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3 Essential Design Trends, December 2019

This month’s collection of design trends is a gift to behold. Each of the trends are highly usable options that are versatile, giving you plenty of room to play and make them your own. That’s the best kind of trend, right?

Here’s what’s trending in design this month.

 

Whimsical Illustrations

It seems like whimsical illustrations are practically everywhere. Fun drawings that can be anything from line-style illustrations to full-color pieces of art are popping up in all kinds of projects – even for brands, companies, of business types that you might not expect. Whimsical illustrations are trending for a number of reasons:

  • They create just the right feel for a project that doesn’t need to be heavy;
  • You can design the main imagery to be whatever you want;
  • They provide a source of delight for users;
  • Every project using illustrations looks a little different, creating a custom design;
  • The proliferation of illustration kits has made creating this style easier than ever.

The thing that might be best about using whimsical illustrations is the personality they bring to a project. The right illustrated element – or series of elements – can emotionally tie users to the project while setting a scene. The possibilities are almost endless. Illustrations don’t have to apply only to lighthearted projects, even though “whimsical” might imply it. The illustrations for Violence Conjugale feature a sense of whimsy for a serious topic, and it works. (Maybe we all need a little more whimsy in our life?)

not-violent
dark
soundboard

 

Black and Blue

It’s a classic color combination that’s making a big return to projects – black and blue palettes.

The contrast of a dark background and blue accents is eye-appealing and creates a harmonious and pleasing visual aesthetic. The projects below use this color trend in different ways, all with the same cool result.

Arm Yourself uses a black background with a black and white illustration to make bright blue lettering and accents pop off the screen. Color draws users into the interactive part of the homepage design with a drag to the bullseye instruction.

arm

Carey uses a lighter, more teal blue on a charcoal black background for a lighter feel. The blue color pulls from the logo and brand mark with buttons that have a lot of contrast from the background and brighter elements in the design. The blue continues on the scroll with bold text on a fully black background, showing the versatility of this color choice.

carey

Adera uses a simple blue button on a black and white image to create contrast and draw the eye to the active part of the design. The color palette flips on the scroll to a blue background with darker elements on top. Contrast is a vital factor here, helping dictate user flow and how to digest and interact with information on the screen.

adera

 

Anything-But-Flat Scroll Transitions

Disclaimer: I am totally in love with this trend and can’t get enough of it.

Anything-but-flat scroll transitions is a versatile design trend that’s visually interesting and contributes to usability. (It’s a win-win!) This trend is exemplified by a transition element between “screens” or “scrolls” with a visual that isn’t just a box or flat line. Think of how most parallax designs or screen-based vertical viewpoints advance from one box to another. With this trend the transition is more fluid. The examples below do this in different ways:

Oroscopo takes advantage of the blobs trend that’s been popular all year with blob elements that create waves between content elements. Contrast between light and dark backgrounds magnify this effect, while other blog shapes create visual consistency.

oro

MAHA Agriculture Microfinance uses a simple line between scroll elements but it’s got a texture to it that makes it just a little more visually interesting that having a flat line between the hero image area at the top and the secondary content block.

maha

Akaru uses a pretty amazing animated fluid design to offset the branding in the center of the screen. The animation carries into the background of the content below the scroll. (You’ll want to scroll all the way to the bottom of this one to see the transition from the dark animation back to white.) The effect is stunning.

agence

Here’s why this trend works so beautifully: The fluid transition is somewhat disruptive because the user doesn’t expect this visual and seeing the edge of a transitional element encourages scrolling. Whether the user scrolls to see how the transition changes or to preview more content is irrelevant as long as the interaction happens. It’s brilliant and beautiful, especially on desktop screens.

 

Conclusion

The best design trends are versatile enough that you can use them in new projects or incorporate them into websites that are already live for a little refresh.

A custom illustration can add extra interest to a hero area or page within your website, a tweak to the color palette can create a brilliant black and blue combination, or a neat transition can help users engage with the scroll.

If you want to spice up a project, these trends fit the bill for sure.



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10 Outdated Web Design Trends to Let Go Of

If you’ve ever moved from one home to another, you know how difficult it can be to get rid of things you’ve owned for years. While digging through your closet, you find an old pair of pants you used to wear all the time despite the growing holes in the knees. But you tell yourself, “Maybe I’ll wear them around the house when it gets warmer” or “I bet the grunge look will come back in style”.

It’s easy to make these kinds of justifications in web design and development, too. You think:

“I’ve used the keyword meta tag for as long as I can remember. What can it hurt to keep doing so?”

Similar to how your clothes may become outdated or your appliances obsolete over time, the same thing happens with design and development trends. Rather than hold onto techniques that no longer serve you and only add more to your workload, it’s a much better idea to clear them out and make way for modern trends that’ll have a greater impact.

 

10 Popular Design Trends It’s Time to Let Die

When we talk about outdated web design trends, we’re not just talking about ones that have been obsolete for years. We’re also referring to trends and techniques that we know for a fact compromise the user experience and need to go away ASAP.

1. Cheesy Stock Photos

There’s nothing inherently bad about using stock photos. Many clients don’t have the budgets or wherewithal to create their own company photos and stock photos are a viable alternative.

That said, there was a time when “bad” (i.e. super cheesy and unrealistic) stock photos were all the rage. Even today, you’ll find websites that use these kinds of photos because there’s still an assumption that two people shaking hands in a well-lit conference room signals trust. (It doesn’t.)

