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5 Design Trends: 2016 is the Year of User Experience

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Making predictions for the future is key to success, especially within the face-paced tech industry. Each year, TechSoup Canada predicts key tech and web design trends that will affect nonprofits the most. It’s our prediction that 2016 will be the year of user experience.

#1: Flat 2.0

Most websites today have a flat design, which means their websites are minimalistic and have no depth. Flat 2.0 (aka Material Design) seeks to reintroduce subtle elements of depth perception back into flat design in order to make it more obvious to users what parts of a webpage are clickable.

We predict Flat 2.0 will become the standard of web design for nonprofit websites because its clarity around what is clickable creates a more positive and confident user experience, and in turn increases conversion rates.

[TIP] Nonprofits should understand the origins and problems of flat design and why Flat 2.0 is better for users.

#2: Creative Scrolling

Designers are getting creative with scrolling to create unique and entertaining user experiences - and the nonprofit sector is catching on!

Some nonprofits use infinite scrolling to load content automatically as you scroll down - such as the World Wildlife Fund of Canada’s blog. Others use long scrolling, where an entire website is on one long page, or parallax scrolling, where the background and foreground scroll at different speeds to create a 3D effect.

Creative scrolling increases user engagement, helps nonprofits tell a story and benefits mobile users because it’s easier to scroll to access content rather than clicking. Nonprofits can use creative scrolling to stand out from the crowd and draw more supporters and donors.

On the other hand, creative scrolling may overwhelm users by making them feel a loss of control over how they navigate your site. This may in turn distract them from your content and lower conversions.

[TIP] Creative scrolling can be effective, but it isn’t always the right choice; understand when it’s most useful.

#3: Rich in Animation

Nonprofits are increasingly using CSS to incorporate creative animations in their website, such as video backgrounds and cinemagraphs. These animated backgrounds make for a more interactive and entertaining experience that can resonate with your audience and increase engagement.

A cinemagraph is a combination of a still image and a video that are edited into a seamless loop (i.e. a .GIF file).

Cinemagraphs are small files which make them mobile-friendly, but they are time-consuming to create. That’s why some designers opt for a video background instead.

Video backgrounds are short videos played on loop in the background. They are easier to produce than cinemagraphs, but are larger files which means they’re not mobile friendly. That’s why RisenChurch uses a video background on their desktop website, but a still image on mobile.

[TIP] StockFootageForFree provides video clips that you can use for video backgrounds, or convert into cinemagraphs to make the background mobile-friendly. You can also create your own cinemagraph using Adobe Photoshop.

#4: Ditching the “Stock” photo

Stock photos are images purchased by companies for use in their publications. You’ve seen them before: those blatantly staged images of company employees looking way too happy.

Because any organization can use stock photos, users began seeing the same images over and over again, and their insincerity made them distasteful and increasingly obsolete.

Nowadays, supporters and donors want to see real photos - regardless of their quality. Rather than have professional framing, focus and lighting, nonprofits are opting for lesser-quality photos that are raw and demonstrate real events surrounding a nonprofit’s impact story.

[TIP] Does your nonprofit lack the resources to produce compelling photos? Use unstaged, professional stock photos in the public domain. Websites like, and are great resources.

#5: Big & Bold Typography

Typography is the art of arranging typefaces (read: fonts) in order to make text more appealing.

We predict nonprofits will start being more creative and intentional with their typography to complement their marketing and branding.

Considering that Flat 2.0 web design sometimes only features text, fonts play a significant role in the feel of a web page. Similarly, layering text over images is an effective way to catch a potential donor's eye and have your message heard.

While font choices have been limited in the past, nonprofits now have access to a multitude of free, standardized fonts hosted online. They can be accessed by anyone, and give designers creative options to establish meaning behind the fonts they use.

[TIP] Check out Font Squirrel and Google Fonts for free typeface options.

Bonus Trend! Touch-Supported Events

Touch-supported events are gestures (‘sliding up’ on your mobile phone, for example) that trigger an event, like sharing an article. They complement mobile use by providing interactive options to navigate a website that doesn’t involve clicking - which can be difficult on mobile!

Imagine: donors visit your mobile website, read about your mission and impact, and then have the option to ‘slide to donate’. We predict nonprofits will begin using touch-supported events like this to engage donors and increase their conversions.

Touch-supported events are important considering the increase of mobile use. It’s relatively new technology that puts your nonprofit ahead of the crowd, and there are different kinds of touch-supported events available online for free as open-source code - although it does take talent to implement them.

If you have the capacity to incorporate touch-supported events in your mobile site and marketing campaigns, it can benefit your nonprofit’s success in reaching and engaging supporters and donors.

[TIP] PhotoSwipe and Dragend are great resources for open-source code that create touch-supported events.

We hope this helped your nonprofit understand the upcoming trends in design! And hopefully you'll be able to incorporate some of these trends in your own marketing efforts and make our predictions come true!

Take a look at 5 Tech Trends: 2016 is the Year of Interconnectivity to learn more!