Seven design trends for startups in 2011

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Adhering to good design principles is one of the fundamental tenets of success for any startup and the UX associated with the Beatles’ initial launch on iTunes should give you a fair indication of what to look forward to in the foreseeable future. Following the current trend, while 2010 may have been the breeding ground for the idea that simpler web design is better, 2011 takes it one step forward by boldly declaring: Keep it simple, unique and creative.

Long gone are the days when websites were purely consumer driven and used to drive revenue off advertising and over-emphasize on your brand.

Gone too are the days when the mobile internet meant adapting and coding specialised sites to suit your device’s tedious, slow browser. These days, smartphones are the order of the day and with devices such as the iPhone and iPad, businesses and startups are actively engaging design trends across all of these mediums.

Here are a few trends currently taking place in the world of web design:

  1. Upsize your logos
    Splash pages used to be popular. So were man-bags and both of these are generally frowned upon today. You can easily achieve the effect of a splash page by over-sizing your site logo on an oversized header. As a result of this, half of your screen may be occupied primarily by your logo but don’t be deterred: Users prefer scrolling to clicking and a bold logo that conveys a relevant message will almost always ensure a better overall UX.
  2. Follow the minimalism mantra
    Minimalist themes have been in place for a while already with social networking giants Facebook and Twitter influencing the mainstream web owners with their “less-is-more” approach. And the majority of tech and media sites have followed suit by making good use of whitespace and removing the clutter from the page design. Having the old right-nav, left-nav, and header-footer approach has long been a thing of the past. Website owners aim to broadcast their messages in such a way that it doesn’t distract the user.

    Yet, the “excessive use of whitespace” trend is also being rebooted for the very simple reason that it costs money. Blank space can easily be utilised for banners and advertising. The challenge, come 2011, will be to make use of all the extra whitespace but still maintain the minimalistic feel.

  3. Kill the Flash
    No, not the scarlet and gold striped super-speeder hero from the DC universe; I’m talking about the software associated with building rich interaction applications for showcasing your site. Despite its vast set of extendable functionality such as video and audio support, animations and interactive gaming, Flash is losing its influence within emerging start-ups. The preferred design strategy is one that thrives off accessibility. And this is where Flash fails: it simply isn’t supported on most mobile devices and the few that do offer support are often beset with bugs.

    Javascript, being far more stable and with fewer bugs, along with CSS3 and HTML5 has become the preferred medium offering a variety of animation renderers but within the ethical design margin. Key point? Lose the “flashy” animation.

  4. Tapdance towards typography
    Arguably one of the more important trends to follow, namely choosing the right typography for your site, is also the most tricky. Designers are required to explore, gather trends and ideas and have an almost zen-like approach to matching font sizes and moulding them to suit your purposes. Typography is the main deciding factor for influencing a visitor to your site. Get it right and your site is off to a good start. Get it wrong and you will have a rough time trying to get users to reconsider. These days there are a number of services offering font design according to trends with nominal costs and very often free.
  5. Watch this interesting video on Typography by students at the Vancouver Film School:

  6. Get Social Savvy
    Currently most, if not all, blogs and content sites allow for integration with your social media normally with the use of icons, buttons or links such as the Facebook Like button, the Tweetmeme icon, Tweet button, Digg, Reddit and more. Having users connect with their social media readers and subscribers is commonplace and a standard element in templates today. It is unlikely that this trend will change anytime soon, so if you haven’t yet made provision for SM integration in your design, well, get to it!
  7. Go mobi
    Make sure your site is accessible via mobile. Popular blogging platforms such as WordPress already offer plugins which allow for seamless conversion when browsing from the small screen and there are thousands of templates, tools and services adopted specifically for this platform, making optimising your site for mobile easier than ever. With smartphone browsers becoming, well, smarter, the number of users browsing online content via mobile has increased significantly in the past year. It is well worth investing the time and effort in designing your site for the mobile masses.
  8. Be mad about magazine
    Magazine layout designs, while made for devices such as the iPad and Kindle, have now found their way onto the web as well. The sleek glossy appeal hits the right notes with bold typefaces, lots of subheadings, images, interesting articles and quotations making it more inviting for users to want to read as opposed to browsing and clicking aimlessly.
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