Cameron FrancisFebruary 25,2016

7 Must-Know Web Design Trends in 2016

Category: Web Design

Well, 2015 is finally getting laid to rest as 2016 takes its place. As is the tradition, life must go on. And it is easier if we have some idea of what to expect. Questions abound about what new trends will pop up in the design industry. What should we expect to forget? Only predictions have the answers.

Fortunately, we have some strong revealing signs of what we are going to see in 2016.

We all expect improvements with everything that comes as a matter of trend. But prepare for a little surprise if you are still of that opinion. Not everything you encounter will be pleasing, including elements that ought to have been thrown out ages ago.

Web design trends to expect in 2016


1. Ubiquities in design

Responsive Web Design has become ever more ubiquitous. Do not expect that to change. Considering what has been witnessed over the past year, web design has acquired a very predictable pattern. Nearly every website that seeks to be pretty has a feature that looks exactly like the other.

uniform, responsive web design

It seems that we have reached a point where trendy websites all share a similar look. The best Content Management Systems are partly to blame for this. They have dozens of templates and themes intended to help ease the stress of creating a blog or website. But the product of that is a Web crowded with B2B companies and SaaS apps that look exactly the same.

There is always a 3-Up feature or grids that exist in all websites that are considered ‘trendy’. Whether this is bad or good can be debated, partly because these very identical websites are the same ones that end up scooping awards every other season. Yet it is universal wisdom for many people to seek to stand out by coming up with completely new ideas.

Homogenisation has vastly become part of a broader design trend. What should you then expect for 2016? Not much of a difference. This is not to say there will be nothing innovative. Even with all the homogenisation in place, designers still try to innovate, though in most cases ‘within the box’.

So, it is safe to expect a few new innovative techniques here and there, but the overall outcome will stick to the common trend.

A quick look through the internet reveals lots of design analysts critiquing this homogeneity. We can accurately tell that designers are noticing these concerns and will have some shift toward more personalised user experience and not simply keep going with what is fashionable. Data will guide the 2016 design landscape to produce new improvements and more unconventional approaches to design.


2. Cooler alternatives to the hamburger menu

When Apple Inc. released their two iPhone 6 twins, it became clear that the hamburger menu is not the farthest the design can go. The hamburger menu has been the refuge for designers as far as hiding less frequently used options is concerned.

hamburger menu

But the menu seems to have attracted just so much debate. Not everyone loves the hamburger, others even consider it too complicated. This is what Josh Constine had to say on TechCrunch:

Whether you call it a side menu, navigation drawer, or a hamburger, hiding your features off-screen behind a nondescript icon in the corner is usually a poor mobile design choice. Interaction theory, A/B tests, and the evolution of some of the top apps in the world all support the same thesis: The hamburger button is bad for engagement, and you should probably replace it with a tab bar or other navigation scheme.

The menu must have seemed like a brilliant idea at first. But like any new innovation, you can never tell the public’s response until you have the product out. You could say it is because of the many proven benefits of a visible menu that caused the hamburger’s downfall. But someone could as well argue that such responses are bound to ensue as soon as a better alternative becomes available.

Several major tech companies have put the hamburger menus to rest over the last two years. They tend to be moving toward more discernible features, which according to Chris Lake is a clear sign that “the data has proved conclusive”.

Apple already led the way when it released its iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus in September 2014. Google, YouTube and Microsoft too, have since followed suit by disregarding the hamburger menu on their sites.

Both Apple Watch and the iPhone 6 twins have Force Touch as an ingenious alternative to the hamburger function. The phones have a 3D Touch option that is ostensibly in favour of killing the hamburger menu from the device’s user interface.

Fast forward to 2016. We expect others to follow suit. Many have already done that. But there is still room for many more.


3. Heavier web pages

Page loading times are a serious concern in web design. Yet there has been a constant increase in page loading times associated with heavy webpages. Everyone seems to be aware of the impact of loading times. Still, designers have to remain on-trend by including features that are most engaging and pleasing to their users.

Heavier webpages lead to increased loading times

We are talking about videos, animations, 3D images; you name it. Every new development, every new addition to a webpage structure or aesthetic beauty often comes at a cost. And it tends to hurt loading speeds as heavy pages get heavier.

Consider your Facebook page less than a year ago. It is completely a different thing today. If you haven’t noticed, the social media giant never seems to sleep. It innovates and introduces feature after feature. All in the name of better user experience. But this is gravely at the expense of load speed.

If you have been keen on your use of the network without a strong broadband connection over the last year or so then you must have realised that the pages have gotten much slower.

