Thursday, 16 October 2014

OUGD504 Research into Trends in Web Design

The first item on my list to research is the concept of Skeumorphism. The best information I could find on this was on the bbd website.
This is very simplistic definition of something that is a theory ingrained in the human condition. We always need to categorise new experiences in accordance with our existing ones in order to fully understand them. This is something that is particularly relevant when looking at new developments in technology and how to operate it. Skeumorphic designs allow instant reference to the users knowledge, to make the operation almost instinctive.

"People that criticise skeuomorphism say it's pointless, but I say it isn't. It increases your understanding of the product. Technology is getting so complicated that we're going to have to find ways for people to understand what it can do without having to spell it out," he says.Michael Stocking has worked in the industry since the early 90s, and explains how the style has often been misused. Back then, his boss drove an Aston Martin, and insisted that the some of the software resembled the interior of his car - complete with steering wheel, indicators, and a walnut dashboard."It was a ludicrous forced metaphor," Stocking says. "Slavishly following real world examples can often be a lazy solution."Likening on-screen applications to physical counterparts can help initiate the uneducated, but today they can seem unnecessary and outmoded, he suggests.

The rise of flat design is the next item on the list. However, after looking into it slightly more I have found that flat design as a concept is a development from skeumorphic design, or a response to it. It almost accepts digital formats as design in their own right, designing for the format in a completely different way because audiences now have a much greater understanding of digital operation than in previous years. the source below explains the relationship between these two ideas quite easily and concisely.

Skeuomorphic and Flat Design
Skeuomorphic design is when an interface emulates 3D objects. This emulation can happen very subtly through the use of drop shadows, bevels and gradients. Or it can be very overt, like Apple's Notes app where the entire interface resembles a notepad. The thought behind this type of design is if you present users with a familiar design from real life, they will be better able to understand how to interact with it.
There are problems with this idea, though. The digital world doesn't actually work like the real world. In the Notes app, because information is typed onto the screen, why do there need to be lines on the interface? These visual metaphors can become a distraction for the user and take up valuable screen real estate.
Flat designs take a distinctively more minimalist approach to how content and functionality are presented. Rather then using visual metaphors and embellishment, these designs rely on foundational elements like shape, color and typography to convey meaning. 
As a minimalist style, any unnecessary design elements are avoided. This means layouts are often simple and uncluttered; only the most important or relevant content and functionality is presented to the user. Designers will often make heavy use of iconography for functional elements or navigation. This condenses information into a visually appealing form, which allows designers to place more functionality on the screen without the visual noise.
Because flat designs attempt to remove any extraneous design elements, what is left on the page grows in importance. Shape, color and typography often take center stage. The shapes of things like buttons or icons typically tend toward simple geometric shapes like rectangles, squares and circles. Sometimes corners are rounded, but bevels and gradients are often missing. In its purest form, even drop shadows are missing from flat designs; however, they are sometimes used to provide more visual interest or prominence.
The major consideration that instantly pops up when looking at these theories in conjunction with my own project is the fact that my subject matter (plants) are very much in the three diminutional world. Does this mean that I should go heavily skeumorphic in my design, or is this now an obsolete method of interacting with an audience? I will need to bear this in mind when figuring out the purpose and audience of my website.

The Single Page Website
I think this is a fairly self explanatory title. However, I have found quite and amazing collection of one page websites that will form part of my later more specific research. I have been aware of this format for a while and there is a specific website that really caught my eye recently (Ahoy Studio's website). The major area of negotiation with this format is the movement, especially if it's scrolling, because this can become quite confusing. Although I like the ahoy studio website, I do thing it could be less directionally confusing. There is something about the diagonal lines in the background that is just confusing.
The Adobe Muse website is another one that uses this flowing moving format. However, there is so much movement that it actually makes me feel motion sick. Perhaps the designer got a bit carried away with the moving elements.

Responsive Web Design
This is something that I am already aware of from blogging in particular. It is the ability of a websites design and layout to flex and morph according to the device it is being viewed on. As android technology and the ever present iPhone/pad become more and more prolific this consideration becomes pivotal during the web design process. I found another resource with a great list of websites that use this idea to shape them. The most noticeable thing that they all have in common is the movement of content as you navigate around the page, appearing and disappearing in accordance with the direction you are moving in. I suppose this allows it to slot into the available space on screen. What occurs to me is the way that the all fit into a column of information in some way or another, this could be a way to approach my own website design.

Type Based Web Design

This is once again quite self explanatory. Simply shaping a website layout and functionality around the type. I had a little search for websites like this and found some pretty amazing ones.
This is by far the best website design I have seen so far. It is simple easy to navigate and the moving elements are carefully moderated so they don't over power the eye. Later i will go back and analyse this in greater detail, along with some of the other websites I have found today.

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