Refreshing Web Design Trends

by Dan DeMeyere - @dandemeyere

In the past year, the post 2.0 web design era has really come into its own. I wrote about the start of this when web designers first started to embrace HTML5 and what it has to offer, but the time has finally come when over-the-top Flash websites, such as this one, are no longer the standard for those that are pushing the envelope for creative web designs.

Here are 4 websites who have utilized HTML/jQuery and creativity to build refreshing designs:

Go to It's ok, I'll wait for you to actually click the link. Once the page loads, you'll notice you have two options. Click the first one titled 'What? Slaves work for me?'. Now start scrolling. Killer, right? With a little bit of jQuery and some clever CSS, this website is re-inventing the way to deliver information to users. Lines of text are brought in at the same pace as your scrolling, allowing you to control how quickly you want to read their text. On top of this, they have different graphics pushing the text into place to make the reading experience fun.

A lot of freedom is granted when designing a personal website. It can say anything and look as wild as you want it to look. Shockingly, one of my favorites is not a designer or a developer's website - it belongs to a cricket player. James Anderson's website is awesome and it's showing off one of my favorite trends: making numbers sexy on the web.

HTML5, specifically the addition of Canvas and SVG, has given designers free reign to design graphs, charts, and other data visualizations without having to worry about how they will be built. Thanks to JavaScript libraries like D3.js and Highcharts.js, developers no longer have to worry about Flash or any other antiquated plug-in for interactive visuals. And while D3/Highcharts are two of my favorites, there are plenty of other emerging solutions.

Tangent: if you're someone who is looking to make your own website, I strongly recommend you look over this Quora list of best personal websites on the web. is a very cool website. It's a kids website that highlights really cool things that kids and parents make and it's also showcasing the last trend I'll mention in this post that I'm excited about - high powered web graphics. In the past, image sizes were always a huge cause for concern because of bandwidth limitations and costs. As broadband internet becomes more prevalent and static asset storage (ex: AWS S3) becomes more and more affordable, image sizes become less and less of a concern.

When you go to the DIY homepage, you're presented with a stunning graphic. After a couple of seconds, the text overlays disappears and you're able to grab the graphic and move it to explore (with a nice easing effect to simulate gliding). The entire graphic is larger than 3000x3000 pixels, but through some clever coding the actual images that compromise the entire graphic are 35 387x387 image tiles. I would also bet good money that only the necessary tiles are loaded until you try and explore surrounding tiles. The reason why I think this will become a web trend is because this same high-quality graphic tiling technology could be used for a web-based video game built on top of HTML5. A 'level' in the game could be hundreds of thousands of pixels, but when the graphics are loaded only when needed, it could be realistically done with ease.

This last website is a combination of all three trends I mentioned: re-inventing the way to deliver information, beautiful metric visuals, and high powered web graphics. By utilizing all three, the creator of this website was able to bring to light a very serious topic (Hydraulic Fracturing) and deliver the information on the topic to you in such a compelling way that you want to learn. You need to keep scrolling. They have gamified the process to digest information on the web. It's brilliant.

Design Inspiration

by Dan DeMeyere - @dandemeyere

Being inspired is one of the strongest types of motivation for me. When I see something great, I can become inspired to build something of equal caliber or at least put more effort into what I'm currently working on. Sometimes the execution of an idea can be just as inspiring as the idea itself. One great example of this is Path. The more you use their app, the more you can appreciate how much attention to detail was involved in building the app. Every interaction, every pixel, is perfect. It's hard to put into words the experience that is felt when you use something and everything is just 'right'. 

So just in case you need some inspiration, here are some websites and Dribbble shots that I find inspiring.

Other than giving thredUP a great score, Stella's website has nice, non-obtrusive color tones that emanate an inviting feeling. It's refreshing to see a website that isn't exploding with 20 call to action buttons.

I love the graphics on this site. A well crafted back-end can be just as important as a pixel-perfect front-end and the illustration of design and development being poured together into a funnel is a great visualization of this.

Fork CMS

When I'm looking to use a new library, gem, or application, I find that the presentation of the product impacts my judgment towards my willingness to give it a try. Fork CMS is a great example of this. There's no reason for me to use a new CMS, but after visiting their website I wanted to download it and try it out anyways.


Now it's time for a couple of Dribbble shots. This Twitter share shot is particularly awesome for a subtle reason. Twitter makes it very hard to change the style and design of their Tweet button. You can do a custom-designed button that links to, but the user has to leave your website to make the tweet. To allow the user to tweet without leaving your website, you have to use their pre-built button/widget. This person designed around the button, instead of re-designing the button itself, which keeps the best functionality intact while making the developer's job easier.

No explanation needed for this one, I just think it's awesome and would be a really cool login interaction.

I'm not embarrassed to show the inspiration (or exact copy) of my work portfolio design. I was brainstorming the best way to allow users to interact with my professional experience on my website and a colleague of mine sent over this Dribbble. The UI looked so cool that I wanted to code it up just for the fun of it, but I liked it so much that I ended up keeping it.

A lot of these websites were discovered on line25's Websites of the Week series. It's a great RSS feed to follow if you're a fan web design. If you have any websites you would like to share, please link to them below in the comments.

Responsive Web Design

by Dan DeMeyere - @dandemeyere

I've been waiting to write a post on responsive web design (RWD) for a long time. I think it's a really powerful tool for websites that care about usability and UX. Definitions for RWD vary depending on the source because it's a relatively new 'technology', but I would describe it as developing a website in such a way that the layout/look responds accordingly as the browser changes by dimension or by device.

