Pete Bernardo / Design / December 30th, 2013

Design Predictions for 2014

We all know that design is a tumultuous industry, especially recently. We chase technology. We chase user trends. Sometimes, we chase our own tails. But we always like to keep our eyes on the horizon and consider where the industry is going. Our design team got together and made a few predictions for 2014. Take a look and let us know what you think you see coming down the road next year.

Device landscape
Photo credit: adactio

Screen-size / Resolution will continue to mean less and less
For the last few years, the industry scrambled to provide mobile solutions for a bevy of platforms. Thankfully, things have largely settled to the point now where there are a few stable platforms with a few healthy operating systems that still spawn countless new devices.

Previously, it was merely a race to larger and larger monitors. Then came smartphones and then tablets, but it’s interesting that most of these platforms never got a lot of real traction after they entered the market. Which meant that, as developers, we really didn’t have to pay much attention to the noise because most of it would come and go.

Over the last year (and surely into next year) a couple of well-designed operating systems have emerged, allowing hardware makers to take more risk with their hardware design. Which means that designers and developers can’t afford to narrow their focus to a specific subset. At 352, we’ve focused heavily on creating responsive solutions that can adapt to the numerous platforms on the market, and we’re confident that this trend will continue.

Parallax everything needs to end
This may be less of a prediction and more of a cry for help, but this is a personal one for me; parallax needs to stop. While I do see value in parallax as a technique, 2013 was the year where it just became too much. I would often never read the content on a parallax site and just spin my track wheel to the point where it would glow just so I can watch the page scroll and do amazing things…only to close the tab and move on…never reading the content.

Parallax is a powerful tool for interaction, but when it becomes the sole purpose of the site it ruins it for me. The majority of parallax designers seem to have lost track of the purpose of the sites they were building, making beautiful sites that ultimately said nothing. The most well-executed parallax site I saw in 2013 was National Geographic’s Killing Kennedy, a riveting educational experience in which parallax was used to highlight content, not detract from it. The use of parallax to guide you through the story was powerful, but it was never the focus of the site. Hopefully, it will provide a fitting capstone to parallax design.

Webapp & Physical product disruption will continue
In 2014, we’ll continue to see disruptive startups targeting established industries. Uber, Airbnb, Hotelstonight really took off over the last few years, and they’re only going to become more ingrained in our lives. Uber, for instance, is unlikely to stop with just improving your cab ride – they want to be literally everywhere. In 2014 I think PillPack and Coin are really interesting disruptive startups that bridge the web and an established industry by providing a better experience. I think in 2014 we will continue to see startups that are able to rethink how an industry engages with it customers.

Kickstarter will be more mainstream
2014 will be the year that Kickstarter goes more mainstream. I would not be surprised if  larger brands start doing some limited-run product experiments through Kickstarter. I’m not an extremely early adopter of tech, but I usually think I’m a just-in-front-of-the-mainstream consumer, and 2013 was the first year I funded a Kickstarter project. But it’s not just tech or manufacturing. Video games, movies and all sorts of other creative endeavors that were previously reliant on traditional funding methods have begun seeking capital through Kickstarter, and now that the niche has proven Kickstarter as a viable means of funding, the mainstream will follow.

More navigation experiments
As websites start to take a mobile-first approach we have started to see some interesting navigation experiments. I only call them experiments because they buck the hamburger approach that was default for the last few years. Square, MailChimp and Squarespace all have slightly different approaches to mobile navigation, and I think we will start to see a hybrid of all three be more of the de facto standard.

A pull back from too flat
In the latest beta version of iOS we are seeing a slight pull back from the flat design first released in iOS7. Buttons now are obviously buttons. I think we will start to see more distinction between content and actions. 352 interactive designer Brandon Mitchell called it “the return of texture.” While the changes to buttons is a great first step to finding a happy balance between the overly designed versions of iOS 7, I think this will continue to evolve next year.

Design Iterations
Over the last few years we have seen increasing focus on iterative development and taking Lean approaches to building startups. This year, there was a focus on Lean UX and incorporating UX methodology in startup environments. Next year I think we will start to see more  organizations choose iterative redesigns over complete overhauls. At 352, we’ve found that this approach offers a lot of freedom in development choices, and we expect other organizations will continue to realize these benefits.

Rich Animations
Once Flash became less supported, web animation paused for a little bit as designers and front-end developers searched for elegant solutions, and recently it has begun to return in really beneficial ways to the user. Recently the new Hobbit site set the bar for really rich experiences, meeting or exceeding the capabilities of Flash. Plenty of other sites are adding subtle animation to add life to the site: Brandisty, 96elephants, and LayerVault. In 2014, I expect this trend to continue and really push the browsers further and further in providing platforms to support these rich experiences.

Content is still king in 2014
We’ll go out on a limb and say content will still trump everything in 2014. In fact, content — how you speak to your users and how they view your brand — should lead your design efforts. There is some debate on how far that should stretch into the design process, but we think it is critical from the start.