Good deal. Close-up of two business people shaking hands while sitting at the working place

Image via DepositPhotos.

2. Hero Sliders

Image slider technology was pretty great in its heyday. It allowed web designers to conserve space while displaying a number of promotional offers at once. In addition to sliders often slowing down page speeds, they also have a tendency to slow users down as they distract them from moving onto other parts of a website.

Verizon Wireless, for instance, has a great example of a strong but simple hero image design in 2019:

Verizon Wireless 2019

This is vastly different from the image slider it used back in 2013:

Verizon Wireless 2013 - Slider - Outdated Web Design Trend

For the most part, we’ve learned to be more efficient with this space, though there are still some websites that can’t make up their minds about which offer to show above the fold… which only makes it more difficult for visitors to decide next steps. Take the initiative and do it for them with a single hero banner.

3. Autoplay

It’s not common to find websites with background audio, let alone autoplay audio, these days. That said, what you do occasionally find are websites that automatically play videos or ads with audio. Needless to say, this needs to stop. If your video (or audio) players don’t allow your visitors to take control of when they start, change that up now.

4. The 3-Click Rule

Over the years, web designers have looked for ways to decrease friction in the user experience. The three-click rule was meant to be one of the ways to do this. However, according to a recent report from the Nielsen Norman Group, there’s never been any data to back up this claim:

“In fact, a study by Joshua Porter has debunked it; the study showed that user dropoff does not increase when the task involves more than 3 clicks, nor does satisfaction decrease. Limiting interaction cost is indeed important, but the picture is more complicated than simply counting clicks and having a rule of thumb for the maximum number allowed.”

Rather than minimize for minimization’s sake, consider the complexity of the task or funnel you’re designing when determining quantity of steps.

5. (External) Links That Open in the Same Tab

There are a number of reasons to add links to your content: for navigational purposes, promotional purposes, and referential purposes. But when you add a hyperlink to your text, consider the following: Is it okay if the link directs visitors to a page in this same browser tab?

External links, for instance, should always open in a new browser tab. Your goal in designing a website is to get more visitors to convert. Letting an external link replace your website in the open tab will only decrease the chances of that happening. In some cases, internal links shouldn’t be opened in the same tab either. So, be sure to think about this the next time you add a link to your site.

6. Non-Traditional Scrolling

Although we’ve become accustomed to swipe gestures in mobile apps, horizontal and other non-traditional scrolling isn’t something that’s caught on with websites. While it’s definitely a design trend that helped many businesses set themselves apart from the pack a few years back, it’s just too gimmicky to use these days.

Robby Leonardi’s interactive resume website was one of the first I remember seeing and it was a brilliant way to capture attention — especially from those of us who grew up with Mario.

Robby Leonardi Side Scroll

But today? Any sort of non-traditional scrolling is just impractical and unnecessary. Even Robby’s current website has broken up this side-scrolling design and turned it into a vertical-scrolling page:

Robby Leonardi Vertical Scrolling

If you want to keep visitors engaged with your website in this day and age, don’t make them figure out how to scroll through your website. 

7. Keyword Meta Tag

For years (we’re talking nearly a decade), the keyword meta tag has not been supported by popular search engines. Despite knowing that the meta tag is useless, some designers still take the time to add it in. But why bother if it’s an extra step that gets you nothing in return?

8. Bad Pop-ups

Although pop-ups have undergone an evolution over the years — from the super-annoying pop-up ads that appeared outside the browser to the ever-present privacy notices we now see thanks to GDPR. While there is certainly some value in using pop-ups on a website, there are just too many kinds of bad pop-ups that need to disappear.

“Bad” pop-ups are ones that:

  • Show up too early on a website (like the second someone enters it);
  • Appear too many times during a single or return visit;
  • Send users to Facebook Messenger to collect their lead magnet and then bombard them with messages there;
  • Contain two buttons. Users that accept the offer, get a friendly message. Those that don’t are served up aggressive or shame-inducing language;
  • Repeat an offer that’s already designed into the website as a promotional banner.

9. Slow-Loading Websites

Mobile websites are notoriously difficult to optimize for speed when compared to their desktop counterparts. Unlike in years past where you could’ve rationalized away speed optimizations for mobile, today, it needs to be a priority with Google’s mobile-first indexing. PWAs are one way to give your mobile site an instant speed boost.

On a related note, by designing a PWA instead of a mobile-responsive website, you’d be able to cater to users with poor or no wi-fi connectivity — a segment that’s often been overlooked in web design.

10. Flash

I cannot believe I’m having to include this last one in 2019, but it seems there are still websites using the Flash Player.

Adobe has already told us that it would be cutting support for Flash next year. Web browsers are starting to remove their support for Flash players as well. And good riddance. Flash has long had issues with security flaws and usability issues.

If you’re trying to hold out on this (or your clients are dragging their feet), keep in mind that this is what visitors will see on many browsers in 2020 and beyond:

Kirkland Ellis Flash Player

Bottom line: If the creator of Flash is pulling support, you need to do the same for any of your websites that still use it.

 

Wrap-Up

It’s easy to get wrapped up in what the next big thing is in web design — AR tech, typography trends, color gradients, etc. But what about all of those trends and techniques that have become a habit over the years?

Rather than hold onto outdated design strategies that will only hinder your progress as a web designer and hold your clients’ websites back, start shedding these obsolete (or soon-to-be obsolete) practices now.



