I know 2012 isn't quite over yet, but I've been taking stock of some prevailing trends over the past 9 months and started wondering what might be the next popular design concept to define the 2013 year in eCommerce website design. In 2012 the following design trends - Responsive Design, Vertically Scrolling Layouts, Fixed Site Navigations - were respectively used to provide a functionally scalable web site that would operate smoothly across multiple platforms (laptop, mobile phone), to create a unique browsing experience that views as a narrative more then a switchboard, and to allow for easier browsing and reference. I feel like those trends will continue to be heavily used in 2013, but there's a few points that I'd like to make that could influence what kinds of designs we will be seeing in the upcoming year.

1. Economic and Simplistic

It's still a tough economy. Businesses will want to be responsible with how they use resources when designing a site. I can remember a few years ago, reading an article about how a website, in order to incorporate new trends, and to stay relevant in a constantly fluctuating digital landscape, should be redesigned once a year. It's still important to try and stay fresh, however designs will probably be more conservative, and a complete refresh of a site design won't happen as frequently.

2. Focus on Super Size Image and Video Banners

eCommerce website designers are going to be trying to incorporate more video then ever before into sites. Site windowpanes (borders and padding) are disappearing, leaving a design that stretches across the full width of the browser window in order to maximize the impact of site banners and videos. For me personally I think this has a chance to be an effective way of communicating a message if the media is accompanied with strong copywriting and typography to key users to explore the video content. More traditional hero image banners would possibly see the same treatment - larger and more striking than ever.

For both large images, and video banners, it is important for them to not slow down the load time of your site. Tip: To increase load time for your site while still using large images, simply make sure you save the image with the width and height (or pixels) that you are going to use. (In other words, do not use CSS to edit the image’s size wherever possible). With an increasing trend of instant gratification with faster Internet speeds becoming more readily available, make sure the images and videos on your site don’t slow down your load time. Here’s a good article on how a slow loading time can affect your bottom line: http://blog.kissmetrics.com/loading-time/. By replacing a lot of data on your site with a super sized image and/or video banner, it can be possible to increase the speed of your website, thereby increasing customer satisfaction while on your site.

3. Facebook Integration

Now “wish” and “shopping” lists are getting to the point where they can be managed through your Facebook account. Having those kinds of registry items in a central location is very appealing to the user, as it can be easily shared with their friends. This allows for better linking between products/services and websites, possibly driving more traffic to your site for people trying to buy gifts. This is especially important with the Holiday season, as it will help with cross-selling and upselling products from eCommerce stores. A larger network of people will be exposed to your products; thus their friend’s wants/wish lists on Facebook can influence others into purchasing something they might not have seen themselves. Social wish and shopping lists can add onto the “I want it too” effect. Facebook wish and shopping lists are also preferable for eCommerce website developers to have those common items be managed outside the client site, as it cuts down on work and maintenance and allows developers to spend more time working on more heavily trafficked pages.

4. Modular Interfaces

This is a trend that could be driven by the new Windows OS interface. Possibly in the same way that Apple influenced button design, the Windows OS desktop, if executed properly, could transition as an attractive website interface. I haven't actually had a chance to get my hands on the new OS, but from what I've seen the interface is very attractive, and is optimized for ease of use on both desktop and touch screens.

5. More Efficient Code Processing

SASS and LESS are two CSS pre-processors that have been recently introduced to help manage common CSS styling tasks. However, website developers have been hesitant to embrace the tech due to feeling unsure about it's long term usage and potential integration issues. That's a fancy way of saying developers don't want to get backed into a corner. But the thing is, SASS is actually a great timesaving software that we at Groove Commerce are using internally to assist with our CSS styling, and I think that as the community realizes that the efficiency gained from using this technology outweighs the (minimal) potential future drawbacks, it will become more popular.

So these are a few of the ideas that maybe will drive some web designs in 2013. Currently, I think my favorite brand site that takes "liberties" other eCommerce sites can't necessarily take around usability and navigation is the redesigned Under Armour site (www.underarmour.com). The site is striking, yet simple, and makes great use of the available real estate of the browser window. And hopefully in 2013 we will see more of the same.

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