22 web trends every designer should know

12. Ethical design

Ind.ie founder Aral Balkan hopes 2016 will see people building the web we really want. Ethical design could find "content blockers and regulation taming the excesses of companies that track and farm people", and the likes of Ind.ie will "build decentralised, peer-to-peer alternatives that respect human rights, human effort, and human experience".

Designer and Ind.ie partner Laura Kalbag hopes this will kill third-party scripts: "We've seen the indiscriminate addition of tracking scripts become controversial due to privacy and performance implications. In 2016, developers will find it harder to use the excuse 'My boss made me add thirteen scripts', and we'll return to networks that don't rely on spying and sucking up data."

13. Flat design

Google’s Material Design could continue to influence designers, although many hope for more depth and mould-breaking in 2016

Google’s Material Design could continue to influence designers, although many hope for more depth and mould-breaking in 2016

Frontend developer Benjamin Hollway thinks we'll see a "continuation of responsive and flat design", due to more developers using grid frameworks. He hopes this will bring more consistency between sites. Designer Victor Erixon wonders if people are "tired of seeing the same thing over and over". He posits that although simplicity will stick around, designers will "try to break out of it" through shadow use influenced by Material Design.

Designer Meg Lewis is more optimistic: "I hope 2016 will see designers pushing boundaries, finding clever ways to break the strict rules of mobile and web design – unique approaches to break the mould."

14. Job titles

Designer Christopher Schmitt says 2016 will see 'frontend architect' become a popular job title as the distinction between designer and developer becomes more blurred, due to the "gateway drug" of Sass and automation systems like Gulp and Grunt. He foresees more designers building modules and style tiles, leaving others to make API calls for additional features.

Elsewhere, author and consultant Joe Leech argues 'head of UX' is a "sticky plaster on a poor design process". Although user-centred design is the ideal approach for building apps and websites, "the whole team should be conducting user research, designing product flows and prototyping".

15. Progressive enhancements

Web trends for 2016

Flipkart showcases the early days of progressive web apps

Web designer Aaron Gustafson suspects in 2016 the web community will have a deeper understanding of progressive enhancement: "For years it has been equated with 'no JavaScript', but it's really about embracing the very nature of the web and its ability to adapt to just about any device or interaction method. The more we embrace this, the more users we can reach."

16. Responsive images

Frontend developer Jenn Lukas hopes in 2016 image implementation techniques will get smarter: "With responsive image support growing rapidly and fallback solutions in place, there's no excuse for not treating images with the utmost care and adhering to best practices. So no more scaling down oversized images for devices that don't need them, or forcing visitors to download multiple images when only one will be shown."

17. Mobile dominance

BaseKit's Gordon Plant predicts even more mobile dominance in 2016: "We can expect the main target devices for website creation to be mobile, but also small business content going to social media platforms by default." Plant argues this will be where much website creation will need to start from.

18. Fewer one-page sites

Hactar CDO Jonty Sharples thinks it's time for single-page websites to go: "2016 will be about discretion. So much of the form is understood. We need designers and developers crafting truly useful sites, rather than falling back on the one-pager as a handy, novel trope. So: proper narrative, considered calls to action, sensible scrolling, and sites that are device- and bandwidth-agnostic."

19. UX maturation

UX consultant Paul Boag expects to observe a continued maturation of UX design. "In the past, UX and UI design were often considered interchangeable, but we're beginning to recognise that UX design is a discipline in its own right. It looks at a user's experience holistically, and recognises it does not stop at the edge of a screen," he argues. "I expect a growing generation of designers no longer designing interfaces but working with others across organisations, improving the experience of customers at touchpoints both online and offline."

20. Tiered building

Maker of websites Mat Marquis says 2016 will see more web professionals framing their decisions around inclusivity: "We're thinking about the web we build as a utility. It's not about building for specific browsers, but for all users, even those with tenuous connections or weak devices. Sites will increasingly be tiered experiences, starting with a functional baseline for all, and enhanced where and when they can be."

21. Smart TVs

Fresh Tilled Soil director of design Jason Pamental wonders whether 2016 will see smart TVs becoming big, and bringing with them some brand new challenges. "As connected devices, TVs will force us to think about designing for scale in the opposite direction of our more recent focus. We'll have to think about layouts on screens several feet across, used at larger viewing distances. This will present significant challenges in how content is presented and rendered."

22. Virtual reality

2016 could be the year virtual reality makes it big, reckons Clearleft founder Richard Rutter: "Google Cardboard means VR experiences are available to anyone with a smartphone." He notes the New York Times has shown the way by giving away a Google Cardboard viewer and making VR experiences of longform articles. "Expect more jumping on the VR bandwagon, including web versions using WebGL."

Ueno director of design Haraldur Thorleifsson agrees: "In 2016, VR will go mainstream. Devices are getting cheaper and more accessible, and this will have a big impact on how we design. Soon, we'll have minimal or no specifically UI elements in applications as they start to become more like real life."

This article originally appeared in net magazine issue 277.

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Craig Grannell

Craig is an editor, writer and designer. He writes about design and tech, specialising in Mac, iPhone and iPad, and has written for Creative Bloq, Stuff, TechRadar, MacFormat, The Guardian, Retro Gamer and more. You can view more of his writing on his blog, Revert to Saved