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3 Essential Design Trends, November 2019

There’s always a balance between visual design and functional design. Many of the “rules” of design as we know them exist to make visuals more functional.

That’s not exactly true of all of the techniques that are trending right now. But sometimes rules are made to be broken, right? You can take these trends in and decide whether they work for you or not. (There’s no right or wrong answer.)

Here’s what’s trending in design this month.

 

1. Obscured Text Elements

When it comes to text elements, the first thought is often readability. Not with this design trend.

More design projects are showcasing text elements that are partially obscured or hidden within other elements. And while these designs look pretty cool and are visually stunning, whether it actually works might be more debatable.

Each of the examples below uses this trend in a slightly different way.

Granyon Party uses oversized text in a layered design – background, text, animated illustration – where the words are hyphenated and in a layer behind design elements. While the obscured text is fairly easy to read, the addition of hyphenation and a monotone color palette makes it a little trickier.

party

Lafaurie Paris uses black text over an image layer with dark coloring, leaving little contrast between the two. This makes the main text element a challenge in terms of readability on an otherwise visually stunning design.

paris

Ride & Crash’s Paco the Judo Popcorn has a text layer that’s behind a semitransparent animated illustration. It’s not too difficult to read, but does make you stop and really think about the words on the screen. Use of space helps draw focus and make it a little easier to digest.

ride

With all of these examples, the design has to weigh big questions: Is the visual display worth losing readability? Will visitors understand and interact with the design?

 

2. Animated Spheres

Circles have always been a popular design element. They carry plenty of symbolism and meaning and can set the right tone for projects. Circles are also a little less rigid than hard-edged elements, such as buttons or calls to action.

Bigger spheres with animation are a solid way to draw users into design elements and focus the eye.

This trending element might be pure decoration or serve a more functional role.

2nd Street uses large spheres down the right margin as a secondary level of navigation. The middle circles have a link and hover animation to help signal this action. The bottom circle is a decoration with movement that helps draw the eye and encourage users to move the mouse in that direction, activating the other circular buttons.

2nd

Eslam Said uses a large sphere in the center of the screen with simple movement to create visual interest in the portfolio website. The simple design and movement are hard to stop looking at with a soothing feel to them.

said

World of Incentro uses multiple spheres with small movements and subtle animation as a decorative element. Further, the design uses a red, circular cursor to encourage engagement with the design. (If you click around this site a little, you’ll also find that it makes use of the first trend mentioned here, with different layers of obscured text.)

world

 

3. Large Left Margins

This might be my personal favorite trend, as a fan of asymmetrical balance. These designs use large left margins and areas of whitespace opposite a more visually full right side with an art element that fades off the screen.

They create a beautifully imbalanced balance with visual weight that draws the eye across this screen.

But this style isn’t for everyone, especially if you really like more symmetry. The challenge with this style is how elements stack on smaller mobile or vertical screens. The result isn’t often as stunning as the desktop counterpart.

Ervaxx uses a simple animation paired with large bold text. The large font size offsets the weight of the animated blob on the right.

ervaxx

Lifted Logic carries a hero text element across white (ahem, black) space into a video. The use of space really pulls the eye across the text into the image and back.

nerds

Cognito uses balanced weights with text and line illustrations across the screen. Space, here, makes the design feel a little less busy with a lot of elements to take in at once – navigation menu, headline, secondary text, two buttons, animated illustration, and a chat box.

cognito

 

Conclusion

It’s possible to love the look of a trendy design, but never use the technique because you don’t find that it works with your content or in a way that focuses on usability. And that’s ok. That’s the beauty of trends; they spark conversation and push all designers to think bigger and better.

Do you tend to be more of a visual or functional designer? Most of us have fairly distinct tendencies and it’s good food for thought.



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3 Essential Design Trends, October 2019

Welcome to our monthly roundup of the latest and greatest trends in the world of web design.

There’s a bonus trend in the roundup this month. (Four trends rather than three…but you’ll have to find it!)

Our more obvious collection of trends are visual elements – skinny vertical design blocks, a shift to tiny logos and branding rather than the oversized center logos that have been popular for a while, and dark and moody design schemes.

The extra trend is more interactive; you’ll have to click through the examples to find it. (Good luck!)

Here’s what’s trending in design this month.

 

Skinny Vertical Elements

This might be the coolest looking trend in the roundup: Skinny vertical elements that add a fresh visual aspect to website projects. The space they occupy and the fact that they look different are engaging.

The only trouble can be with the conversion away from desktop sizes to smaller screen resolutions, but all of the examples below seem to handle that well.

It’s also a technique that can be used for different purposes.

Front Pourch Brewing uses a skinny vertical bar with icons on the left side of the screen to highlight navigation elements. On mobile, the yellow bar collapses into a bottom of the screen nav with a hamburger menu. (Bottom of the screen menus are great for ease of navigating and tapping elements.)

pourch

Fila Explore uses skinny vertical navigation elements on both sides of the screen that change the hero image when you hover over them. Each word is also clickable to go to another page. The UX is the same on mobile, albeit with a different aspect ratio.

fila

Amsterdam Ferry Festival uses a skinny vertical element on the left side of the screen with scrolling text to highlight an important event message. The area is also clickable and takes you to the call for entries listing in the scrolling text. It’s a different way to provide a scroller that isn’t at the top of the homepage. The placement is nice because it doesn’t detract from the rest of the design and the visuals could work equally well if it were removed. The placement and UX is the same on mobile, although it is a little harder to actually click/tap.

filmfest

 

Tiny Logos and Branding

It’s best practice to place your logo, brand, or website name in the top left corner of the design. It’s not a new idea and one that users understand. (Just don’t forget to make that logo your home button.)

