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Just Like Detroit: Web Design Changes The More It Stays the Same

Detroit is a city in stasis. All you have to do is look at the headlines from January 2013 vs. the ones we’re seeing today and you can see how little things change. Last year, the headlines said “Detroit slipping toward bankruptcy” and “Business corridor renewal project proposed” — this year, it’s “Detroit judge rules on bankruptcy details” and “Business corridor renewal about to get off the ground”.

Just like Detroit, the web design articles proclaiming the “New Web Design Trends of 2014” are basically the same things that showed up in the same articles for 2013.

Responsive Design
Guess what? Google told everyone that Responsive Design was their pick for best-practice method of making your websites accessible by mobile devices. They said this more than a year ago. That made it a great idea in 2013. It’s still a great idea in 2014. Nothing has changed. Is it a “new” web design trend? Not so much? Is it still important enough that everyone mentioned it anyway? Yep.

CSS-created Fixed Navigational Elements
Instead of putting your navigation in your HTML and having it scroll off the screen when you move below the fold, put it into your CSS and anchor it to the top of the screen! That way everyone can keep using your navigational elements without having to remember how to use the Home key! This was a sweet new idea…in 2011, with CSS2. This time, though, it can genuinely be called a “new” trend simply because only 5% or so of websites has actually implemented it.

Minimalism
Guess what? In general, people only ever come to your website for a single thing. Different people might come for different things, but chances are that any one visitor only has one goal when they get to your site. If you’re Wikipedia, not many people come to you for the common-license pictures: they come for the text. If you flood your website with garbage that isn’t relevant to their goals, they won’t like it as much as they’ll like a website that gives them what they want simply and straightforwardly. This practice dates back to before the Internet ever existed…but it’s a great new idea for 2014.

Engaging Content
Panda and Penguin, man! Putting popup ads, inline ads, content blockers, squeeze pages, and everything else in the world in between the user and your content is OUT! Having crap content that some guy in Indonesia rewrote for $.002/word is OUT! Blackhat SEO used to shove scraped content down people’s throats is OUT! …but stop and ask yourself, was any of that ever actually IN? No; if you catch someone going off about how all of that is somehow new and different, you’ve caught someone who got into internet marketing looking for a quick buck and then learned that he was going to have to actually put effort into his site to turn a profit. To everyone else, ‘Content is King’ has been true since about 3 days after Google opened it’s doors to the public. Is it still important? Absolutely. Is it the brand new rage of 2014? Lord, I hope not.

Maybe I’m being just a little bit cynical about this; I just finished reading my seventeenth “New Trends for 2014” article, and the amount of ‘trends’ that have been around for as long as I’ve been doing SEO is just silly. This stuff isn’t rocket science folks. Detroit has an excuse for being slow: it’s a municipal government, and it’s broke. The rest of us, not so much. Let’s see if we can come up with something actually unique and different to do this year, shall we?

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