Web Design and Development Trends for 2006 | December 8, 2005

The Web Standards movement has increasingly been gaining speed over the last couple of years. Once the preserve of a few high profile bloggers and evangelists, more and more developers have become wise to the benefits of meaningfully marked-up documents that separate content, presentation and behaviour.

2005 saw a rising demand for standards based developers, both from web design agencies, and remarkably also from end clients. 2005 also saw the success of @media, Europe’s first conference devoted to web standards.

I think 2006 will be the tipping point for standards based development as more and more companies come see web standards as a core part of their process.

2005 saw the birth of Ajax, a technique that uses JavaScript and the DOM to update a document without refreshing the page. This led to a renewed interest in scripting and gave rise to a new breed of highly sophisticated web applications.

The last few months of 2005 saw a huge flurry of activity, with a new high-profile web application launching almost every week. With advanced interactivity not seen before on the web, 2006 looks set to be the year of the web application.

2005 also saw the emergence of Ruby on Rails, the combination of an obscure yet elegant programming language with a rapid application development framework. Originally created by 37 Signals for their Basecamp project management tool, Rails promises unrivalled development speeds, some say as much as ten times faster than traditional methods. Rails also boasts close Ajax integration, and looks set to be the default development framework for many web 2.0 applications.

2006 is going to see Ruby on Rails development take off in a big way, with Rails developers never short of work. There will be an increasing number of hosts offering Rails support, as well as a slew of new books on the subject.

With 2006’s focus on web applications, slick user interface and interaction design is going to become even more essential. Some applications will attempt to mimic the desktop environment, and fail abysmally. Instead the trend for simple and elegant solutions will continue.

As resolutions increase in size, big fonts will dominate the first half of the year. With the success of the Firefox logo, the new breed of web 2.0 applications will choose soft, three-dimensional illustrative logos that pay homage to the icons of their desktop equivalents.

Designs will soften, with more rounded corners, pastel colours and hinted boxes. Drop shadows and gradients will remain, but in a much subtler form to avoid visual clutter. 2006 will also be a year of transparency, with a profusion of fade effects and the PNG becoming the rightful heir to the image crown.

Last, but by no means least, we will see the death of IE5.x and the birth of a new, improved Internet Explorer in the shape of IE7. With improved standards support, numerous bug fixes and native PNG transparency, IE7 will hopefully make all our jobs a lot easier.

Those are my predictions. What do you think 2006 will bring?

Posted at December 8, 2005 12:57 PM


Tomas Jogin said on December 8, 2005 1:46 PM

I’ll dare predict that black, gray and tones inbetween will no longer strictly be thought of as “the colors of porn sites” but find their way to edgy business ventures as well (design example).

Ian Lloyd said on December 8, 2005 1:55 PM

I predict that porn will be popular in 2006. Not sure that the bookies will pay out much on that prediction, though. I also predict that web 2.0 will have a bug fix or two and move to web 2.1. Or something like that. Finally I predict that SXSW2006 will be a blast.

I’m no Nostradamus, am I? :-D

Good list, Andy. And the big font size thing - you know, I only just clicked that this may be the reason for all these big fonts (the hi-res screen users who set the res to stupidly large pixel dimensions who then can’t read text set at ‘normal’ sizes being the very same people who are developing the web 2.0 big font apps). It all makes sense now!

Zeerus said on December 8, 2005 2:05 PM

Great list Andy. I have to agree with the RoR prediction. A ton of new apps are coming, as you said, weekly, so it’s only right that we’re going to see a slew of new books and sites dedicated to the language. As for large font sizes, maybe I should start adjusting for the 2006 launch of a new site I’m working on.

Jonathan Snook said on December 8, 2005 2:39 PM

Alpha pngs are going to be hot. With lots of element layering. I’ve done it and I’ve seen the power! Expect to see some crazy designs in the next year.

Petros Dimitriadis said on December 8, 2005 3:14 PM

Really good article Andy. I totally agree with Tomas Jogin about the colours. I think black is the new black.

Nathan Smith said on December 8, 2005 5:00 PM

I forsee more small-company mergers, like that of TextDrive and Joyent. I think that these companies will be a thorn in the side to larger ones, further forcing the big guys to realize the relevance and necessity of web standards minded business practices.

Richard Conyard said on December 8, 2005 5:46 PM

Hopefully with a bit of a tidy up and an open sourcing I can look forward to lots of companies playing with our sxForms engine which will allow them to use xForms behind their websites ;-)

Joking aside I think there will be a big push of enterprise technologies this year along with RoR which inturn will push technologies like xForms, (n)Hibernate and SQL 2005.

Sherwin Techico said on December 8, 2005 7:37 PM

@Ian: LOL, “Nostradamus”… That’s what I totally felt while reading Andy’s forecast.