But there is a shift that these logos and brand marks are getting smaller and smaller.

Part of it might be due to responsive design and how many website we are looking at on phones or small devices. A big honkin’ logo will surely get in the way.

create good content first and worry about creating brand loyalty after

But more, it’s a practice of subtlety. If your content is good and what users expect when they come to your website, a large logo or brand name isn’t always contributing to the design or content.

Think about it for a minute. None of the examples below are household names, but they are all well-designed websites that serve a purpose for a specific user group. Aside from major companies such as Coca-Cola, Google, or Amazon that everyone is familiar with, the brand is often secondary to what’s on display. This applies to websites that deal in ecommerce or provide goods or services and sites that are purely informational or for entertainment.

A big homepage logo never got anyone excited; create good content first and worry about creating brand loyalty after users have already connected with what you have to offer.

edesign
nira
video

 

Dark and Moody

Dark and moody website themes have a sleek look and aura of mystery that seems to instantly jump out. This trend really pops right now because light and white minimalism or bright, bold color palettes have been so dominant.

It makes dark themes stand out even more.

Each of these examples does it in a similar, but different way.

Warped Cigars uses a black and white theme with bold, beautiful typography. Images lack color and also have a bit of a black overlay to give more room to text elements and contribute to readability.

warped

Vandal uses a combination of intriguing images in dark lighting. Each looks like it was taken in a dark room. Images and a dark scheme are magnified with gold accents, lettering, and lines that create a regal feel of elegance and mystery.

vandal

Hype uses a fairly traditional dark scheme with a slider of images with a dark overlay for highlight text elements. Images are both color and black and white as the slider almost allows the dark, moody scheme to flip for a moment (depending on the image) and draw you back in for another glance. The image selections here also contribute to the moody feel of the website project.

hype

 

Conclusion

If you clicked through the examples above you might have uncovered another trend. There’s a growing number of websites using oversized cursor circles that help user discover interactive elements. Several of these examples use them and it’s starting to show up on all kinds of websites.

What you see is often a large circle that moves with the mouse on the screen. It might activate hover states of other elements or help you find fun divots to explore. And now that you are aware of this little goodie, take note of how often you are finding it when you browse the web.



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3 Essential Design Trends, September 2019

Every month we present a roundup of the trends we expect to see in the weeks ahead.

This month’s collection of design trends focuses on a bit of a slow burn – design techniques that appeal to millennials (maybe) and Generation Z.

Gen-Zers are those born between 1997 and 2012, meaning part of this generation is in grade school. This generation is impacting design trends already because they are the most digital savvy generation yet. And they start using digital tools at even younger ages, making it no surprise that they have a significant influence on website design.

Here’s what’s trending in design this month.

 

1. Youthful Appeal

Content and design with a more youthful appeal is trending.

It’s a little complicated to fully describe; but when you see it, you’ll probably know it. These projects are a little more bold in color, imagery, and voice. Remember all the light blue that dominated the website design landscape for so long? You won’t find it here. Color palettes are meant to grab your attention and make you feel something.

The overall imagery features plenty of action, in the form of actual animation or video or shapes and design elements that infer motion and activity. The common theme is that the design is busier, lighter, and incredibly active. Three examples that do it in quite different ways:

  • Gonzo Media features fast-moving video with young people and bright colors for data points. The language is direct and they want you to understand youth feel and marketing (it’s part of their brand).
  • The gamification of Wimbledon by Ralph Lauren pulls together two things that aren’t typically connected with “youth” in a new way that’s fun and inviting; the game brings a fresh idea to something that spans generations visually and interactively.
  • Preventure uses color and young faces again to get a message across. What’s interesting here is that while the content is about teens, it’s targeted at their parents and caretakers. The design has a youthful appeal that’s used to speak another generation; that shows the power and influence of this trend overall.
swatch
swatch
swatch

 

2. TikTok Aesthetic

The New York Times claimed that TikTok is “Rewriting the World” earlier this year. The social platform which features short videos is super popular (and growing) and features a style that’s a bit harsh, and even brutalist by design.

The TikTok style features short video clips, often with filters or glitchy effects. It has a feel that’s more instant and almost oddly organic. It’s not polished and things that look like (or actually are) mistakes are just par for the course.

How does this turn into a design trend?

We’ve seen a resurgence in brutalism overall, but what you get from this social platform is a less professional look to projects with more risk-taking when it comes to design style and effects. Projects have a look that says, “I just did this real quick, and it’s awesome anyway.”

Think of the style as not quite brutal and somewhat arrogant. It’s bold, fresh and works.

These projects are somewhat disruptive from what we’re used to seeing and draw attention. That’s the whole goal for most web projects and here it works in a number of different ways.

  • Lyst uses the glitchy video effect that’s dominant on TikTok.
  • 100 Everyday has a more static display with a brutalist style and interesting use of space.
  • 9 Elements is more polished, but also with glitchy effects on a light animation and plenty of high design.
swatch
swatch
swatch

 

3. Futuristic Feel

Nothing says “next generation” like a futuristic style design. More of these projects are popping up thanks to the influence of virtual reality and AI themes.

