Whether you're a web designer by trade or you've been forced into the job as part of a startup that's strapped for resources, you find yourself having to stay in touch with trends in the industry.
This year, a number of new styles and layouts are trending. Your ability to keep these in mind when you're working on your company website(s) will be tactically useful.
1. Long scrolling sites
Perhaps the most popular trend in the early part of this year has been long scrolling websites. Apple led the way with its iPhone 6 page, which showed how it's possible to include a lot of information on a single page in a sleek and compelling manner.
The reason this trend is so popular -- and will likely have staying power -- has to do with how people are accessing the Internet now. As web users have shifted predominantly from using desktop computers to smartphones and tablets, or at least adding the latter to their arsenal, it's become easier simply to scroll, instead of clicking small links to navigate from page to page.
2. Split screens
One of the more interesting design trends is the split-screen layout, in which some kind of vertical break divides portions of the page into two or more parts. This layout is ideal for companies that have two valuable products, services, or angles they want to promote.
It enables you to give prominence to multiple items, instead of having to rank them in a particular order. EightandFour.com has perfectly mastered the split screen design. On the left side the company explains its services, while the right side links visitors to samples of the firm's work.
A large ampersand in the center does a good job of spicing up the otherwise symmetrical vertical divide. While this design probably isn't suitable for everyone, it has its place and is increasing in popularity among certain web designers and businesses.
3. Parallax scrolling
New technologies such as CSS3 and HTML5 have given designers incredibly sophisticated capabilities. Not a few of them are choosing to press the limits.
At the moment, one of the biggest fashions is parallax scrolling. This involves making the background of the website move more slowly than the foreground. As a result, the user experiences an intriguing 3D effect that adds depth and looks quite sharp.
While it's not a standard parallax scrolling design, the Sony website shows that it's possible to combine parallax features with other design elements to create a unique layout. It will be interesting to see how long the parallax trend lasts and where it may ultimately go, but at the moment it's an attractive design option for especially creative companies.
4. Responsive web design
As we move through 2015, it's become apparent that responsive web design is less of a trend and more of an imperative. This allows your website to shift sizes seamlessly, without compromising UX or quality, no matter what screen size its being accessed on.
According to this blog post from Hostgator, "Using liquid layouts and CSS grid systems, coupled with media queries, your code can facilitate the change with surprising ease. The key is to remember that each device has specific capabilities, and your site should reflect that."
5. Large visual headers
Though it's not necessarily a new trend, large visual headers will continue to be a preferred choice for many designers. What's contained within those headers may be shifting, however.
Websites like Airbnb and Paypal have strayed from the typical static images and now use moving -- yet muted -- videos to evoke new responses from their visitors.
When you implement a video, you have to walk a fine line. The moving content should be gentle, silent, and relatively slow-moving. Anything too fast or overpowering will render your homepage chaotic and useless.
The goal is not to surprise people, but to make them think: "Oh, wow! At first glance I didn't even realize that was a video."
Many businesses, brands, and organizations have realized that their website is their number-one tool for storytelling. They've committing themselves to relating stories not just through content, but also via specific web design elements, layout, and navigation.
If you're looking for good examples of visual storytelling in web design, UltraLinx has an excellent article in which it lists 10 sterling examples. The common thread is that each site gives the user the ability to interact with various visual elements ... usually by hovering your mouse over an icon.
7. Hidden menus
For years, menu bars have been a staple in the web design industry. No one ever really tried to challenge the inclusion of a menu on the homepage. It just didn't make sense to anybody.
However, the trend toward greater simplicity has inspired many designers to hide their site menus behind buttons and tabs. The menu is only revealed when the mouse is hovered over the icon, much like in storytelling design.
Staying on top of the trends
While you certainly don't want simply to mimic what everyone else is doing, it's useful to stay aware of what successful designers are doing and learn from their techniques and strategies.
These seven web design trends are very popular right now and certainly worth thinking about for your future design tasks.