@Andy: Nice findings. Noticed that you didn’t mention anything about IE6. If you can add this to when you stated that “we will see the death of IE5.x” that’ll be great.

Meanwhile, seeing how RoR is becoming more of a common buzzword among technology-based companies. I notice how followers of PHP have been getting busy developing better frameworks for it to rival RoR. So I guess, we’ll see this growth spurt in 2006 as well.

James AkaXakA said on December 8, 2005 8:41 PM

Thing is, with Auto Windows Update, IE 6 people will get 7 waaay before the people still running 5.

So I’d expect to see the decimation of 6 before a decline in 5.

Dave said on December 9, 2005 12:31 AM

I think mobile phones and micropayments will get big(ger).

Small Paul said on December 9, 2005 10:44 AM

Man, here’s hoping IE 5 dies, on Windows and the Mac, if y’please.

If 6 went as well, that’d be pretty cool, but with all the businesses sticking with Win2K for a while, I don’t see it happening. Lots of people still access the web from work, surely?

Nick Lazar said on December 9, 2005 11:36 AM

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I understand that Microsoft will be pushing out an IE7 script ‘upgrade’ for IE6. My understanding is that it will then render the same way as IE7. With this in mind, IE6 should bite the dust when this happens, sounding the death knell for the horrible bug prone browser we love to hate.

If this is a correct interpretation of the fate of IE6, it means that many web sites that have been designed for IE6 will break. So, I predict that in 2006 there will be a lot of companies and government organisations with broken web sites, looking for an urgent fix!

Alex Farran said on December 9, 2005 1:04 PM

I see more developers migrating from Java and C# towards high level dynamic languages like Ruby and Python.

Ruby on rails isn’t the last word on web frameworks, but it has showcased the productivity advantages of metaprogramming - programs that write programs. Expect to see more of that.

The next breakthrough in productivity will come from continuation based frameworks, such as Seaside, that make writing web applications that maintain state between pages much easier.

Richard Conyard said on December 9, 2005 2:00 PM

@Alex Farran
You know I can’t really see mass migration away from Java and C# except by those doing it for a hobby.

RoR and Python just don’t have the same capabilities for the big boys apps that Java / c# do.

Andy Budd said on December 9, 2005 3:05 PM

Hi Nick,

Are you thinking of Dean Edward’s IE7 script? It is not an official Microsoft script and is still in beta at the moment. However the idea is that web developers can deploy this script to make IE5-6 behave like IE7. There are a few issues to do with speed and responsiveness, so I don’t see it as a mass solution. However once IE5-6 usage starts to drop off, this script will be perfect for patching minority browsers.

Stuart Frisby said on December 9, 2005 4:31 PM

I see frustration, broken promises from the Microsoft IE team, another inept browser, and a whole rebirth of hacks, fixes and workarounds.

Green will be the new blue, and we are going to see some real ‘web 2.0’ competition to the likes of Wordpress, Textpattern and MT.

2006 will be another fun packed year of mergers, bankruptcies and over-investment, all the juicy stuff.

Luke Redpath said on December 9, 2005 4:40 PM

_You know I can’t really see mass migration away from Java and C# except by those doing it for a hobby.

RoR and Python just don’t have the same capabilities for the big boys apps that Java / c# do.”_

Why not? What capabilities doe Java/C# offer that Ruby and Python don’t for the majority of web applications, large and small?

The big boys are already adding RubyOnRails to their portfolio:


Thats not to say everyone will drop Java/C# and start using Ruby for everything, but for most web apps (including some apps that could be considered “enterprise”) Rails is perfect.

Right tools for the right job…

Ted Drake said on December 9, 2005 4:50 PM

I am going to go out on a limb and predict the death of rounded corners around October 2006. The saturation point will hit around CSS Reboot in spring and people will begin choking on the darn things over summer. Someone with an attitude, possibly Joe Clark or John Oxton, will declare their disgust with the lack of 90 degrees. We will then see a series of essays and tutorials from great designers on how to work without them. Some people will have to go through detox and others will begin to shake and mumble “they’ll pry my rounded corners out of my cold, dead, fingers…”

I also predict that IE7 will see more sites using :hover and people complaining about the lack of generated content support. I will be the first to moan about this on Jan. 1.

I also expect @media 2006 to sell out and to be even more fantastic than last year.

forgetfoo said on December 9, 2005 9:22 PM

all i want to know is, “what’s the new ___brown___ for 2006?” ;)

Jason Liske said on December 10, 2005 5:33 AM

The new brown for 2006 is black. you heard it from me first. Black is back. Well actually this is the web someone already probably said it but go ahead and relay where just for fun.

Richard Conyard said on December 10, 2005 1:38 PM

I’m on about mainframe integration, ACID support, load balancing and clustering out of the box.