What’s especially neat about these projects is that everyone’s vision of futuristic is a little bit different. The examples below show that with both light and dark themes and imagery that feels realistic or totally unreal.

The best part of a futuristic design theme is no one really knows what the next thing looks like, so it’s all imagination. That can make these design concepts interesting and intimidating to tackle.

Common design themes when it comes to future-feel right now include bright color, animation, robotic imagery, lack of photos, and code themes. You might also find design elements that fade into the horizon, something you can see in all three examples below with lines or design elements that almost seem to go forever.

swatch
swatch
swatch

 

Conclusion

The best part of trends that are more of a long game is that more of these projects will pop up and each one will evolve these concepts a little more. It’ll be fun to look at these ideas again in six months or a year and see how they have changed.

You are probably already starting to feel pressure in client proposals to design for a more Gen-Z audience. And it’s doable without going too over the top. Incorporate some of these ideas to find just the right look and feel for projects in the pipeline. Don’t be afraid to look at trends outside of website design to influence your work. (That’s where many of these ideas started.)



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For the Latest in Tech Trends, Follow MakeUseOf’s IFA Coverage (Sep 4-8)

IFA is Europe’s equivalent to CES in Las Vegas. MakeUseOf will report from the Berlin-based consumer electronics show from September 4 to 8. You can expect to see new TVs, laptops, headphones, smartphones, drones, and smart home products.

What Is IFA?

Originally launched in Berlin, Germany in 1924, IFA (Internationale Funkausstellung; international radio exhibit) is one of the world’s first technology exhibitions and Europe’s biggest trade show today. Every year, IFA presents the latest consumer technology, including product launches from leading electronics brands.

Unlike CES, IFA is open to the public. You’ll see a diverse audience roaming the show floors. Like other exhibitions, IFA forbids the sale of products during the show. It’s a family friendly technology show with a fair-like atmosphere. And it’s settled in Germany’s political and cultural capital.

If you’ve always wanted to attend CES but never got in, give IFA a shot.

What Will MakeUseOf Cover at IFA?

This year, MakeUseOf is sending James Bruce, Ian Buckley, Joe Coburn, James Frew, Tina Sieber, and Kannon Yamada to report from IFA. As members of the press, we get early access to the convention and will start reporting on September 4.

You can expect us to visit and report from the following exhibitions:

  • Home & Entertainment Electronics
    Traditionally, LG Electronics, Samsung, and Sony occupy entire halls at IFA, and we’ll be sure to pay them a visit.
  • Audio Entertainment
    The audio brands exhibiting at IFA include Audio-Technica, Pioneer, and Sennheiser, to name a few. Bose is not represented, this year.
  • My Media
    The halls dedicated to media will include booths of Acer, Asus, DJI, Lenovo, Logitech, Microsoft, and Razer.
  • Communication
    Amongst a selection of lesser known European companies, we’ll definitely check out Huawei.
  • IFA NEXT
    This is IFA’s segment for innovative products and start-ups. We’ll explore the latest robots, drones, and other novelties.
  • Home Appliances
    We don’t typically cover white goods at MakeUseOf, but this year we’ll explore how home appliances are tying into smart home systems.

One brand consistently skipping shows like CES and IFA is Apple. While they’re not exhibiting, we expect their omnipresence, along with Google and Amazon (Alexa).

Apart from the brands mentioned above, we’ll keep our ears open and our eyes peeled for exciting announcements, puzzling features, and cool gadgets. Bookmark this article or our IFA coverage page and check back between September 4 to 8 to see the best new products we’ve discovered at IFA.



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6 significant new Chromebook hardware trends

We talk a lot about Chrome OS upgrades and how the never-ending stream of new software features can improve your Chromebook experience, but some pretty interesting hardware enhancements are also on the way.

Now, you know me: The idea of devices getting thinner, screens getting sharper, and bezels getting smaller doesn’t exactly bowl me over. All that stuff is fine, sure, but it’s also just the expected annual progression and nothing worth discussing in any great detail.

These trends, however, are different. They represent genuine changes to what Chromebooks represent and what sorts of tasks they’re able to accomplish. And with all of them either available now or openly under development, they’re well worth keeping in mind as you think ahead to your next Chromebook purchase.

Here are the trends I’m watching:

1. Expanded keyboards

Crazy as it may seem, up until this year, Chromebooks with full-sized keyboards — including the numpad to the right of the letters — haven’t existed.

Now, Chrome OS isn’t unusual in this regard. The vast majority of Windows laptops lack numpads, too, and all of Apple’s Macbooks have keyboards that are free from that feature. (The Macbooks also have keyboards that are free from basic typing functionality, but — well, that’s a whole other story.)

Still, especially in the business world, there are times when a physical numpad can be incredibly helpful. And finally, eight years and countless devices into their existence, Chromebooks are ready to offer that option.

The first numpad-packing Chromebooks arrived earlier this year with the HP Chromebook 15 and the Acer Chromebook 715 devices, and more systems following that pattern seem all but certain to follow.

Chromebook Numpad Acer

The Acer Chromebook 715

And you know what? A numpad may or may not be a necessity for you, but there’s no question that seeing it show up as a choice within Chrome OS expands the ecosystem’s diversity and increases its ability to be taken seriously as a business-class platform.

