As we roll into 2013, our world of web design and development is changing more rapidly than ever before.
For web creators everywhere, living and working on the bleeding edge of design innovation is as exciting as ever.
To kick off the new year, now seems like a good time to highlight the important trends and developments in the world of design and dev during 2013. Without further ado, here’s what you need to know about web design for the year to come.
Let’s start with trends in the way we will create websites.
Responsive Design: It’s Not Just For Handhelds Anymore
Responsive web design has been around for several years now, but it really came alive in 2012, and we’ve seen more widespread adoption of this adaptive, fluid approach to designing web layouts.
Since you’re on the site, you may have noticed that Mashable recently launched a major website redesign, which takes full advantage of responsive design. Several other popular news media companies, including TIME and USA Today, are also taking advantage of the feature, which helps to neatly distribute content across a wide variety of devices, from desktop computer to smartphone and everything in beween.
It’s not just news outlets that have taken a responsive approach. In the ever-popular WordPress market, nearly all newly released themes come fully mobile-optimized, bearing the mark “responsive” on their download pages.
In 2013, it’s obvious that we’ll continue to see responsive web design flourish. It won’t only be about folding down the design from desktop to tablet to handheld. We will also need to plan for how websites will expand upward, adapting to larger and different types of displays.
Whether or not Apple actually releases a TV set in 2013, you can bet large-screen web browsing will become a more popular activity in the living room and corporate boardroom, on the digital menuboard in the local cafe and elsewhere. Websites must be ready when they’re called upon in these large-format scenerios.
And don’t forget about advancements to web-enabled dashboards in cars. We’ve heard about the possibility of Siri coming to an automobile near you, as well as Windows 8 embedded in cars. Websites and apps may soon need to be optimized for these formats, too.
Make Way For the Retina Display
You must be living under a rock if you haven’t heard of “retina display” over the past couple of years. Apple coined the term for the latest generation of displays that boast up to four times the pixel density of non-retina displays.
For web developers, retina displays cause issues with some image-heavy websites, where some images can appear “grainy.”
To address this problem, web designers and developers everywhere snapped into action and served up a variety of solutions. These include retina.js, along with HTML/CSS and pixel query solutions, as detailed in the article “Towards a Retina Web.”
Twitter Bootstrap Is the Definitive Framework
There have been all sorts of frameworks for web creation, with varying degrees of popularity over the years. But no framework ever gained as much traction as Twitter Bootstrap has over last year or two.
Now websites of all shapes and sizes are using Twitter Bootstrap to create beautiful, responsive layouts and experiences. See the Built With Bootstrap gallery to browse examples.
In 2013, Twitter Bootstrap will continue to spread and gain widespread useage among web creators of all types. There are already quite a few resources springing up to support those creating with Twitter Bootstrap.
Some of those resources include:
- Customizable Components for Twitter Bootstrap
- Boottheme – A Twitter Bootstrap Theme Generator
- Bootstrap Components for Fireworks
- Shoestrap, One of Many Twitter Bootstrap WordPress Themes
- An Exhaustive List of More Than 235 Twitter Bootstrap Resources
We can’t talk about web trends without covering the thing that makes web go: traffic.
Google Changes Spur the Rise of Content Marketing
In 2012, there were a few major shakeups to the Google search algorhythm, known as the Penguin and Panda updates. In a nutshell, these changes caused a major crackdown on the borderline “gray-hat” tactics that SEOs have relied on for years to rank websites on the front page of Google.
That basically means low-quality link building tactics and other ploys for rapidly propelling a website’s rank are being penalized within the algorithm. What is the message Google is trying to convey?
Quality content matters.
“Content is king” has been the guiding principal of bloggers for years. But in 2013 and beyond, it’s not only a guideline; it’s essential for a website’s or business’ survival on the web.
This has led to a renewed focus on content marketing from businesses of all shapes and sizes. Businesses can no longer rely on quick, on-page optimization of their websites. In order to build rank in Google and build trust with customers, one must produce valuable, useful, helpful and share-worthy content that exudes expertise.
Every business that wants to stay relevant on the web needs to invest in content marketing — including blogging, podcasting, e-book writing, email marketing.
The state of doing business and making a living as a web designer seems to be undergoing a shift toward freelance.
The Freelance Economy
As the world slowly begins to recover from the financial crisis of the past few years, one thing has become very clear: The way we work is changing forever.
Freelancing used to be relevant only on the fringes of the global workforce. The combination of easy remote collaboration technologies (Skype, Google+, GoToMeeting, etc.) and the need for companies to do more with less has changed the nature of freelancing. More and more people are moving from full-time employment at a company to a solo career as a freelancer.
In few, if any, industries is this shift more prevalent than in web design and development.
During 2013, even more designers and developers will take the leap and go freelance. What does this mean for our craft?
We’ll see more interest in becoming multi-disciplinary in our trade. While I personally don’t recommend trying to do everything yourself, I do think it’s important have a solid understanding of a few key areas of website design.
For example, graphic designers must have a foundation in HTML and CSS. They must also have a grasp for web copywriting (I personally prefer to write copy and design a layout simultaneously). Developers, you need to know the basics of layout, user experience and design in order to work effectively. This mixing and matching of disciplines will continue in 2013 and beyond.
Web Design and Development Education
This is the one area I’m most excited about for the years ahead.
For too long, higher education programs failed to provide a solid foundation for the professional web design career field. All of the coursework seemed to be five or more years behind the industry.
Today, we’re seeing new ways for newbies and experienced professionals alike to rapidly advance their skills and gear up for professional-level work as web designers.
Treehouse is one of these online training services. It aims is to teach anyone how to become a professional web designer or app developer. It offers high quality video courses, complete with projects, challenges and game mechanics to advance through the ranks at your own pace.
The Starter League is another web design training program, but it uses a different model. Students must go through an in-person, 10-week session at the company’s headquarters in Chicago to learn web development, HTML/CSS, user experience design and visual design.