Yes, the year is half over- but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good idea to look at what is poised to trend this year and what already has. 2014 has already shown to be an interesting year in design and layout trends, as well as the technology that drives them. As most trends go, the bulk of what makes up the class of 2014 have been in the works for quite some time and are the natural evolution from other trends. It is this that makes it so important to know about the biggest modern trends so that web professionals can stay ahead of the next wave of changes.

The Return of Rich Media
This one is hard to classify yet. The Adobe Flash format ran into a brick wall when mobile web surfing rose to prominence. The ailing format had been running on fumes previously, with Apple leading the charge against the rigid rich media type. This, in part, led to HTML5 becoming the new standard for delivering rich media in web experiences.

Since the fall of Flash, we have seen a decline in rich media inclusion on the web outside of very specific uses. The last year has shown a growing trend towards experimenting with these old techniques again, with the flexibility of mobile experience inclusion due to HTML5. Undoubtedly, there will be a period of novelty and overuse- as there was with Flash. However, look for it to smooth out over the course of 2014. Just remember, as with any element, moderation is key.

Mobile-First Design
This seems like a no-brainer, but 8 years after the release of the original iPhone and 4 years after the release of the iPad (both paving the way for mobile browsing on a large scale) many designers and businesses have been slow to adopt this process. With a constantly growing mobile audience, it is vital to include mobile experiences into your site design. This is infinitely easier if your design is built around mobile in the first place.

Your goal should be to first create the mock-up for the mobile look; this will be your bare bones responsive layout without any bells and whistles. This should be the MVP (minimal viable product) for release, giving your audience what they need at a bare minimum. When you start here, it is infinitely easier to scale up the design for larger screens. You have already built the core of the site, which will work flawless in mobile- now is when you get to shine adding all the extras and fancy touches that audiences love. Never, though, too much for the device viewing it.

Make Registration Painless
So far, we have only focused on visual elements. It is important to keep user experience in mind in every facet of your site. One of the most over-looked elements is user registration. Of course, you want to engage your audience in such a way as to drive them to register and subscribe to your site. Whether it is to contribute, comment, etc- you have already asked a favor of your audience in allowing you to capture their data. It is imperative you not make it complicated or a lengthy process.

Think about what information you actually need, and then use that to keep your number of fields minimal. While we wouldn’t suggest hitching your wagon to one horse, using login services like “sign in with…” through Google, Facebook or Twitter is a model to consider. Remove the barriers between you and your audience.
Obviously this is only a small sampling of what is going on in the web design community. However, these are important points to remember. 2014 has shown a very strong trend towards keeping the audience in mind in a much larger way than in the past. It is no longer enough to publish content and expect the audience to show up. Much like a store whose doors don’t open, you have to make your site as customer/audience friendly as possible.