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The WIDE Trend

As Daniel predicted in his blog in August 2011, Big is definitely Back! Websites are wider than they have ever been, partially to accommodate the abundance of wide-screen displays, but I think there's more to it than that. If I were to create a website for Yellowstone National Park using this trend, the header photo would look something like the picture above. This trend is heavily reliant on a header picture that spans the entire width of the site, covering the area above the fold. Do you remember the days when it felt so vital to have your most important information above the fold, as with newspapers? Now design embraces the effort of scrolling and many users find it to be fun!

These header pictures in many ways have become the new “splash page.” Haven’t heard that term in a while, eh? Here's a refresher: Splash pages were often used on Flash websites, as the first place the web address takes you. The splash page was often a big environment setter, and included a large background photo with a small amount of text welcoming you to the site and a prompt to enter the site. To enter the site, one had to follow a link.

Flash forward to today and we have revitalized the essence of the Splash page and incorporated it to do its best work. In many ways, this trend is a happy marriage between setting an environment and maintaining a fully-functional website. 

So, what does this trend look like? 

Here’s an example of a trendy site we're working on for one our clients:

Wide Trend Design

Let’s look at the six main elements of this design (and most websites, in general):

1. Navigation

The current trend for navigation is for it to be clean and distinct. The navigation “bar” is extended to stretch the width of any screen. The Logo is often simple, mostly because that is what fits best in the area provided for the Navigation. Often if a company has a larger, more detailed logo, a simplified version will be used in the Navigation and the full logo can be seen over the header photo.

Danger: Changing your logo to fit a particular space is not the worst thing one can do to his or her branding, but it may not be the best move from a marketing standpoint. Design should only drive your company so far, but be careful that you maintain your look. (Trust your designer to guide you in this decision.)

2. Header Photo

Man, has this thing gotten huge! The last trend in header photos was essentially a long, skinny photo. It usually did not extend the entire width of the site, but only took up the area as wide as the content of the site. Now a days, we have a huge photo that fills the entirety of the screen when one goes to the website. As stated previously, it gives the effect of a Splash page, with the benefit of a responsive layout. Oh, and this large photo also usually rotates through other photos! Pretty neat and beautiful if you ask me. 

Danger: Without using stock or professional photography, this photo has the possibility of completely ruining the look of your site. It also has a lot of sway as to who you are as a company. Be sure to use images that reflect your company and keep it crystal clear. (NO stretching of images, whatsoever.)

3. Centered Text

Since so much of the website is extended throughout the entire width of one’s screen, it just makes sense to keep much of the text centered on the site. The centered text really gives a great balance to the newer wide-screen features, and is perfect for small bits of information to entice viewers to continue exploring your site. Think of it like a tag line.

Danger: It’s probably best that you do not allow your entire site to have centered text. Make sure only a small amount of copy is centered above regular, left-aligned copy. 

4. Sparse Copy

Don’t get me wrong, we loooove copy. We want all the copy. However, on the home page, this new trend only wants a little. We are advocates for keeping a home page simple, but this design does seem to encourage as little copy as possible. 

Danger: With a Home page so devoid of copy, it could lead to the rest of the site following suit. However, you should not let this happen. Give the other pages lots of copy and let your designer arrange it in the best way. 

5. Picture Previews 

This trend usually involves big buttons, and since we’re so into big pictures, why not make the buttons big pictures? This is basically the purpose of large picture previews for other pages of the site. This is a great move since people are far more likely to click on a picture than text. 

Danger: Pictures always present a danger and a reward. If the photo is stretched, in bad taste, or not taken by a professional, the chances of this photo enhancing the website is slim. It's usually best to play it safe and go with professional or stock photography. 

6. Clean Footer

When I say clean, I do not necessarily mean little content, but rather, content organized extremely well. Footers in the past have really fluctuated in size due to the amount of copy needed there, although there are times in which designs neglected footers and wanted as little copy there as possible. I feel that this trend is happy to accommodate more copy in the footer, probably because the rest of the site tends to be lacking text. The footer is also usually a dark color with this trend, in order to ground the whole site and bring it to an end (since our tendency is to scroll on forever). 

Danger: There main danger with the footer is not organizing the information in a clear, concise manner. It needs to be easily utilized, and if that is not provided, the footer will just serve as a cluttered mess at the bottom of a sparkling site. One can avoid this by trusting the designer when he/she says there’s no more room for any other copy. 

Potential Pitfalls of the Trend

Keeping in mind that this is a trend, it’s a certainty that this style will fade and another will take its place – but let’s not forget, this is the nature of EVERY design on the web. It’s going to run its course. However, when styles change they usually morph from one thing into another. So, even if this trend fades into something different, odds are, it will still have some of the same feel. Therefore, your design will not be as outdated as other “safer” designs. What’s considered safe today is potentially dust tomorrow. 

What to do within in the Trend

So, what should you do in this trend? I’d say take the plunge and make it your own! Make sure you get professional photography for the pictures on your site (whether stock photos or hire someone to come take photos). Utilize the wide design but do not cut out all of your copy! One way to really make this design your own is to incorporate a background design or texture - which we've really seen a withdraw from. However, the biggest element that tells the story in the design are the Pictures! So make sure they're great. Let's try out this new trend!