2016 Design Outlook: Our Predictions

January 20, 2016
By Damian Jolley

In the words of Karl Lagerfeld, “Trendy is the last stage before tacky”.  While it’s important to be current, designers should be wary of jumping on every passing fad.

At Forge and Smith we strive to create work that transcends trends. While we always keep a finger on the pulse of web technology, we know that designs need longevity. Our goal is to always create purpose-built sites tailored to business goals, rather than whatever is popular that month. Our web designs are future-friendly, responsive, and adaptive.

Here is our outlook for 2016, and how technology, design, and of course trends, will influence our clients and our work.


Gradients are back! One of my first tweets this year was an article about their revival. I love a sweet gradient. Let’s be clear though: gradients and I were never on a ‘break’. They just happen to be trending right now.

See how subtle gradients came into FEV Tutor’s site design in our case study.

Parallax and scroll effects

Thankfully last year saw a strong decline in requests for parallax effects and scroll hijacking – and this year we hope to see even less. Although they may look cool, users don’t want their visual exploration hijacked. They are an annoyance and add nothing to the experience.

We are happy to see the end of parallax and scroll hijacking.

Design patterns

2014 was all about flat design, 2015 was all about material design. It looks like this year is going to be about design patternsHere at Forge and Smith we’ve been utilizing responsive web design patterns for quite some time. They inform our UX and content strategy choices, but they are also baked into our foundational framework (codenamed Anvil) that forms a basis for all custom sites we build.

“Non-stock” stock imagery

It’s pretty clear how much I love stock photography (here, here and here). It’s the next medium edging towards the level of overplay of a Taylor Swift song: “non-stock” photography. It’s stock photography that doesn’t look too stock-like… but it is. Think open plan workspaces, minimalistic designer desks, an overall hipster feel (Hootsuite’s twitter feed will provide ample examples).

I can’t claim I’m not guilty of this one myself. It is a hard one to avoid. But when faced with the choice of standard stock photography or “non stock” style, I choose what I feel is the lesser of two evils.

Time to shake it off – nothing beats custom photography. Creativity and uniqueness will always provide larger value over any trend. We’re excited to have some clients already investing in quality photography this year. Keep your eyes on our Case Studies to see the results.

Sticky navs

This is one trend that seems to have, well, stuck. These are navigation bars that remain at the top of the page as you scroll — we generally recommend against these. Sticky navigation bars reduce the amount of valuable content real estate on your site — especially on smaller screens and devices. Users know (and expect) navigation to be at the top and in the footer of a page – and they will go there to find it when they need it.

Similarly, I’m not a fan of those pesky install this app banners that seem to appear on every single website that has it’s own app. Google has announced that they’ll be penalizing websites that have them. Just like mobile-geddon in 2015, Google’s word is law on the web. Take heed, or pay the SEO price.

Ad Blocking

Ad blocking has been a hot topic in the last few months. Apple has opened the gates and now allows ad blockers on the iOS App Store.

We already knew that banner ads were ineffective; users are more likely to climb Mt Everest than click on a banner ad – that is fact. And 90% of those clicks are by mistake. It just goes to show that your best online marketing investment is in quality content and a crafted web experience.

We have some exciting projects in the pipeline, we can’t wait for you to see! Keep your eye on our web design case studies and Twitter for all the latest launch news.

Damian Jolley

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