In 2012, with the prevalence of an unstable economy, economic hardship, and attempted internet censorship hanging over everyone’s heads, web design and development’s experience was no walk in the park. Considering they had to combat censorship, native apps, and disjointed, yet rapidly evolving technology, 2012 proved to be a tumultuous and chaotic year for the web industry. Now, almost two months into the new year, it is apparent that 2013 will not be much different.
The industry appears to be diving into a year of design shifts, evolving device usage, and web consumption adjustments. This will all affect web designers and developers alike. Despite this, there still appears to be glimmers of excitement as responsive web design should start to take hold, standards evolution will bring more scope for layout and type, and tools will finally be freed from print. These are just some of the many things that 2013 has in store for web design.
Responsive Web Design Will Become The Standard
In 2012, responsive web design was prevalent, but Iainn Lobb, Flash games web developer, believes it will finally go mainstream in 2013. “If you’re designing a website and not thinking about the user experience on mobile and tablets, you’re going to disappoint a lot of users,” he said. Designer Tom Muller also believes responsive web design will get a big boost from big brands and companies jumping on board. Because of this, Muller believes agencies will begin “increasingly using responsive design as a major selling point, persuading clients to future-proof digital marketing communications.” When this happens, we will see and end to retrofitting RWD into already existing products and sites. “Instead, RWD will be a key element for a company’s mobile strategy, baked in from the start,” commented Andy Budd, founder of Clearleft. “This will reduce the number of mobile apps that are website clones, and force companies to design unique mobile experiences targeted towards specific customers and behaviors.”
2013 will see “the abandoning of device-specific web design” according to designer Laura Kalbag. As more devices are launched with different viewports, “pixel precision and Apple-specific breakpoints will die out, the idea of control will be relinquished, and web design will be more about system design than static mockups.” Agreeing with her is developer Remy Sharp, who said, “It’s sunk in that we need to test on mobile, but with IE arriving on Xbox, Jason Grigsby’s TV browsers talk, and Anna Debenham’s excellent state of games browsers, it broadens our deployment targets even further and challenges designers and developers to work in ever more diverse landscapes.” Eric Meyers, consultant and author, put it best by saying it’s “not just desktop to mobile anymore”, but “desktop and mobile and couch and TV and more.”
Another Shift of Flash
Tom Muller, the developer we mentioned earlier, summed this up perfectly for us. “Last year, I said Flash was here to stay, especially for creating rich, immersive online content in the entertainment sector, but the unstoppable rise of tablets and the uptake of standards means Flash is being pushed to the side in favor of fast(er) loading HTML-only sites that deliver future-proof yet equally rich experiences.” Iainn Lobb, however, noted, “It still has strongholds: specialist video players, banner-ads, Facebook modules, and games. In web games, some predict HTML5 will take over, but on the desktop I see little evidence for that. Until Internet Explorer adds WebGL support, Flash will remain the go-to technology for web 3D.”
Simple, Performance-Based Websites
The average website was pushing a megabyte in 2012, and developers see this as pretty bad, but recently there’s been a growing trend in “leaner, faster, more efficient websites.” Mat Marquis, designer/developer, commented, “Loosing a gigantic website onto the web isn’t much different from building a site that requires browser ‘X’: it’s putting the onus on users, for our own sakes.” Many people seem to agree with this sentiment. Chris Mills of Opera/W3C hopes we’ll see “more responsible usage of libaries” in 2013, and stated that there’s too much reliance on them for trivial functionality. He thinks “people will become sensitive to this as they work on more projects that require good support for TV and mobile.” Stephanie Rieger believes that even though people are now aware that “web design isn’t print,” they’ve still “forgotten it’s actually software, and performance is therefore a critical X factor.”
