Web Design in 2012 & 2013

Happy New Year!  I wanted to take a few quick moments to explore what went down in 2012 on the web and share what I think will be the driving forces in 2013 - two concepts that drove web design in 2012 and two that will likely continue to move push forward in 2013.

I’ve been involved with designing websites, user experiences, and various web products since the late 1990’s when I built my first, 1-page “website” using Microsoft FrontPage 97. The site was a mess of HTML tables, iframes, and in-line styles. I’ve looked everywhere to see if I could dig up a copy of it to throw online but, lucky for you, I’ve had absolutely no luck.

User experience on the web has come an awful long way since CNN’s 1996 Year in Review. 2012 was arguably the best year yet; and my money is on 2013 bringing even more positive change to your web experience.

2012: CSS3 Takes Off and jQuery Plugins Take Over

Sure, CSS3 was being discussed a few years ago, but there’s no question (in my mind, at least) that 2012 was that front-end development using CSS3 finally caught on in the mainstream and breathed a breath of “standards” air.  2011 was the year of crazy CSS3 experiements, pushing browsers to their limits and driving front-end designers crazy; 2012 is where we really started to see CSS3 sneak into web standards and provide solid, modern experiences.

CSS3 has really pushed front-end web development into high gear by even further blurring the lines between developers and designers. Gone are the days of straight PSD to HTML conversions by slicing and dicing. What’s possible in Fireworks, Illustrator and Photoshop is now possible using pure front-end code. Efficiency and the power to do amazing things with just a few lines of code have really changed the way front-end development and user experience will continue to shape the web.

In 2012, the web saw some pretty incredible things with jQuery plugins. One great example is the scrolling technique called parallax, which gives the illusion of depth and multiple layers on a single page. Scrollorama and stellar.js surfaced as two great jQuery plugins to accomplish amazing feats like the online portfolio of Jan Ploch (perhaps more an example of beauty than practicality).

A few other great jQuery plugins of note that gained traction in 2012:

  • Lettering.js - A jQuery plugin for radical typography
  • Hammer.js - A javascript library for multi-touch gestures

Fancy CSS, solid HTML and proper, conservative use of jQuery plugins can create incredible experiences on the web. 2012 was just the beginning of this dynamic combo’s adolescent years.

2013: The World Goes Responsive

Come on, you saw this one coming. Responsive Web Design was bound to take off - and it finally has started to do so. After the work my team at Microsoft started with Paravel in 2012 got such a tremendous response from the web design community and the not-so-web-design community, I’m convinced that responsive web design is here to stay. And why wouldn’t it be? Responsive design just makes sense.

Until recently, desktop site plus perhaps a mobile-specific site was enough. Now, with the increasing number of browsers and devices, site owners cannot continue to design and develop separate sites for all device/browser combinations. Responsive web design attempts to solve that problem by allowing for owners to create a single source of content that renders appropriately (if not better) on all devices and browsers. Expect to see a major overhaul in how your favorite sites start to behave on your various devices.

…And White Space is Abundant

Another idea I’ll predict will take center stage in 2013 is white space. Huge design elements, large drawings, and obscure messes of background patterns and textures have littered the web for years. Finally, in a step of confidence from web and user experience designers, I believe your experience will start to breath a bit better. Talented web designers shouldn’t have to prove their worth by over-design. Cleanliness legibility, and an effective use of space and typography will become the norm.

There You Have it

I’m excited to see what 2013 holds for the web. I’m sure it promises to be a great year for developers, designers and end users alike. As long as auto-playing music and the <blink> tag don’t make it back into our interfaces, I think you’re all in for a treat.

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