It is simple. Users are enjoying new features every day. But they are paying for their time. The time when designers would keep webpages below 100kbs as a rule of thumb is long gone. This was mostly influenced by Google. It would automatically stop indexing content that fell above that upper limit.

Right after Google edged off that rule, what followed was a web full of heavier and heavier pages. It appears that the good manners of compressing images, fonts and video were fast forgotten.

Everyone needs to produce content that stands out. And that sometimes means using elements that make pages much heavier, up to the leagues of 2,219 KB for an average page in 2015.

These are not the averages of just any site, they are from the performance of the sampled top one million sites.

Users who are not relying on Wi-Fi for their mobile browsing are the ones to shoulder much of the burden. And we expect to see even more of this page weight predicament in 2016.


4. Cinemagraphs

The result of users’ apparent love for motion pictures and videos, Cinemagraphs are still photographs that feature a minor repeated movement. No debate, they are lovely. They are so lovely that you will often get the impression that you could adjust sound and other options that come with videos. Unfortunately, cinemagraphs will not give you that privilege.

boy skating - a cinemagraph

The fact that the movement stops provokes curiosity, making you want to watch again with keen interest to monitor the movements. They are often short looped movements. And it is that short length that makes them even more effective. Humans naturally want to see what’s next.

Cinemagraphs are normally published either as a video or animated GIF. They give the illusion that you are actually watching a video.

These media have become really popular in the Web particularly in recent months. Given the exponential pace at which they are being embraced across the Internet, it is only accurate to say they are the next big thing in 2016.

Just as photos and videos, cinemagraphs enhance the desired mood for any website and this is what businesses want. Designers will go the extra mile for that additional touch of elegance and mystique.

Time could not be any more prime. 2016 is coming at a time when web pages are heavier and load times are a real concern. Cinemagraphs are apt because unlike videos, they eat very little bandwidth. They also provide motion and additional appeal that is missing in pictures. It is a way to get more for little.

The technology has been there since 2011, but has just recently caught considerable pace.


5. Highly saturated colour palettes

More websites are moving towards shouting colours. A good example is Spotify that recently generated a racket on Twitter with its new look logo. The current colour is bright green, which doesn’t seem to be as loved as the previous touch of black with a cool green décor.

Medium has taken the same step by embracing neon. This has similarly created quite some noise. Fans just seem not to like being jetted out of their comfort zone as far as corporate colours are concerned. Nonetheless, the new colour is here to stay and some people are finding it really useful.

Many people have a problem with this sort of change. But Bloomberg on its part doesn’t seem to fear all the raucous critiques. Their entire design is soaked in colour and neon palettes.

Some have argued that such saturation works well for Bloomberg since they deal with topics that are rather dull, or outright dry. Politics and business can be far less savoury compared to other stuff that trend over the web.


6. Blurred backgrounds images

Images are a major culprit when it comes to delayed page loading. Unless they are compressed into a lighter format, they will significantly impact the webpage load time.

A lot has been done to reduce the impact of images on webpages, including the use of smaller background images. This however may not look great. A new and more innovative idea then is the use of blur up images instead.

Such blurred images are the result of an ingenious use of a tiny but scaled-to-size image using a Gaussian blur. The result is “aesthetically pleasing,” and offers a quality preview of the actual image.

This approach was used by Facebook’s engineering team to improve user experience with better image loading. They realised that the blurring effect helps correct page loading speed and reduces time by up to 30 percent. The user does not have to stare at an empty solid colour while waiting for the image to form. They are instantly shown the actual image as a blurred but visually acceptable image. Then the actual image is loaded to replace the blurred one smoothly and gradually.

This innovation is quite a win and is unlikely to be dropped. It is something we are likely to see around much in 2016 since despite being so cool, it is doable on the web.


7. Shift from preloaders

I love the way Urban Dictionary puts it: An interminably long prelude to something which you hope will be worth the wait. That is the most appropriate definition that can ever be given to a preloader.

Long waiting times frustrate most users

You must have seen a webpage that shows a grey bar showing the amount of time left for you to access the website. It is a surprise some pages still use that dull feature on their actual pages.

Preloaders are one of the gravest UX fails of all time. The average user today is impatient. There are tons of stuff to munch on the Web. Why put up with a page that makes you wait?

Web designers are becoming ever more creative with their user engagement when loading content is involved.

And this is the direction that we are headed in 2016. We expect the unnecessary use of loading animation to shrink to a minimum.


In conclusion, we expect a mix of newer and innovative techniques as well as some recurrence of conventional designs.


Author: Cameron Francis Cameron Francis is the Director of eTraffic Group. He has been engaged in all aspects of online marketing for the past 8 years. He is actively involved in SEO, Paid Search, Social Media Optimisation, and Web Design.

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