An intro to web accessibility: building a digital world for everyone
Discover accessible web design, its impact on users and its business benefits. From WCAG 2.2 to key accessibility features, here’s an intro to inclusive sites.Read More »
Craig Greenup 01/12/21, 13:39
Those in the know understand that in order to guarantee longevity from your online presence, you need to be able to move and adapt to the times. There are countless ways that a website can be customised and brought up to the cutting edge of web design; the trick is to make sure your chosen approach is novel but also relevant to your industry.
Under normal circumstances, web design trends represent subtle, gradual changes in colour, feature and form, but the past year or so has been anything but normal for most of us. An interesting effect that we, as web designers, have noticed is that recent global history has brought about rapid cultural and societal changes that have affected everything from how we live and work to how we engage with content online.
As such, when it comes to web design, brands have to adapt much more rapidly to changes within the market and consumer habits in particular. This is a trend we are expecting to continue for the foreseeable future, especially with regard to certain emerging patterns in design. These are some of the most important design considerations that have become prominent over the past year or so and are set to alter the trajectory of web design for some time to come.
More designers than ever before are realising the value of adding an optional dark mode to websites and apps because it has been shown to enhance digital experiences for many people. In fact, dark mode is so popular and well-loved that fans of the format are often relieved to find out a new site or app allows them to customise their experience in this way.
The availability of dark mode also has important implications for accessibility as it makes the text elements more readable and gives people the customised and thoughtful online experiences they crave. If you want to incorporate dark mode into your website or apps then it is best to give users the choice on which they’d like to use while engaging with your website or other digital products.
Finding new ways to format your web pages and giving your site users new ways to navigate is an approach that can boost your online real estate and give you more interesting formats to engage your visitors.
Horizontal scrolling allows a site user to click or drag a horizontal scroll bar to reveal content placed to the left or right of the main window. UX plays an important part in horizontal scrolling so a well designed page should accommodate trackpad swiping, touch screen navigation and simple click-through arrows. This also doubles as a means of guiding your visitors through your site so your brand story can be controlled in a way that never feels intrusive to the user.
Dynamic scrolling is a little different. Rather than having your site user navigate through the site and explore a series of static pages, dynamic scrolling is designed to display all your most important content on a single page. Parallax scrolling is often added to the mix to transition between the separate sections of your content, giving your users a smooth visual experience that doesn’t stick or cause friction.
Microinteractions are not a new concept, though they are being used in new ways throughout the world wide web. If you use the internet in any capacity at all then the chances are you have engaged with microinteractions, possibly without even realising it. So, what are microinteractions?
In their purest form, microinteractions are a two part process which starts with a trigger and ends with a response. For example, on-click animations are triggered when the user clicks or taps on an element, which then provides a response or feedback. This can be anything from interacting with a ‘click to expand’ animation, to selecting a reaction to a post on Facebook and seeing it visualised on-screen, to using a scrollbar to navigate a page.
Your site users love content that engages them and gives them a sense of control over the interactions (micro and otherwise) that they have online. They’re a simple way to bring a sense of joy to a website or app, and they play a practical role in terms of encouraging engagement, providing information, displaying a system status or message, preventing user errors, and communicating brand stories.
Adopting AR and VR allows you to explore new and exciting ways to engage your audience, and is a trend we are expecting to become more mainstream in the coming years. Both are considered highly immersive formats, with VR being the more immersive of the two, and they are also popular formats for sites and apps designed for people with accessibility requirements.
Augmented reality: Apps and sites that use AR provide the user with a composite image made up of a real world image which is overlaid with digital visuals which provide information to the viewer such as locations on a map or digital art as part of an immersive exhibition.
Virtual reality: VR differs from AR in that it makes use of a completely digital environment in terms of audio and visuals to transport the user to a simulated reality.
Both of these technologies can be leveraged by brands looking to increase their engagement rates as well as boosting brand awareness and communicating values and stories. They can be used to provide an experience-lead form of marketing that is personal, engaging, and memorable. For example, many online retailers are turning to these tools to allow their customers to virtually try on clothing and jewellery, which in turn adds value to their shopping experience and makes them more inclined to make purchases.
With more than half of all online sessions coming from mobile device users, web designers are focussing more heavily on mobile-friendliness and designing websites that are meant to be consumed one thumb-swipe at a time. In terms of design trends, simple, intuitive websites work best for thumb scrolling so editing your webpages to be uncluttered and optimised for phone screens is a must.
Minimalism is a design trend that is closely linked to mobile-friendliness because it lends itself so well to the mobile format. Sites that have a clear, well-spaced layout and can automatically resize themselves to fit the display being used are more likely to capture a mobile audience. With mobiles accounting for such a large chunk of total site traffic, brands that want to stay ahead will need to adapt to our ever-changing browsing habits by designing for the thumb.
Siri, Alexa and Cortana are just a few of the names you will be familiar with when it comes to virtual assistants. As we become more comfortable with sharing our homes with these technologies it is becoming more important for designers to factor their use into the products they create.
Virtual assistants work by recognising users’ speech patterns and inferring meaning from their words. When typing a search into a search engine we are more likely to keep it short and sweet, but when using voice search we will tend to use more natural language to make a request for information and it’s important to take this into consideration.
Optimising your website for voice search means you will be better able to capture an engaged audience that is keen to adopt new technologies, and values quality interactions without compromising on convenience. Everything from your text and image-based content to your site layout can be optimised for voice search, and a side effect of doing so is that your site will also become more accessible via screen readers.
This is something that has been touched on throughout this article, but it is one of the most important web design trends and absolutely deserves to be covered in more detail. The internet is becoming an increasingly inclusive and diverse space, and this places certain demands on designers who want to ensure maximum accessibility.
Not everyone uses the internet in the same way so it is vital that websites and apps are designed with accessibility at their heart. This means optimising for voice search and voice operated commands as well as other features that don’t rely on keyboard-based input, and allowing for a choice of audio or visual output. We would go as far as to say that designing accessible websites should not be considered a ‘trend’ but rather it should be the norm.
We know that the online landscape is a dynamic and often challenging one and that web design needs to be agile enough to keep up with site users’ ever-changing demands. While some popular design trends are superficial, others have the power to change the ways we interact within the digital sphere. Like with most things it is about finding a balance – in this case between aesthetics and capability – to create striking, exciting websites that give users what they want in terms of engagement and enrichment.