At the beginning of the month I scoured my favorite online design resources with a special interest in award winning or noteworthy websites. This is not a new activity for me but it had been awhile since I had dedicated time to this specific task. I was certain my efforts would spark some innovative ideas for my own projects at modern8 but I found the most valuable insight was discovering the pattern of design trends that prevailed on most of my favorite sites.

Full screen websites
The first, and most noticeable trend was the prevalent and literal use of the full screen. In one case, HLK presents their own faces in full screen glory right in your own, well, face. (See blog image.) In every case the designers made use of the full browser width. Images are maxed out and shown as large as possible. This is usually accompanied with large typography and, at times, larger areas of whitespace. As I have previously observed, integrated video and video backgrounds are still popular.

Mobile First
I suspect this full-screen trend is a natural progression of the standardization of responsive design. (All the sites I reviewed were responsive, by the way.) This plays hand in hand with the a growing movement of mobile-first design, which is simply the philosophy of designing the mobile site first and adjusting to desktop resolutions secondly. Many of the sites I reviewed actually appear to be large mobile sites. In fact, some of them even kept their main navigation in the three-line icon that has become almost exclusively ties to mobile navigation.

Flat Design
The online community seems to have embraced the trend of flat design with open arms. I would go so far as to say the trend has become a movement. One article suggests this is because flat design embraces screen limitations and it’s tendency to simplify and streamline increases performance. Having said that, it’s no surprise to see flat design elements in award winning web sites. If not overtly flat, designers are definitely avoiding skeuomorphism and drop shadows, beveled edges, round corners and even gradients are held to a minimum.

Less Parallax
Some designers will be happy to hear that the use of parallax appears to have dropped. I did see a couple instances that were tastefully done. One-page sites that seemed to foster parallax use have dropped slightly as well, but not as dramatically.

An immersive future
The use of full screen elements, whether photography or video, along with large type and even the use of audio (which was considered taboo for a number of years) suggest that designers are reaching for a fully immersive experience. With screen sizes increasing and browser compatibility improving every year, I’m excited about the ever-growing potential for more immersive, online experiences.

This article was orginally published for modern8 –