2. Rugged devices

Rugged Chromebooks are nothing new, but generally speaking, the more durable Chrome OS devices are designed for classroom use and abuse — not more professional purposes. There’s a real demand out there for rugged business-caliber hardware, too, though, particularly on the tablet front (think about all the field workers you see with tablets in their hands…). If Chrome OS is gonna grow into its role as the platform of the new “Android tablet,” that’s an area it has to address.

And from the looks of it, that may happen sooner than later: An enterprise hardware company called AOPEN has revealed an upcoming “Chromebook Commercial Tab” that’s designed with heavy-duty field work in mind. I mean, just look at this thing:

AOPEN Rugged Chromebook AOPEN

The AOPEN Chromebook Commercial Tab

The device has an integrated Wacom stylus and a screen that’s rated “9H” in a hardness scale (yes, there is apparently a hardness scale; do with that what you will). This clearly isn’t a computer most of us are going to need, but it’s not hard — certainly not “9H”-level hard — to see the void it’ll fill in the Chrome OS ecosystem and the way it could expand the roles the Chromebook tablet’s able to fill.

3. Wireless charging — from two perspectives

This next one’s a bit of a double-whammy: First, on the Chromebook tablet front, at least a couple of devices are under development with support for wireless charging — meaning you could set the tablet on a regular wireless charging pad and let it power up that way. Nothing revolutionary, by any means, but again, a sensible addition to the platform that’s in line with its tablet-role-filling ambitions.

Perhaps the more interesting part is a potential longer-term development that could turn Chromebooks themselves into wireless charging pads — so you could simply set your phone down on your Chromebook’s keyboard area to charge it while you work. How handy would that be?

Google filed a patent related to that four years ago, so with any luck, we’ll see it come to the surface one of these days.

4. Fingerprint sensors

Biometric security is quickly becoming table stakes in mobile tech, and Chromebooks are slowly but surely catching up with the trend. Google’s Pixel Slate (which, remember, won’t be getting a second-gen follow-up) brought the first fingerprint sensor into the Chrome OS realm, and now, we’re starting to see some more business-oriented devices following suit.

Acer’s aforementioned Chromebook 715 along with its lower-end Chromebook 714 sibling were the first to bring fingerprint sensors right onto the Chromebook keyboard — an all-too-sensible spot for on-the-fly authentication.

Chromebook Fingerprint Sensor Acer

The Acer Chromebook 714

Other keyboard-sensor-packing systems are known to be under development, and we’ll almost certainly see even more such implementations over time.

5. Face unlock

If flopping your phalange down for a second seems like way too much work, don’t worry: Signs suggest Google’s cookin’ up a face unlock system for Chrome OS to go along with its new Project Soli radar system for the Pixel 4.

The specifics of how exactly the system will work are still sparse, but plainly visible progress in the open-source Chrome OS code references ongoing efforts on a new hardware-dependent “Face Detection unit” that could appear in multiple upcoming devices. It’s entirely possible specific camera hardware would be needed in addition to certain under-the-hood elements, but it sure seems like we should be seeing something on this front before long.

6. Built-in mobile connectivity

Last but not least is a Chromebook hardware feature we’ve been talking about for well over a year now — but after a longer-than-expected lull, it’s looking more and more like the era of the always-connected Chromebook could actually be poised for its comeback.

An apparent Dell device under testing appears to have built-in LTE connectivity, as my eagle-eyed pal Kevin Tofel of About Chromebooks recently observed. And Google itself has been hammering away at the Chrome OS code to help improve its support for devices with built-in data connections, as the crew from Chrome Unboxed uncovered — something that further suggests this is becoming a serious focus for the future.

Chromebooks started out with built-in data connections as a core feature and distinguishing element, as you may recall, but the feature eventually faded away and became more of a rare exception than a defining rule. While most of us certainly don’t need built-in connectivity on a Chromebook these days, though, it really can be a welcome added convenience for on-the-go productivity. It allows you to simply open up your laptop’s lid and start working online, without any extra thought or effort, and it prevents you from having to drain your phone’s battery by relying on it as a mobile hotspot.

Plus, if Google were to use Google Fi to its advantage — and signs suggest it’s at the very least been thinking about that — well, that could open up some pretty interesting possibilities for future Pixelbook products, to say the least.

All considered, one thing’s for sure: Between the ongoing march of software progress and the varying levels of hardware developments, the future here in the land o’ Chrome OS is looking anything but uneventful.

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[Android Intelligence videos at Computerworld]

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.



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3 Essential Design Trends, August 2019

Every month we present a roundup of the trends we expect to see in the weeks ahead.

Each of the design trends we are spotting this month have to deal with over-the-top techniques. It’s interesting because these big effects don’t always pop on the radar of what’s trending, but these concepts almost begged to be featured with a large number of projects showcasing these design elements.

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Create your own professional website with Wix.com

This type of trend is interested because designers either love them or hate them. Take a look and see if these are concepts you’ll use. Here’s what’s trending in design this month.

 

Exaggerated White Space

So much white space.

These websites feature exaggerated amounts of whitespace and strong minimal themes with very little color or design ornamentation. And if you are like me, you can’t stop looking at them.

How does a design with so little visual information work?

The design trick here is disruption. If you see one of these designs, they are vastly different than almost any other site you are visiting. That makes you stop, and look, and think about what you are seeing. With the right content it can be quite effective.

