This week I asked the team at Lucidity to give us their predictions regarding the future of Web Design. I posed the question ‘Where do you see the future of the web going?’ I asked because that’s one of the many things we do here. We’ve been in the Web Design game for many years now, and many of our team have been doing it longer than the company has been around.

I thought that many of them would delight at the opportunity to take a few minutes away from the day-to-day work and look at the bigger picture of what they do and how they think it might change going forward.

Unfortunately, many weren’t as keen as I’d anticipated they’d be to put their proverbial necks on the line and make a prediction, even for the next 12 months. It didn’t take too long to figure out why - Technology, and particularly the web, is one of the most fluid industries in the world. Just look at how far the internet has come in the past ten years; We’ve replaced scratchy dialup tones and snail-like loading times with lightning-fast broadband connections, AltaVista for Google; Friendster for Facebook. 

Take MySpace, which in early 2008 was the most visited social networking site in the world, and the most visited site in the United States. It seemed untouchable. Last year it was sold for $35Million, with News Corp. swallowing a loss of approximately $520Million after just 6 years of ownership. The site isn’t even 10 years old yet and already it’s seen massive highs and equally crippling lows.

Similarly, could anyone really have predicted the Arab Spring revolutions and the huge role that social networking and smartphones would play in those truly global power shifts? Did anyone really think 10 years ago that the world’s biggest retailers in 2012 would not only be selling primarily through the internet, but that many wouldn’t have any brick and mortar retail units at all?

The point is, in this industry predictions are difficult to make and even more difficult to get right. Things move and change extremely fast, and for many of us, that’s why we love what we do. Bearing that in mind, our team have nailed their flags to the mast and passed me along their predictions, and I appreciate their contributions. Hopefully we’ll have a chance to look back in a year and see how well they did, but for now we’ll plough ahead with their thoughts on the future of Web Design. 

Image via Technorati


The Designers

These guys had a lot of the same predictions. That may point to them being extremely insightful and in tune with the world of design, or it could be that they share a desk. I’ll let you decide.  

‘Responsive Web Design will continue to grow as more and more people begin to use mobile devices as their main method of accessing the internet,’ Garrett tells me. ‘Smashing Magazine have recently updated their website to a responsive layout. Check out their website and drag the browser around to different sizes and watch the content change.It means the same site will work across many devices and give a custom layout based on the devices screen size, resolution and capabilities.’

Alan agrees, ‘Responsive Web Design will be the development of the year,’ he says. You heard it here first, folks.

‘I think typography will also mature across the web,’ Alan adds. ‘I think things like google fonts and font squirrel in continuous expansions will lead to more character and even perhaps more editorial style layouts based  more on typography, especially since I think this will be the year of content ahead of graphics.’

‘I believe that websites will become more minimal and focus on usability over "fancy" graphics,’ predicts Garrett. ‘RSS reader services such as Reeder mean I can check out hundreds of blogs from my iPad without ever seeing the design of that blog. Content is king and users will have more control and choice over how they view this content.’


It really is. Via Inspiration Feed  

‘I can see tiles and blocks being used much more on websites. Google web fonts is an example and also how Twitter and Facebook have recently redesigned themselves,’ says Alan, and Garrett agrees. ‘The iOS look and feel has set the bar in terms of interface design’, he says. ‘I would imagine that aesthetics and functionality from Apple's mobile devices will make their way in to web design.’

They both agree that video will become more prevalent, and predict a shift away from Flash as HTML5 becomes more dominant. 


The Developers

Next, it was time to talk to our hardcore development team, once I’d managed to convince them to stop coding for a few minutes to give me their thoughts (they’re a dedicated bunch over there).

Dermot, one of our senior developers, gets straight to the point, baffling me with a lot of complex-sounding acronyms (as developers can do sometimes).

‘One really interesting innovation is SPDY. SPDY is being developed by Google, and is an experimental network protocol that could replace HTTP. The main goal of SPDY is to speed up page load time. It does this in a variety of ways:

1.Using one connection for all the different parts of the website (e.g. HTML CSS, Javascript, Images) instead of multiple connections.

2.Compressing all parts of the message (HTTP currently only compresses the body of a HTTP message and not the headers).

3.Sending multiple requests for resources at a time.

By doing all this, Google claim that they can on average cut page load times in half. It also increases security by sending everything over a secure connection by default.’

Someone mentions tablets and suddenly there’s a consensus from all four developers. ‘A continuing big challenge for designers/developers will be figuring out how to make web experiences portable as so much of it occurs on different devices,’ says Veronica. 

Via Paper Leaf

‘Responsive Web design proposes that the design and development of a website should respond to user’s behaviour and expectations as well as their environment, mainly screen size, platform and orientation,’ continues Aoife. ‘There’ll be an increase in demand for liquid layout,’ adds Shai. ‘Most web sites are currently designed only for one resolution, and maybe another one for mobile devices. We are seeing an increase of devices that are somewhere in the middle - phones with HD displays, small tablets, etc.’

‘I'm also very intrigued by the integration of web apps and physical objects,’ says Vernoica, citing a video that made its way around the office this week. ‘I think this is a really interesting way for web to head in the future, although it may be a while before we see it being fully implemented in everyday tasks.’ 


The Boss

Finally, my brain almost fried from a combination of caffeine withdrawal and technical jargon, I pay a visit to Guy, one of the founders of Lucidity, to ask him where he sees Web Design going. I make the mistake of thinking he’ll be optimistic…

‘The Internet as we know it, the free; the open; the barrier-less web that we use every day will be no more,’ he tells me. ‘We as humans do not possess the ability to live with and to interact with unregulated environments.  We may crave freedom but we also fear absolute freedom. What we need to make us feel safe is control.

Commerciality brings control.  Commerciality brings borders and processes, do’s and don’t’s, and we as humans can understand and operate more efficiently within these comfortable invisible walls.

We are not now at the beginning of a mobile transition; we are well into this fundamental change.  The mobile device is only the beginning. In the future, how we view web pages and how we make use of the services on the internet, how we share and how we communicate will be dictated and controlled by the organisations that provide the services we use.

Image via New World Order War

To fully integrate with the Cloud we will sacrifice our anonymity and our privacy.  We will trade these basic rights with the global corporates for integration into the world that they have created, and we will do this willingly because we will personalise the walls that will control us.  All our personal data, everything we hold dear to us as individuals will make the transition to the Cloud.  We will make the choice to have no choice in this matter.’

I trudge back to my desk, not sure whether I should be looking forward to slick, faster-loading websites that respond fluidly to how I use them, or rushing to delete my Facebook and Twitter accounts. Whatever the answer, coffee is definitely a good start.

So, there you have it, all of the team agrees on at least one point for the future, which is responsive Web Design, except for Guy of course, who now has me looking nervously over my shoulder expecting to see Mark Zuckerberg with a sly smile on his face.

What do you think? Do you disagree with them all? Do you think you can do better? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter. Perhaps we’ll make this an annual outing, but for now we’ll have to wait and see what happens. Don’t worry, even if the Cloud does descend to swallow us, we’ll be here to blog about it.