Bringing back the character to web design

By Agne Lund |

The trends in web design come and go to be rediscovered later, just as they do in the fashion sphere. For a long period of time the web design has moved towards more minimalism, removing the personality and the character that makes a website unique. With the rise of popularity among frameworks such as Foundation and Bootstrap suddenly websites began to look all the same. Flat icons and stock imagery only add fuel to the situation.

 

There are not many who miss the graphically elaborate but not-so-user-friendly Flash sites or even the good old times when animated gifs of flames and spinning skulls or dancing kittens always helped to bring an average site to a new level of awesomeness. Yet, the transition to making a website a unique artwork again has already begun and will definitely continue in year 2017.

 
Bootstrap
 
The first to go were generic stock photos. We all have seen the photos of well lit offices, filled with models dressed as office workes, smiling around that roundtable, anonymous hands shaking, random graphs on whiteboard. While they apply to the concept, they lack the connection with real life and originality. It is an investment to hire a photographer to capture the atmosphere of your company and use that instead of over used stock photos. Fortunately this is something that people already have begun to understand.

 

Great UX and high usability of the interface will be a key in 2017, quite possibly duelling for focus along with the overall aesthetics. Designers will get the chance to expand their horizon to be more bold and experimental with the layout and break out of that classic Bootstrap setup. This could mean loosening up the boxiness of the current web design or working out more complex grid systems. Both are supported by the fact that flexbox is well supported in all modern browsers.

 

In the big process of making websites as clean and minimalistic as possible, websites often lost their color and became black and white. The return of the bold and bright colors will continue in 2017 with everything becoming more bright and lively again.

 
Clean web design
 

What intrigues the most is the tendencies taking place in the use of iconography and illustrations on websites. With the Material design and its icons conquering a spot in designers’ hearts, the old flat design has already begun its transformation to what some called Flat 2.0 – still simplified but with much more subtle details, textures or even becoming 3-dimensional again. Being 3-dimensional can mean using just a little bit of depth and perspective but the growing popularity of using the isometric view of iconography and illustrations is something to keep an eye one. Isometric style is actually another blast from the past – something everyone remembers from the old pixel art games. Think SimCity2000, Super Mario RPG, Baldur’s Gate, Q*Bert. When combining two such good things the end result can only be a visual delight.

Using the word „animated GIF“ in the context of webdesign brings shudders of fear to everyone who remember the websites of the 90s. To the horror of us all, they are returning powerfully in 2017. Fortunately they will return as the classier version of their 90s anchestors and will take the role of being a nice eye candy and a pleasant surprise among regular static content. Gif won’t be the only form of animation on 2017 websites. This year the illustrated parts of the website might take the animation even further and combine together the new and improved support of SVG graphics and somewhat fading trend of parallax animations. Parallax proved to be somewhat annoying when used on text sections and boxy layouts and isn’t so widely used anymore. However using parallax on decorative parts of the websites isn’t as intrusive as it would be on content and can push a website to another level.

 

While it might not happen in 2017, the crispy clean vector graphics might be losing their popularity with the oncoming trend of everything hand drawn, sketched and painted. As mentioned in the beginning, trends often return to their roots. And the roots of illustration go back to traditional media – pencils, markers, ink, watercolors etc. Computer generated graphics have perfect straight lines, smooth color fills, exact symmetry but it’s the little flaws that give an illustration its human touch and personality. The style of the illustrations used on web sites will be loosening up further this year. The artist’s personal style will be more reflected in the illustrations used on websites.

 

As with stock photos losing their popularity and clients valuing something that’s made specially for their company and isn’t overused by thousands of other companies, same is happening with illustrations as well. Stock sites such as iStockphotos and Shutterstock are full of trendy illustrations. They have been created by talented artists and noticed by many. Therefore when buying a bestseller stock illustration, chances are that you will stumble over the very same illustration on your competitor’s website.

 

Many stock sites have opened a studio part where artists selling their work as stock imagery can also promote and sell their skills to create one of a kind artwork for the more demanding clients.
Having many people from around the world working on one or another aspect of the website’s design can be challenging. Therefore it can prove to be much easier communicationwise to find a local illustrator. Many web development companies, such as Opus Online, have their in-house illustration competence which is the best option for the client. Syncing the overall design and specific illustration ideas with a single team has proven to be a smooth and seamless process.

 
Web design agency
 

When deciding to use illustrations on you website to liven it up, it is crucial to follow the same style and graphical language throughout the entire website and make it part of your brand. If done correctly, illustrations can bind different parts of the website together, offering anchor points for the visitor on every page. Often the connecting element in illustrations is a mascot or a character, like the Opus Owl. Illustrations do not have to be limited to just header images and icons. They can be found on pages with extensive lengths of text, blog posts, infographics and they can often find their way out of the web and into print materials as well. This isn’t something that should be done all at once. Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, bringing illustrations to your website and brand can be an organic process done step by step. Therefore it’s important for the client to create a strong and trusting partnership with their illustrator. It will be something that lasts for years.

 

With those thoughts it is safe to say that the team at Opus introducing illustration more and more to the clients continues to be our goal. We believe that every website should have a unique touch to it – one of a kind artwork with its personality and character. Tailor-made illustrations are the key to doing that.

 

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