Statistics can often become worn out through overuse. Yet the oft-quoted fact that WordPress powers a quarter of the internet’s websites still deserves a moment of reflection. The WordPress.com site-building platform has become uniquely influential in our daily online activities. Web design trends in WordPress affect how the internet looks and operates, rippling out around the world and influencing the wider programming industry.
Here at the midpoint of 2017, these are some of the most significant or fast-rising web design trends worth noting in WordPress:
One-page websites. Despite potentially taking a while to load, single-page designs are basically navigation-free. Their simplicity boosts usability by eliminating the need for space-hogging menus, or the distinctive hamburger buttons which swept to prominence across WordPress last year. One-page sites reflect the current vogue for minimal content, often filling the top screen with one dynamic graphic or a single-sentence call-to-arms.
Mobile first. Gone are the days when a business could get away with commissioning a desktop-only site, or tacking on a limited mobile version with an m prefix in its address bar. Most web traffic is now carried on mobile devices, and search engines downgrade sites that aren’t mobile-friendly. Responsive templates built to cater for mobile audiences are now the norm rather than the exception, requiring an imaginative approach to page structure. However…
Modular blocks. The diversity of modern screen display resolutions is no problem for modular websites, which are designed in chunks rather like those old 1990s HTML tables. Google Trends has highlighted this as a growing phenomenon throughout the decade, with neat rectangles and squares clearly dividing web pages into separate sections for graphics and text. Such a modular approach dovetails neatly with other recent web design trends…
Retro. Old is the new new, and many of today’s designers and coders cut their teeth in the 1980s and 1990s. There’s a clear love of Minecraft-style blockiness in some modern graphics, plus cartoon characters who could have stepped out of a Nineties beat-em-up game. In an age of hipsters in Atari T-shirts and the ZX Spectrum Vega console, the use of block graphics and primary colours lends authenticity and prestige to many on-trend companies.
Parallax scrolling. Another theme familiar to 1980s computer gamers is the concept of foregrounds and backgrounds scrolling at different speeds. Known as parallax scrolling, this visual trick creates depth and adds style to any website. Its sense of movement also implies urgency, which can be helpful for ecommerce portals. These are another growth area, with dedicated WordPress themes and platforms allied to flexible plugins like WooCommerce.
Adaptive images. As attention spans dwindle, images remain crucial for capturing and retaining our attention. WordPress themes like Uncode are championing adaptive images which automatically scale according to screen size. For best effect, images have to be eye-catching and original. That’s why web design trends are showing an evolution away from stock images and clichéd shots of models, in favour of original photos by freelance photographers.
Cinemagraphs. Although they can involve relatively large GIF or video files, cinemagraphs are one of 2017’s hottest trends. Imagine a photograph with one moving component, such as a still shot of a car where the wheels are spinning. The eye-catching nature of these looped movements is encapsulated on cinemagraph hosting platform Flixel. A single well-positioned graphic can imbue a homepage or landing page with an aura of sophistication and style.
Large typography. Bold homepage messages are very on-trend, and WordPress supports the import of bespoke fonts created in Adobe or Google Fonts. Customised fonts are great for building brand identity, or conveying an eye-catching message on a homepage. They’re also surprisingly effective when dominating compact smartphone screens. The growth in dynamic fonts is another trend that ignited last year, properly catching fire in 2017.
Microinteractions. A relatively new industry buzzword, microinteractions provide an effective treatment for interstitial anxiety. This is the momentary pause between taking an action (such as clicking a button) and seeing a response. Microinteractions might change a dynamic element’s colour, make a sound or adjust the shading. These audio-visual transition components require minimal coding to demonstrate an action has been successful.
HTTPS. This is something any WordPress site owner or designer needs to be aware of. Google is toughening its stance on the provision of secure pages through HTTPS Everywhere, particularly for the ecommerce portals that are also growing in popularity on WordPress. It’s becoming vital to provide HTTPS security to avoid error messages, with certification authorities like Let’s Encrypt helping to simplify this process.