Learning from the 2015 web design trends

Hello, loyal readers! Here we are, at the end of another year, and I once again struggled to keep an even publishing schedule of posts. I start out strong, hit a vacation time, and struggle to get back into the rhythm again. Well, a new year is right around the corner, so hopefully I’ll do better next year.

My Twitter feed served up the article, “The 10 Big Web Design Trends of 2015” by Jerry Cao, and it just seemed like a really good one to review my year and share some ideas of what writers, editors, information architects, and content strategists can learn from these web design trends.

Each of these trends are for web site design, but I found myself thinking about just how many we apply to the technical communication that we work on or deliver either via a web page, web site, or online delivery mechanism of some kind. In addition to describing each trend, Cao does a great job of providing a list of tips and a list of free online resources. Spend some time on this one, as it really provides a wealth of great information. Here are the 10 trends, with my own thoughts on how they might apply to technical communication:

  1. Minimalism – In some ways, this could better be said by “simplicity” but minimalism is in the mainstream now. In technical communication, or really training, there is the minimalism principle that we have been applying for quite some time. Here’s my own blog post about minimalism.
  2. Long scrolling – Jakob Neilsen and Jared Spool have been repeatedly debunking the myth that users don’t scroll and don’t like to scroll, and the one article that he links to about the “below the fold” myth includes links to these classic researchers in our field. In my personal experience, I am truly annoyed by news sites or resource sites that break an article into multiple pages instead of one uber-long page; it’s much easier for me to skim and scan one single page than have to click multiple times and wait for pages to load. Seems like this is an artifact of more mobile devices?
  3. Flat design – Making graphics simpler, so that they load more quickly, especially on mobile devices is definitely where we are headed. I’m not a graphics person, so some of what Cao suggests here goes right over my head, but I can definitely appreciate the KISS principle!
  4. Powerful animations – While it would be easy to associate this with providing more video content, which many technical communicators are doing these days, I think this speaks to animations within the user interface. Animations that are just a part of the interface design, not part of the content per se. (I wrote a blog post that summarized my notes from a webinar on video production, and the different types of videos we might need to create for our users.)
  5. Lively colors – Oh my! I don’t know that this really applies to much of our content, but choosing colors based on color theory does sound like good advice. Personally, I’d have a hard time integrating bright or lively colors in any of my designs.
  6. HD backgrounds – So many of our devices are HD or can take advantage of HD displays. I definitely work with our graphics team for background images for banners to take advantage of this.
  7. Expressive photography – So many sites (have you seen Apple’s site lately? or even Microsoft’s site!?) are starting to include photographs of people using technology on their site, instead of drawings of objects and things. I think this is fine for more marketing content, but for technical content, you still need the diagrams and screen grabs to support your text.
  8. Dynamic typography – Cao suggests remembering minimalism and flat design, and the simplicity of those two trends, as choosing the one or two typefaces for your site, or your content. Legible and readable must take center stage in applying this design to our information.
  9. Fuller interactions – From personalization to comments to notifications, to unique sounds as they make their way through the site, all of these ways of letting the user engage with and interact with the content is important. Clickable buttons to highlight downloadable code or sample apps they can run all enhance the user information experience..
  10. Card layouts – I think of this trend as the Pinterest Effect. They implemented cards as their site design years ago, and between Twitter cards and Facebook share posts, this layout has really taken hold. An image, a title, an abstract, and a link to the full page or article. It’s a dynamic, simple way to present information that users seem drawn to. How might you redesign a top-most topic or top-most page to show the sub-topics chunked into card-like elements?
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