While each of the designs here use exaggerated amounts of white space and practically no color, they don’t all look the same and use complementary effects to get a message across.

VS+Company uses a subtle animation with text blocks that appear next to the oversized “POST” and “MGMT” lines. The text provides additional content and information about the website and uses a black color that makes it easy to read.

swatch

Lundqvist & Dallyn asks a question to pique user interest. The image on the home screen and throughout the scroll feature hover animations that encourage clicks.

swatch

Jillian Hobbs uses white space to help users hone in on the words – in this case project names – to interact with. It’s a risky concept for a design portfolio, but it did encourage clicking through to pages with the same visual pattern, but featuring images and color.

swatch

 

Sharp Edges and Lines

While brutalism has never fully taken off as a widespread design trend, it is influencing designers. Sharp edges and lines are one way that we’re seeing it manifest.

Most recently, projects have had a softer feel with gradient coloring, real images or illustrations, and softer shapes. The projects below feature more hard edges, thick lines and square shapes. These shapes can be paired with different elements to establish a feel. The result is a design trend that’s a little harder, stronger, and harsh. It almost demands that you look at it.

Future London Academy uses bold yellow and black to create the most brutalist feel of the collection. Even the typography has an edge to it.

swatch

Purple Rock Scissors has an animated twitch to the hard lines on its homepage, which creates a feeling of unease for users. Why is everything twitching and moving in this way? It almost forces you to scroll. All of the video clips on the site use the same effect, which feels a lot like what we are seeing with the TikTok social network.

swatch

The Unshift portfolio focuses on shapes and animation with almost no color to draw users in. The moving cube is intriguing and enough to generate interest.

swatch

 

Screen-Centered Headlines

Hero headlines aren’t a new trend at all. But have you noticed a shift in the placements of the big text on homepages?

It’s vertically and horizontally centered.

The placement makes sense when you think about it. The eye will go right to the middle of the screen and then spread out to other elements. But do you love the super symmetrical feel?

The other benefit to this design technique is for the mobile versions of websites. It fits just a nicely on a mobile screen as desktop. Conversely if the text is positioned strong to the left or right, it often has to be moved when you shift from a more horizontal to vertical screen orientation.

This is one of those neat trends that’s heavily influenced by technology and how we use and interact with devices online.

The only thing to be aware of with a trend like this is that while perfect symmetry is harmonious and visually appealing it might not work with all backgrounds or imagery. It can also start to seem somewhat boring if everyone does it.

Finally, think about the length of words and messaging. With too many characters this style can feel heavy and overwhelming and works best with short blocks of text, such as each of the featured examples below.

swatch
swatch
swatch

 

Conclusion

When it comes to over-the-top design ideas, what works for you, do you prefer color, space, or typography? While you can see some influences of these trends on each other, what makes them work is that the focus is on one strong design element.

Love these ideas or hate them, each project above has a design style that encourages users to take a second look and consider engaging with the design.



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3 Essential Design Trends, July 2019

Every month we post a roundup of the three biggest trends that we see on the web. Sometimes they’re old favorites that are experiencing a renaissance, sometimes they’re new ideas that are just building up momentum.

This month we’re taking a close look at above-the-scroll presentation. It’s the first thing you see, and the first impression a user has when they type in your URL. So, it’s a logical place to spot trends in website design.

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Create your own professional website with Wix.com

Here’s what’s trending in design this month.

 

1. Text That’s Almost Hard to Read

With so much focus on readability and accessibility, this trend might be a little surprising. Designers are experimenting with hero text elements that are difficult to read.

It’s not that the text elements are unreadable; you just have to stop and think about them for a minute.

Why would this technique work? Text in these instances is more of an artistic element, and while the words have meaning, they draw our attention because of visual components. Text is designed to make you look longer on purpose.

Each of the examples below does this in a slightly different way.

MetaView uses a split screen design with text elements that change color on the split screen. On the left, color is muted and more transparent while it is bolder and lacks transparency on the right. The words are readable but you definitely need a few extra seconds to process them.

meta

Perfection includes two layers of text. An oversized foreground layer makes you think about the letters that are missing from the screen to fill in the words. A pale, soft background layer is behind it and the words are turned 90 degrees, also making you look closely to understand the message.

perfection

Next Creative Co. mixes an outline font into the mix with animation and a gradient stroke border. While this might be the least difficult to read element of this set of examples, it shows distinctly how a design like this forces you to slow down to read. Your brain processes “Let’s make it” rather quickly, and almost takes the full duration of the animation to understand the final word in the phrase.

next

 

2. In Your Face Faces

It’s hard to find a more immediate way to connect with a user than with a striking image. Using a face to convey emotion creates an even more distinct connection.

The in-your-face-faces design trend does that with stunning close-up images of people. The visuals create an immediate focal point and impact. The user feels something right away before even beginning to process the words or other information on the screen.

What’s nice about this trend is that it is designed to connect users to content.

With each of the examples below, you might find it hard to look away. You look first at the face on the screen and with something like the Coulee Creative design, you may even smile a little. It piques curiosity. You start to scan the rest of the design to find out what it is about.

coulee

And this trend has you. It’s easy to get engulfed in a design with such a strong, striking visual from the start. Each of these examples has an extra element as well, with animation that keeps adding interest to the faces.

