Like fashion trends, web design trends come and go. But then, we all crave for something that lasts a while longer than anything that just flashes by. You don’t want something that’s transient. We all crave some sort of certainty in life.
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But that’s life. What’s this got to do with business? How can you possibly crave for certainty anywhere along the fast lanes of web design trends? It’s possible. It’s just that we need to shift our focus from “design” to “business”. We need to get away from the technical nitty-gritty that the web design industry is obsessed with and start thinking about the function of websites and how they help businesses.
Longevity comes from function, purpose, and utility. When web design trends plug in and fill those gaps, you have trends that last, until they don’t. Here’s how to judge the longevity of a web design trend:
It’s always about money
There were days when costs for website development would run into thousands of dollars for businesses. Further, not all platforms that websites were based on were secure. Can you imagine that there was a time when there were a few HTML pages hosted on shared servers? Security, then, was a seemingly useless investment.
Frequent hacks and plenty of instances of customers’ financial data breaches later, it all changed for the web design industry. The costs, however, hovered around “I still can’t spend a bomb on web design and that monster platform”.
The open source revolution changed everything. Most websites are now hosted on WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. Some others are hosted on private servers. Website development also saw the emergence of specialist platforms like Magento. Meanwhile, different languages such as Java, Python, Ruby, and PHP emerged to tackle increasing demands from businesses of all sizes.
The emergence of SaaS adds to the glamour. So, businesses have options today. An ecommerce merchant can now choose between Shopify or go for custom development with Magento.
Yet, all of this made website development affordable. Further, there are templates for every possible platform today. At least, costs now seem to go proportional to custom development needs and specific cases.
Cost, by itself, could help you judge whether trends will flash by or stay.
Sometimes, it’s just evident
Some web design trends are long-time due. Others make a flashy entry and you’d just know that these trends would last the moment you hear of them. Many others are just fancy and they’ll eventually fade.
When responsive design came up as the answer for making websites accessible to mobile users, it just made sense. It just came up as an answer for a growing problem. HTML5 and CSS3, along with Grid systems, bootstrap frameworks, and many other web design trends (including typography trends) came with a bang and they are here to stay. Some other trends like the use of home page sliders and blog-type sidebars are all trends that are waiting to exit off the window.
In some cases, we don’t need data, analysis, and research. We just know.
Reapplying the 10% principle
We remembered some “business guru” or author who wrote about what is called as “The 10% Principle”. The author notes that if you could build a product or service using the 10% principle, you’ll eventually find a way to make more money than your competition. What’s 10% principle you ask? He explains it as creating a product or providing a service that’s like 10% cheaper, faster, better, or stronger.
How does this apply to web design trends? It does when you apply any web design trend to business use.
Consider HTML 5, for instance. The new version of HTML goes beyond 10% to make the fundamental website code so much better than the ubiquitous language’s previous versions. With HTML 5, it’s easier to code now. It’s faster, and it’s more semantic than it once was. It also works across all kinds of displays and browsers. If HTML 5 can do better by 10% of its previous versions, it’s here to stay.
Go pick any trend and see if it sticks.
When trends become conversion catalysts
For businesses, websites are tools to generate leads, to do content marketing, generate sales, to engage with their target audience, and a lot more. The design is important. The content will make an impact. The social media presence will add charm and personality.
So websites aren’t really worth anything if they can’t deliver what businesses expect. In short, businesses use websites are conversions. A visitor or a customer has to convert. Anything else happening with the website is loss. It’s not just rolling the way it was supposed to.
So web design trends suddenly stay longer if they have an inherent potential to enhance conversions for websites. If dynamic compression helps load pages faster, or if a large landing-page design on the homepage aids conversions, these trends no longer remain trends; they become benchmarks.
Likewise, responsive design is now almost a mandate and not a trend anymore.
Trends solve problems
Adobe then came up with Muse. Meanwhile, WordPress grew to accommodate almost any kind of needs pertaining to websites (including ecommerce). Sensing that WordPress and other open source systems might not lend themselves well to ecommerce (at least not as secure as it ought to be), websites were increasing running on Adobe Business Catalyst.
If trends solve problems (for any kind of audience), they stick.
How do you determine whether a web design trend stays for long or not? What are your parameters for judging the longevity of a trend? What gives? Please share your insights with us.