There's an important distinction to make about my definition. Just because a website looks different on a mobile device than it does on your computer, doesn't necessarily make that website responsive. A lot of websites detect whether you are viewing the website on a computer, phone, or tablet and either serve up a separate CSS file specifically built for that device type or they might even serve up a completely separate mobile version of their website or application.

For example, if you use 37signals' Basecamp product and you login on your computer versus logging in on your phone, you will be using their product on two completely different development frameworks. I don't doubt that they use some responsive elements in their design, but RWD is when it's the same exact website that uses a combination of specific RWD techniques, such as media queries, to alter your client-side interaction while the server-side code remains the same.

It should also be noted that RWD isn't for all websites. If you have a very large website (i.e. 50+ pages), it's going to be very hard to make all those pages responsive with any continuity without sinking an excessive amount of time into it, especially if your layouts differ from page to page. It also adds overhead in the sense that any design change require another level of upkeep and quality assurance.

If this still isn't making sense, I listed a couple example below that illustrate what RWD looks like in action.

The most simple use case for this is adding it to your personal website. A really good example of RWD in action is Joni Korpi's personal website. I meant to write about Joni Korpi in my web designer portfolio post, but his three-tier responsiveness was too perfect for this one.

If you look at the picture below, you'll notice there are 3 different layouts to his website. Each layout corresponds to a certain browser dimension. If you go to his website (it's been re-designed since I captured the images) and re-size your browser to those dimensions, you'll notice the website's layout/design changes on the fly - it's pretty cool.

Next up is the French Earth Hour conference website. On a quick tangent - I think the colors of this website are awesome. Anyways, I only noticed two different responsive designs for this website as you see below. For some websites, that's all you really need. The creators of this website probably only wanted to optimize the design for full-width and standard mobile dimensions; I'm guessing this is the case because people typically hear about a conference through email, social media (both viewed in full width browser) or through oral referrals away from the computer (mobile browser). Something especially cool about what they did for their second layout (the one on the right) is that they removed some elements of the page to ensure the most important content was still above the fold - sweet trick.

Last, but not least, is Trent Walton's blog. Websites that contain content that can be consumed on multiple mediums is the most natural need for RWD in my opinion. I spent a good amount of time inspecting the source/CSS of Trent's blog as it was very helpful for building my new website's layout in a flexible and fluid way that is optimized for RWD.

As I just mentioned, I'm currently re-building my personal website, hence the lack of posts, but one of the first things I'm going to do once it's finalized is start working on making it responsive - which I'll attempt to document the best I can for another post. If you're looking to make your website responsive, I would check out the following posts:

On the Cusp: Where Web Design/UI is Headed

by Dan DeMeyere - @dandemeyere

Front-End development has seen some very interesting trends lately. Designers are pushing the boundaries of the experience a website can deliver with the look and feel. Better yet, the best are being done without Flash and utilizing CSS3 (and soon HTML5) - which translates into cross browser/device compatibility. For some specificity, here is what I am seeing:

Emotional Graphical Design

White/negative space has been a very useful tool for designers to avoid clutter and gaudy colors/graphics. It was also easier for developers to create considering in the past Front-End engineers would work with designers to create the user-facing portion of a website. This is where I think there is a dynamic shift occurring that is leading to an emotional push in design. I'm seeing a lot more graphic designers who are capable of using CSS/HTML/jQuery to create a website that is pixel perfect to the design they created. Why I think this is important is because what appears in Photoshop and what shows up inside a browser are different in appearance and how you experience them. The scrolling, re-sizing of the browser window and other subtle things like hover and active states for buttons can be lost in translation between mock-up and implementation. Some developers don't have an eye for this level of detail so if it wasn't in the mock-up, improvisation probably occurs and rest assured the developer will be choosing the path of least resistance for completion, which typically means the design suffers. All the examples I have listed below contain a certain personal feel to them (cozy colors, custom font, etc.) and a lot of the design is made possible through text-shadows, jQuery DOM manipulation, and other enhancements such as custom font APIs. Have a look for yourself:

  • Example 1 - Personal portfolio of designer/developer
  • Example 2 - Custom search field and layered design
  • Example 3 - Embossed effect (most likely created with CSS text/box shadow)

Designing Software-like User Interfaces

UI design is progressing to a uniform experience across all platforms. It's not uncommon to see a website's UI in a browser that would be identical on an iPhone as its own app or an Adobe AIR desktop app.

  • Example 1 - try to tell me if this snapshot was taken from a website, a mobile app, or software app?

Consistent user experience is essential for brand recognition and ubiquitous usability. Allowing users to be proficient in navigating and using the functionality of your website on any device is very important so I wouldn't be surprised if start-ups begin designing their website, iPhone/iPad, and other device apps right from beginning.

Homepage Design

Recent developments in A/B testing have resulted in a higher statistical knowledge of important metrics about your website (heat maps, click-throughs, conversion rates) and in result companies are serving up multiple versions of the homepage and letting the numbers decide the best layout, color combination, and copy. The trend I'm seeing is a consistent formula - main content area below the header that stretches the entire width of the layout, then equal size blocks (less tall) below that contain important sub-components of a website to learn more about the product. Call to action on top with 1 sentence pitch, then supporting items below. The navigation bars are being hidden or reduced to appeal as a more simple site to avoid overwhelming the user. Essentially, homepages are becoming marketing landing pages. Even our new homepage uses this layout to some extent.

  • Example 1 - A visual representation of what I'm talking about.

Finally, another interesting link I wanted to share. This trend is in its infancy, but I believe the next iteration we'll see is designers/developers creating new ways of displays form data. Horizontal signup forms, smarter validation with jQuery, and other usability enhancements.

Snapshots courtesy of

Front-End Developer and Ruby on Rails Newbie