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This morning I was thinking about trends. Are they good for design or bad? Even though I do some times follow trends in my work, or when client wants it, I don’t think that trends are something solid enough to support your creation. In this post, you will be presented with five reasons why should think twice (at least) before following any next hot trend or to drop them completely and stay away from them. However, the final decision is up to you.
Trends have expiration date
All trends are limited in time, that is for sure. Just take a look at the history of art. We had renaissance, dada, pointillism, cubism, expressionism, impressionism, surrealism and many many more. In web design … Do you remember skeuomorphism? That was the thing before flat design came around and changed the direction. After that full-width photo or video backgrounds took charge, along with ghost buttons and focus on typography.
Now the latest trend is Google’s Material design or its various modifications and let’s not forget the Design language created by IBM. One thing has all these trends in common … They come with expiration date. Does your design have such a “feature” too? One of the ten principles Dieter Rams stated as keys to understand what makes a good design is “Good Design Is Long-lasting”. So, ask yourself … Do trends meet this condition?
Trends can bound the design
When you are working on new design and going through the whole process, from an idea to final product, do you think about what trends to follow? I would love to know your answer. If you do include this trend-thinking as a step in your design process, it probably subtly (or more) changes the final product of your work. Since trends are in most cases visual, it would be stupid to think they have no influence on your work.
Two crucial parts of design are content and environment. These two are what essentially tells you how the design should look like, how it should be structured. Design for child hospital or charity website will be probably different from the one for night club or 500 company. However, trends does not care about either of them (most of them). You should. So, instead of blindly following some guide focus on the bigger picture. What is the goal and function of this design? What need does it meet? Only then think about trends, not sooner.
Trends are irrelevant for customers
Your client, employer or yourself can be literally mesmerized by that hot new thing in design, but are the final users too? Did you think about this any time? Does people visiting your website actually care about that flat-style button or that huge high resolution picture you used? Most of them not. They just want to get something done, satisfy their needs and then leave. That’s all, no big science or dark secret.
If you want to check your bank account, you don’t care about what colors does your bank use (if you are not a designer). When you are hungry and want to buy some food, you don’t care about the lightning or how the goods on the shelves is structured. You just want to grab what you like and go to checkout. Again, not a big deal. The same thing with web design. Most of the users doesn’t care about trends. Just get what they want done and leave. So don’t stress it too much.
Trends can hurt performance
We already talked about the chances how trends can hurt the aesthetic side of your work, but what about the factors hidden “under the hood”. The performance of the website for example? Following certain trends can add additional weight on the backbone (still talking front-end here) of your site. Let’s take the parallax as an example. Adding this effect on your website requires you to add necessary markup and often JS which will increase loading time and traffic requirements.
Another, more recent example, are video backgrounds. Thanks to video api in HTML you can turn static background of your website to something more dynamic, more eye-catching. Question is … Does it add any function? In most cases, the only reason for these “features” is that “it looks nice”. Should this be your main concern? Your job as a designer is to help people get done what they need in easiest way possible. F*ck the trends, think users!
Trends can distract users
Let’s stick with users and their experience for a moment because that is what we care about, right? When you are creating anything, from painting to furniture to software, you are in a fact designing an experience. No matter what do you think about people around you, they are not robots (yet). When they interact with, i.e. use, something they also feel some emotions, they have an experience. That is one of the fundamentals of design and also what whole UX discipline is all about.
Like it or not, design gives us ability to change people’s behavior, emotions and focus as we need. If you design one thing in two ways, you can get completely different result. This is where trends comes to word. Visual side of your work can change experience user will get for 360°. Just using different color can influence emotion in pretty big way. Trends often comes in “all-included” packages. They use specific colors, shapes, etc.
All of these factors can help us direct the attention and focus of user, but it can also damage it. Flashy colors can easily distract users from the main purpose or function of the design. That cool ghost button may look really good, but does it help user in any way or is it possible distraction? Think about it. Is your job showing how rich your color palette is or is to help the user fulfill his need?
Trends are things that will come and go away in various cycles. Some of them will return once or twice, but most will disappear. When you are about to create something you should keep this in mind. If you are planning your design to last for a longer time, is it safe to follow some hot trend with questionable future? Every project should be able to withstand the test of time instead of being momentary spark. It is better to focus on fundamentals. What is your opinion? How do you approach design?
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