and financial investment in a composition that’s pinned on transient fads that will be tired by the time the site comes out of beta.
Having said that, it’s also a mistake to build a website that looks and functions like something that was built a decade ago. Then where is the line and what can we do to be both cutting edge and grounded? The answer is simpler than you think: trends rooted in what has worked and that are inspired by function are a good bet.
Simplicity—People online don’t read. It doesn’t matter how important the text is, if it seems like a lot people will just skip it. The interface becomes too “heavy” due to the texture created by the text. Less instructions, body copy, etc. are a good approach. Layer in strong visual hierarchy to help users skim your interface, and you are getting a lot closer to an interface that people actually can use. Use gorgeous web-fonts a balanced and thoughtful color pallet and suddenly you are getting a lot closer to an interface that people actually want to use.
Story Telling—Scrolling pages that use color, type, image, motion/animation, video, and charts to tell stories that tug both on a person’s rational and emotional strings guide the user. It’s one thing to show data, but it’s an entirely different to connect with them in terms of a story (something that we are biologically preconditioned to internalize).
Responsive Web Design—As the internet-device marketplace continues to change and new products are continuously introduced, the need for mobile-only, tablet-only, and desktop-only websites is making less and less sense. And not just from a cost of ownership (the maintenance after launch) stand point, but also from a practical point of view. The web design/development technology, broadband, and user sophistication is finally at a place where single-source design, content, structure, and business intelligence makes sense from a design, development, and business perspective. If your site is not responsive—and good—then there should be a really good reason.
These are three “trends” that we can point to that will likely not go out of fashion for sometime as they grounded in what has worked in the past and what’s better for the user—not glitz.