Resource-Pooling for Devices and Designs
We’ve already seen people pool code, but according to Eric Meyer and and designer Geri Coady, we will see a growth in sharing in 2013. Meyer believes that we will begin to see community device labs as opposed to studios that maintain several devices for testing. Coady also believes the new year will bring much more participation and involvement in open source design and said, “I love the idea of donating a little design talent to open-source projects that you use or community groups that you support. Open source developers often spend so much time working on the technical side of things that the visual side can end up being neglected. But this past year has seen great work from the W3C’s Responsive Images Community Group, which now has a well-designed home on the web that strengthens its image as well as its mission.”
It appears that people will start to take advantage of design process building blocks more than ever in 2013. Muller believes that grid-based, modular GUI design is “now stronger than ever” through RWD, and that we’ll see more very structured page layouts. Head of Technology at Kitcatt Nohr Digitas, Mo Morgan, commented that “Amazon Web Services and others prove infrastructure and platforms can be commoditised” and “the plethora of available frameworks show it’s no longer necessary for developers to keep reinventing the wheel.” He says building blocks like these remove the pain and expense, “allowing the masses to make things that would have previously been too arduous or expensive.” Paul Mist, designer/developer believes such changes will “speed up workflows, so we can spend more time making the web beautiful”, however, Morgan is concerned that there could be a potential that 2013 could see people start to “lose touch with core technologies that underpin all of these things, to the point where if the commoditised offering can’t meet a specific requirement, it effectively can’t be done.”
2013’s most important trend, according to Marquis, is more developers will take an active role in the web standards process. “It feels like there have been separate silos in play – developers doing client work, and browser representatives working full-time within the standards bodies”, he explained. “Today, you see ‘developer preference’ cited in a mailing list thread, but rarely do full-time web developers chime in with opinions. There’s a disconnect, and that impacts both groups negatively; standards bodies get blamed for standardizing features developers dislike or don’t understand intuitively, and developers get blamed for ignoring features or using them incorrectly. I hope people look at the work being done by members of the Responsive Images Community Group and others, and see it as a call to join the discussion. The only way we’re going to be fully represented is by showing up and working together.”
Developer Sally Jenkinson thinks 2013 will be the year that processes and tools finally evolve to catch up with the RWD explosion. “We’ve seen a move towards designing in the browser, but vendors like Adobe aiming to introduce offerings such as Edge Reflow will impact on existing wireframe and design methodologies.” Jenkinson believes the lines between mockups and prototypes will be blurred, and static representations will no longer “accurately reflect the variety of permutations in terms of device renderings.” Wayne Rowley, Head of Development at Redweb, pointed out that improved tools are probably also on the way. “CMS vendors are already seeing the need to provide mobile support when creating and managing content, and the next step is to optimize CMS software interfaces, empowering content editors with true flexibility and location-independent content management capabilities.”
Video Will Grow
Designer Ayesha Garrett says barriers to entry concerning video continue to fall, and 2013 will only continue this trend, especially online. “Internet speeds, including for mobile devices, are rising. Also, people with subscriptions to Adobe Creative Suite have suddenly found themselves with extra ‘free’ software, and are playing around with video packages and experimenting with After Effects.” However, Garrett said some video trends may be less welcome than others, “We’ll see ongoing heavy use of the DSLR look – narrow depth of field and shake – and slow motion, because more cameras are incorporating that.”
Growth in Storytelling and Personality
Rob Mills, Studio Manager at Bluegg, believes 2013 will see a “further step in the direction of storytelling and personality on the web, achieved through a greater focus on content and an increase in the use of illustration.” He reminded us that content is always important, but as of late we have seen a renewed focus on content. “Agencies and individuals are therefore going to have to work better with clients on content-creation and management, which can only be a positive thing for user experiences.”
In the past, it wasn’t uncommon to hear or read about venture capitalists throwing money at half-cooked ideas, or of corporate giants shelling out ridiculous sums of money for already existing services (i.e. Facebook buying Instagram for $1 billion). Rachel Andrew, developer, speaker, and writer, believes that 2013 will see changes. “From a business perspective, I’m hoping 2013 will see more celebration of profitable businesses rrather than glorifying successful funding rounds.”
