Design Trends: Where are we going in 2012

Design Trends Thumbnail2011 is gone so it’s time to take a look back at what happened on the web. A combination of shifting design styles and increased browser flexibility ushered in a new class of trends. So what were the big trends of 2011? And what can they tell us about where we’ll wind up in 2012? Let’s take a look.


The growing prevalence of CSS3 and HTML5 was huge in 2011. Developers incorporating CSS3 & HTML5 have opened the door to making sites dynamic in a whole new way. We can now achieve styling effects, increasingly dynamic typography, and even leaner code under the hood of a site. We’re seeing designs move closer and closer to being imageless now. Sites are more flexible than ever. Technologies such as these are what promote the use of modern browsers by rewarding users who upgrade their browsers with a richer experience.


Dynamic, embeddable type faces are popping up a lot more frequently. A recurring trend that we’re seeing online and discussing here is the idea of websites getting more and more image-less. Now that the practice of embedding more unique fonts is becoming common, sites have fewer images to load and are able to scale better. Not to mention, we have thousands of amazing fonts to choose thanks to resources such as Font Squirrel and Google Fonts.

Simple Is Beautiful

We see an increased presence of all things simple: everything from more basic color palettes to simple layouts. The web is getting crowded and this visual trend is certainly de-cluttering on-screen real estate. It’s more common to see one to two-tone color schemes and there seem to be no barriers for site structure. The traditional columned-layouts have made way for freeform, unique site structures.

Mobile & Responsiveness

In 2011, as in each previous year, we saw an increase in sites that served a mobile version for users. Even here at RainStorm, one of our highest-traffic clients saw mobile use increase double from 3.5% to 7% in 2011. Although we see an increase in mobile-specific sites and apps, we’re seeing an emerging alternative known as responsive web design. These responsive sites automatically adapt to display content optimized for the user’s screen size. Go ahead, visit some of your favorite sites on your mobile device and mobile or responsive web design is sure to make an appearance.


Visuals are getting big, both in prominence and size. We’re seeing large, rich images serve as key design and structural elements on sites. Large background images and in-line images are being used to positively break up content and make layouts more appealing and readable. We’re seeing more graphical buttons as well. The days of the default browser buttons are gone and the reign of graphical, custom, multi-state buttons is beginning.

Where are we heading in 2012?

These trends are leading to a promising 2012 and beyond on the web. Our experiences on the web are becoming more compelling as the adoption of modern browsers increases. We’re expecting to see more responsive websites and a unifying of both desktop and mobile web experiences. The web is getting more artful and dynamic and we look forward to making the most of these techniques to create more beautiful, more interactive experiences for our clients and their visitors.

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