Coulee Creative includes multiple people making a variety of faces, Muax has a scroller of images (although the pictured image is the most in your face), and Roobinium uses a glitchy animation as the character turns to look directly at the user.

muax
roob

 

3. All the Text to the Left

For a while, the trend in hero headers was to use large text in the middle of the screen. You’ll still see a lot of that in designs. (It’s one of those concepts that never gets old.) What is beginning to gain steam is a more one-sided layout with all the text on the left side of the screen, while imagery and graphics are on the right. It’s tempting to call it left-aligned, but it’s more than that.

This layout creates a different type of symmetry when appropriately weighted. The elements on the left and right sides of the screen need to feel equal in weight so that the eye travels across the information well.

Responsive design has really powered this trend. (Visit the mobile versions of the Creact and Few designs, below, to see it in action.)

creact
few

Text and image elements stack on smaller screens. The left-most element – here text – floats to the top of the design on small screens. This provides excellent display for messaging above the scroll on a small device while maintaining the consistent look and design that desktop users experience.

What really makes all this left-hand text work is that it’s not flat. Each of the websites uses stunning typography and color to make the most of what could easily be a boring display.

drawmote

 

Conclusion

Just because something is trending doesn’t always mean that the design is “good.” It doesn’t mean that it’s bad either. Trending designs just show new techniques and visual elements that are popping up more regularly.

It can be fun to go back a few months and look at trending elements and see if the trend has grown of fizzled. Of the ones above, I expect the “in your face faces” to stick around for a while. This image style is so impactful.



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3 Essential Design Trends, June 2019

We’re heading into the Summer season where traditionally everyone gets a little more lax about life. Even the website designs seem lighter with more whitespace and simple designs.

That translates into a few trending elements as well. We’re seeing plenty of navigation elements with a new twist, circles and perfectly symmetrical grids seem to be making a comeback. Here’s what’s trending in design this month.

 

1. White Nav on a Color Background

Aside from the hamburger menu, when was the last time we really thought about trends in website navigation? This small part of the design is a necessity but not often the primary concern in many projects. People don’t often get excited about a row of links.

But this trend is exciting. Designers are mixing up the standard navigation menu with a light background and dark text in favor of a reverse style design. And it’s quite nice.

Each of the designs below features navigation elements in a dark color container background. Camo uses a more oversized background element that extends in to the main canvas as well for a two-tone hero header.

What’s cool about this style is color actually brings focus to the design in a different way. First, the eye is drawn to the large white space that is the main part of the design. Then, they eye moves to the colorful area and scans navigational elements.

This is a highly usable pattern because navigation elements can be a clue for users as to what the website is about. This row of small words can help someone decide if they want to stick around and learn more or bounce.

Color, in this trend, provides an opportunity for them to linger for just a few seconds longer and potentially explore more of the website design.

classtag
design-group
camo

 

2. Circles

Circles in website design are one of those trends that seems to roar in and fade… and repeat. This shape seems to dominate design for a while and then vanish quickly.

There’s no real reason for this phenomenon — maybe it is true of most design trends — but it seems most obvious with circles. Remember how obsessed design projects were with them as Material Design was really heating up?

The best thing about using circles in design is that it’s a trend that doesn’t rely on other trends. Use circles for almost any part of the design, from navigational elements to a divot to catch attention to an animated display. There’s really no set of rules for using this shape effectively.

Circles work because of the meanings associated with them. Because circles don’t have an identifiable beginning or end, they seem to move, like a wheel. The shape is sometimes seen as feminine, and is culturally associated with love, energy, and power. You can almost see these things in each of the project below.

Bimble uses a big colorful circle to draw attention. You might note further use of circles in the product packaging. It’s pink with a feminine association and the description relates to harmony (relaxation).

bimble

Raquel Acon’s website uses multiple circles to imply movement (or change as it may be from a personal coach) as well as harmony.

acon

Major Tom uses circles in motion, creating a distinct and powerful energy with animation and a stark color palette.

major-tom

 

3. Perfect Grids

Projects seem to be packed with all kinds of grids these days. And every one seems to have a slightly different take on the same idea. This trend blows up some of that and goes back to a more basic symmetrical stacked grid to showcase multiple elements.

While more recent trends have used grids that featured masonry styles or loose representations or overlapping elements, these more perfect grids are balanced and harmonious.

While there’s nothing flashy about this trend, it is perfect for blocks of content that are hard to organize or connect visually. That’s why this style of grid works great for portfolio sites.

But it’s not just for portfolios. Here, there’s portfolio, product and payment gateway websites. Each uses the same concept in different ways.

Gabriel Alves uses a mix of still and moving images to showcase projects in an almost square grid. Each element features a hover overlay with additional information.

portfolio

Liebe Quark’s full screen grid features colorful mixes of images and text, but nothing is actually clickable. It’s like a giant picture, although it you watch closely elements behave independently with touches of animation.

liebe

Payvision uses a more vertical photo grid to highlight team members. The grid isn’t a full screen option like the other examples, rather it uses a grid in the center as a focal point.

payvision

The one thing all of these grids have in common is that elements are equally weighted in terms of color and depth on the screen. Each grid element fills its own space and touches corresponding elements without whitespace in between.

These grids work as a complete unit to provide a distinct visual entry point to the design.

 

Conclusion

My favorite trend in this collection this month is probably the use of circles. This simple shape has so much meaning and can be used in so many different ways. (You might not even notice the circles if you aren’t directly looking for them.) This shape is so usable and practical, I am surprised we don’t see even more of it.



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