13 Design Trends For 2013

What better way to start the year than to make predictions – some obvious, some not so obvious – as to what trends will become more widely used in the design community. Each year seems to bring new ideas to the community and once they gain enough traction, they eventually become the norm (we’re looking at you, “pull to refresh”).

In honor of the year, we have 13 design trends that we’re either hoping or expecting to see reign in throughout the year. Feel free to quote me on these in late December, as well. I won’t be offended.

1. Flat Design

This seems to be the most obvious choice for upcoming trends. Flat design is essentially the polar opposite of the realistic-riddled issue that many people have with skeumorphism. While they definitely weren’t the first to implement it, there’s one company that took it to an entirely new level. Microsoft.

Windows 8 seems to have built its entirely new OSaround the idea of a completely flat UI, most of which revolves around the Windows 8 UI (previously known as Metro) and Live Tiles. It started a while ago with the XBOX dashboard, but seeing an entire OS revolve around the flat design was a bit unexpected at the time. It has its pros and cons, but thats the basics of trade-offs.

A more recent application that utilizes flat design is an alarm clock app that goes by the name, Rise. The entire UI is lacking any sort of three-dimensional elements with clean type prevailing throughout.. When you combine that with their gradients, you get a beautiful looking alarm clock. Granted, the utility of an alarm clock doesn’t need a lot of depth as far as the navigation and UX goes, it still proves it’s worth, making for a simple and visually appealing app.

Flat design isn’t for every application. However, there will without a doubt be an uprising of designers and developers alike who are going to strive for a very simplistic approach to the UI of apps to arrive and be updated in 2013.

2. Fewer Buttons (More Gestures)

I’ve been over this before. I also placed this right after “Flat Design” for a reason. When you’re trying to make an application that isn’t cluttered with buttons (and lacks visual dimensionality), you’re naturally going to resort to actions we call gestures. Google went for both #1 and #2 in their recently released Google Maps. Now, not everybody agrees that gestures are the best bet, but that’s where I see applications going in 2013.

3. Animation as Affordance

This is also placed strategically after the previous trends. When you don’t have a button to press or an icon to select, you can be lost as to what needs to happen to achieve the task you’re trying to accomplish. While there isn’t a lot of this in applications right now (that I know of), little animations can be used to guide the user as to what needs to happen to achieve a certain task.

The best example I have found yet is the camera icon on the iOS lock screen. Many people unfamiliar with iOS would more than likely resort to just clicking on it instead of dragging it up. Instead of not doing anything when pressed, it does a little bounce up and down; revealing the camera feature underneath. This gives a visual hint to unknowing users as to how to properly use it in the future. By offering this hint, users are able to pick up on things rather quickly.

In fact, over Christmas, my grandmother learned it on her iPhone after just one try. She came to me and bragged that she found a new feature. She knew I’d appreciate her new discovery. In fact, she reads some of my articles on here, despite not having a clue as to what I’m talking about. I love that woman.

Apart from my above ADD moment, by offering little animations as affordance, you can guide people around the UI without cluttering it with buttons. It’s a solution to one of the trade-offs of minimizing more prominent visual cues.

Besides affordance, there’s another aspect of animations and transitions that’s significant. Subtlety and fluidity. Animations within applications can make or break the experience for users and when they feel natural, not glitchy it makes that experience that much more valuable. With development getting more and more precise and mobile processors being able to handle much more, this should be made a priority for upcoming designs.