Tablet Thinking Will Evolve Beyond The iPad
Roger Black, publication designer, thinks publishers will “continue to push out native iOS apps” in 2013 as they realize “the iPad is not the magic pony they’ve been looking for.” Microsoft and Android tablet sales and apps not being linkable outside of each platform will cause more “impressive, hand-built responsive HTML apps that play everywhere.” Despite this, Black says iOS wrappers for responsive publication templates will “allow publishers to have their app and eat it too, enabling developers to stick to new OS revisions and publishers to stick to content.” Peter-Paul Koch, mobile platform strategist, believes we also need to be aware of Tizen. “It’s an HTML5-based mobile OS created by Samsung and Intel, and initial devices are expected in Q2 2013. If Samsung pushes Tizen devices, you’ll know it’s going to be a big deal.” However, he is less optimistic for Firefox, “It will fail, because they can’t produce cheap enough phones that compete with cheap Androids and run a decent browser.”
With “more companies focusing web efforts on mobile,” said designer/developer Dan Eden, he believes designers will feel pressure to improve on the subject. He believes this to the point where he thinks that in 2013 “designing for desktop might be considered legacy support.” Rowley agrees with him that projects will start to “focus on mobile-first regarding design, form, usability, and functionality.” Chris Lake, Econsultancy Director of Product Development, explained that this will affect interaction, with web designers learning natural interface design (which means adjusting to fingers, not a mouse) and utilizing gestures.
Design Will Get Experimental
Faruk Ates, product designer, believes the new year will see “the rise of new approaches to design and development.” A better understanding of RWD, along with CSS grids support, rem units, and pre-processors will “lead to more people exploring different ways to get the job done, and result in more experimental approaches than we’ve seen so far in real-world situations.” Burton believes there will be a big shift in live iteration, “We’re increasingly comfortable using products that aren’t finished. It’s become acceptable to launch a work-in-progress, which is faster to market and simpler to build – and then improve it, add features, and keep people’s attention. It’s a model that works well, especially during recession. As we head into 2013, this beta model of releasing and publicly tweaking could become increasingly prevalent.”
Page Layout Will Get Better
There has been a lot of focus on technology recently, but a lot of designers feel like there will be a shift towards design in 2013. Eden loves the new typography improvements and was “incredibly excited to hear about Monotype’s acquisition of Typecast and Typekit’s ongoing negotiations with Linotype.” Meyer sees CSS “finally getting strong layout mechanism it’s lacked since inception”, through Flexible box Layout and Grid Layout. Lake believes there will be a rise in “nano design”. “The detail matters, and can be the difference between a good experience and a great experience.”, he said. Also adding to the scrum, Garrett said we’ll also see a “trend towards not looking CMS-like”, through clients demanding a site run a specific CMS, but don’t want it to look like other sites using the same system.
Scalable Web Design
Nick Pettit of Treehouse thinks scalable web design will be huge in 2013. “SWD is a methodology for designing websites capable of being displayed on screens with both low and high pixel densities. Like RWD, it’s a collection of ideas, techniques, and web standards.” Using the SWD approach will result in the abandoning of rasters for vectors, using SVG’s “capable of scaling in size without a loss in detail or sharpness”, and Pettit believes it was only IE’s lack of SVG support holding designers back. Now that SWD and SVG are viable, that should change.
Discoverability Will Be Driven By User Behavior
James Gardner, digital technology strategist, believes that with so much information being produced today, 2013 will see a trend towards knowing how to deal with discoverability. “Current solutions are clunky and inaccurate, and rely on plenty of input from the user. New solutions will be behavior-driven and built on more sensitive algorithms working with diverse data sets, such as location and social.” He believes this will take the pressure off of search and be more proactive in giving related information. “I see this as a race between established companies – Google and Facebook – and startups who focus on niche discovery.”
(Information pulled from netmagazine.com)
Certified Inbound Marketing Strategist | Content Marketing Specialist | Social Media Strategist | SEO