In the current age clean and simple is still greatly favoured by web designers, but little by little people are rediscovering the power of colour and images. Well designed websites today are rich with colours, often beautifully balanced into a true piece of branding rather than just mushing as much together as possible.
One of the lead trends of the last couple of years has been the use of a huge picture as the main background image with copy presented in plain coloured boxes, a total about face on the minimalist approach of plain backgrounds with small, boxed images, even corporate sites are tending towards a much bigger image for their headers so that viewers are presented with a really strong visual impact as soon as they arrive.
After two decades or cycling wildly between plain and simple text then horrifically garish vomits of colour and pictures it is finally finding some balance, pushing envelopes just a little bit at a time. Facebook is a great example, at first it was just a text feed with a photos folder and a small profile image, then photo and video got a lot more prominent in the feed, then profile images got bigger, then a large header image was added to profiles in addition to the profile picture, then more image boxes leading to photo albums and so forth. Bit by bit Facebook is getting more visual without risking the chaos that beset Myspace letting people change everything.
The great diversity of coding languages that have helped visual and functional designers test what can be achieved is now beginning to converge with the fifth major version of HTML allowing all kinds of animation, video, music and functionality all on its own.
Download speeds have reached a point where almost anything is possible and before everyone embarks on the next great phase of experimentation and adventure, this is a time of refinement in all the things that have been discovered so far, it's even happening with search engines carrying out some really substantial refinements of their listing algorithms.
The new challenges are back focused on the functional side rather than the visual, new devices such as smartphones and tablets have created all kinds of opportunities for websites to offer real time, personalised, localised and mobile content, and this is moving fast towards a more augmented day to day experience.
Google have been playing for a few years with a pair of glasses that give you a digital display overlaid onto your view of the world, they want to integrate it with your smartphone, Google Maps and Google Places so that you can simply look at a skyline and have all kinds of data jumping up recommending places to get lunch, go shopping, avoid heavy traffic and so on, it won’t be so different from playing a computer game where all kinds of information flashes up on screen letting you know what’s going on with your character; we're rapidly moving into a more sci-fi world!
Visual web design has stabilised for a while as a form of graphic design, waiting for this current period of technological and functional innovation find its feet before conceiving ways of making it look more beautiful.
The pattern here is clear; science types come up with spectacularly innovative concepts and technology, visual designers then popularise it’s use with simple and beautifully thought out control interfaces and experiences, adding polish to the raw ingenuity. As a form of graphic design it’s here to stay forever and will continually work through diverse styles, cultures and brands responding to each new medium and function that becomes plausible. After the embarassments of its youth and teens it is now a functioning 20 something adult, what’s exciting is what it’s quarter-life and mid-life crises may bring in terms of unexpected new directions, there could always be another Frontpage moment just around the corner!
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