Thursday April 9th, 2015

The only thing that is constant is change

If ever you needed to define the World Wide Web in one word, that word would be change. When Tim Berners-Lee invented the Web in 1989, he never could have imagined what it would evolve into. Running parallel with an ever growing tech scene; his tool for the exchange of scientific data and results has arguably become the most power communications tool ever known.

The first website may have started with three foundation technologies – HTML, URI, and HTTP – but by today’s standards it was little more than a difficult to edit text document. Simple as it may have been, the Web was eagerly adopted by others craving to have the chance to share their thoughts and information with those connected to it. Within just 10 years it quickly expanded into new technologies and produced the first flight of browsers – Mosaic, NetScape, Opera, and Internet Explorer. That momentum has only increased since producing hundreds of languages and technologies to read, improve, and design for our interactions with the Web.

The Modern Web

Today, modern websites are anything but simple text documents. With 42% of our global population now connected to the internet as of 2014, websites are time invested expressions of personal and professional art that we use to connect with the world. While aesthetics choices are a modern browsing concern today, it’s all still in the interest of making information easier to find. This is a core concern of user experience designers who focus on user satisfaction through usability. Their integration along side web designers and developers has helped in bridging the recent evolution web capable media devices have experienced by giving birth to responsive design (RWD).

IMAGE: Phone, Tablet, Desktop of Graphica website

RWD has given us the ability to dynamically view websites in different layouts based on the size of the media device we view it on. This opportunity to view content easily on mobile devices has produced a staggering increase of traffic away from traditional desktop environments. Because of that the design theory, “mobile first” has become a commonly practiced method of web design. Along side the increase in mobile usage, in 2008 the development of a new method of browsing became popular – apps.

App is a shortened terminology for “application software” which were originally offered for generally increased productivity and data retrieval of specific Web offerings such as calendars, stocks, and email. Since their deployment in 2008, app development growth has been so explosive that they will have been adopted by a projected 255 million users in 2015.

These updates in flexibility, interactivity, and availability are what have made the Web a staple in so many of our lives today.  

“Sooner or later, everything old is new again”

With all the new idea’s and technology revolving around the Web, it’s hard to imagine what’s next. Here are a few things that are emerging as persisting trends in 2015:

  • Immersive Multimedia Experiences
    Barstories Immersive Web Experience

    Websites have reached a point where their foundations are capable of more than just delivering straight to the point information. Today’s websites can have a conversation. As internet speeds increase and file compression becomes more efficient we’re finding that websites are immersing users in an interactive experience using videos, motion graphics, and audio alongside the expected textual communication. The approach engages users, encouraging sharing and repeat visitation to relive the experience.

    Take a look at the website’s below to get a better idea of what I mean:

  • Minimalization
    Minimal Design

    For a time, it was about making things as realistic and detailed as possible. Websites were your kitchen’s utility drawer full of everything and anything you could ever need from it. Thankfully, there has been a movement to correct that. Websites have been becoming more steamlined in past years, and the trend is continuing to get focus going into 2015. People and companies are removing non-key elements and focusing on only the core items of importance being available to the site’s user.

    Additionally, as the sites content gets more exact, the designs have also become more minimal. This minimalization has given a rebirth to small navigations hidden out of initial view, flat color designs that bring focus to the message instead of its frame, and faster loading that allows for users to experience content in an optimized manner.

    Below are some clean interpretations of minimal web design concept:

  • The Evolution of Responsive Design (RWD)
    Responsive is still relatively new, but even at the time of its inception people were already talking about how to make it something more. RWD was never meant to be a replacement for mobile websites, but a new efficient way of approaching our growing media device variations. One of the offshoots of RWD gaining some momentum is RESS (Responsive Web Design + Server Side Components).

    What RESS basically does is combine the flexibility of RWD adaptive layouts with the boost that server side components offer. This concept is still in it’s conception, but it’s definitely a possible future in terms of website standards thanks to it’s focus on optimization.

  • Working Around The Box


    Here’s a secret for those of you who don’t develop websites; web developers are adults playing with blocks. Elements we code are wrapped in container that live in a game of Tetris. Over the past few years thanks to code development in languages like HTML5 and CSS3, we’ve been more open to working around the box.

    Rather than utilizing standard width desktop sizes, we are pushing full screen width concepts and manipulating squares into not so square shapes. This trend may not seem like a big deal to some, but it’s offered web designers and developers big new opportunities in how we present users with data. And that change can make a serious impact in a user’s experience.

    Still having a difficult time understanding the possibilities? Take a look at the examples below:

  • Mobile First, Mobile Only

    After having read the bullet above about RWD and RESS you might ask yourself, “What does mobile only web design have to do with anything?” You’d probably right, that is unless you’re in China. According to The Next Web, the “... China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) shows that the percentage of Chinese users accessing the Internet via mobile grew to 83.4 percent as of June 2014, for the first time surpassing the percentage of users who access the internet via PC’s (80.9 percent).”

    China’s mobile system is highly integrated into their everyday lifestyle. Often times being the direct connection to numerous data sensitive accounts that go beyond our everyday social media habits. Because of this concepts like card based web design and QR codes have become a popular standard in web design for them.

  • Return of the Preloaders and Image Animation
    This one in particular makes me especially happy. Previously in this post you read about the interest in optimization of content, but with the introduction of multimedia in web design there is just no way around it; loading those elements is going to take time. So why would this make me happy? Because the preloaders of today are far more than a counting percentage. They are creative introductions to websites that act like opening credits to a well done movie. They’re engaging and often give you insight into the website before you even get through.

    Along with the interest in multimedia engagement has been the rebirth of moving graphics. Whether triggered by scrolling down a page or time spent, graphics are changing to show users something more. We’ve seen them being used for educational items like email blasts. Other times we find them serving as a vehicle for emotional reaction. Whatever the cause for use, I am personally thrilled to have them.

    The Glory

We’re only a quarter of the way into 2015 and I’m sure there will be new and innovative changes to the Web before this year comes to a close. If you see any additional changes to the Web on the rise or have any thoughts regarding this post, please feel free to leave them in the comments below.  

Resources:

Catalyst NYC Hamburger Menus
Smashing Magazine – On China’s Bleeding Edge: Web Design Trends 2015
The Web Foundation: “History of the Web”
“The only thing that is constant is change.” – Heraclitus
CERN: The First Website
The Evolution of the Web
Nielsen: Smartphones: So many apps, so much time
World Internet World Stats – Internet Usage Statistics The Big Picture
“Sooner or later, everything old is new again.” – Stephen King
Search Engine Watch: “Mobile Now Exceeds PC: The Biggest Shift Since the Internet Began”
LukeW: RESS: Reponsive Design + Server Side Components
The Next Web: In China, more people now access the internet from a mobile device than a PC
Litmus – A Guide to Animated GIFs in email 

J.D. Cutter,

Senior Front-End Web Developer

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