Scott said on December 10, 2005 4:30 PM

There has been a lot of predictions for the death of rounded corners. Although it’s just recently become easier to implement into web layouts, it’s just basic graphic design to balance elements within a layout like depth, color, shape, etc. I’d agree that a layout created entirely with rounded corners may be too “organic” whereas the opposite may be too hard-edged. But wouldn’t it be a bad thing to completely lose something as fundamental to design as rounded corners? I guess I just see some things as definite trends (wet-floor highlights on logos, etc) and some things as just commonplace in our industry (curved lines, straight lines, etc).

eric said on December 10, 2005 5:16 PM

Scott, I agree with you completely on the rounded corners, and I think that logic extends to gradients as well. A site that’s all square corners and flat colors will often (not always) look unbalanced or plain, and elements like rounding and gradients can make things a little more appealing.

Steven Woods said on December 10, 2005 8:00 PM

“2005 saw the birth of Ajax, a technique that uses JavaScript and the DOM to update a document without refreshing the page. This led to a renewed interest in scripting and gave rise to a new breed of highly sophisticated web applications.”

I really hope you’re talking about the term AJAX, and not the techniques because you’re asking for trouble from those who have been using it before this horrible buzzword was coined.

Will said on December 10, 2005 10:47 PM

Hopefully, we’ll see more easy-to-get-at data sources so that we might see a new crop of mashups. useful mashups that is.

I also imagine we’ll see a slew of basecamp rip offs.

And of course the wikification of the web.

Wow, this preview thing is really neato. makes me wanna keep typing.

bitter_monkey said on December 11, 2005 2:47 AM

i think a lot of web designers are going to create sleek designs without or with minimal use of gradient / shadows / highlights especially now that there are a lot of color scheme tools on the web. we saw in 2005 the prevalence of these techniques and a lot of designer would want their sites to be different. A lot of us will attempt.. some will fail, but those who will succeed will create a trend that every designer would follow.

Basem Narmok said on December 11, 2005 3:36 AM

I think you missed TurboGears:
I think TG will be the 2006 big trend, no more to say, wait & you’ll see!

Andy Budd said on December 11, 2005 5:33 PM

Thanks Steve. I was talking about the term, not the techniques. Although personally I have no problem with the term as it allows me to talk to other developers and they know what I’m talking about. I’d hate to have to define Ajax the techniques that go into making up an Ajax application each time I wanted to talk about it. The invention of common terminology was therefor one of the major reasons the technique has become popular.

Steven Woods said on December 11, 2005 6:57 PM

Hi Andy,

I think it was just the way you phrased it… “2005 saw the birth of ajax, a technique…”. To me it implied that the technique itself had been invented in 2005, not the terminology describing it.

Steve Woods

Andy Budd said on December 12, 2005 8:49 AM

Well strictly speaking that’s true. While the technologies have been in existence for a while the actual Ajax philosophy was born at the same time as the name.

rik abel said on December 12, 2005 11:50 AM

I definitely think the time has come for alpha-PNGs - I’ve used them on the last few projects I’ve done and get very excited imagining the possibilities. That’s how sad I am. And IE can just get boring old gifs via my now-beloved “* html… boring_old.gif”. In fact, my current design features heavy use of alpha-PNGs, subtle gradients AND rounded boxes. Spooky. Mind you, it also features subtle diagonal striping and fades - it could hardly BE more web 2.0tastic. Unless I used VAG Rounded for the logo. But it’s not like I’m totally slavishly derivative, I used rounded boxes, VAG Rounded logo, subtle drop-shadows and juicy highlights WAAAY back in 2002 ( www.play.com - archived ). Therefore I actually invented the web 2.0 look. Arguably…:D

B. Brookens said on December 12, 2005 8:37 PM

Great Post!

Alexander Micek said on December 13, 2005 3:58 AM

Excellent thoughts, thank you for not buzz-wording us to death. That said, your predictions

“Designs will soften, with more rounded corners, pastel colours and hinted boxes. Drop shadows and gradients will remain, but in a much subtler form to avoid visual clutter. 2006 will also be a year of transparency, with a profusion of fade effects and the PNG becoming the rightful heir to the image crown.”

pretty much describe my website. I think this means I’m obsolete already! Noo.

grumpY! said on December 13, 2005 5:43 AM

javascript-shunning will become fashionable in 2006 as amateur web designers throw excessive scripting at anything that looks like hypertext.

more predictions: the web in 2006 (and forward) will start to look like a boring commodity industry. college kids will realize that the winners have been picked (for now) in many key categories and in any case there aren’t any interesting problems to be solved with webpages at this point. start looking for “start up” types to go into energy-related work.

Scott McDaniel said on December 13, 2005 6:31 AM

I predict the reemergence of the tag, possibly used in clever combination with .

daniel said on December 13, 2005 6:37 AM

We’ll see an ever widening split in the browsers chosen by users. The ones that don’t care, or who can’t be bothered to upgrade (my luddite mother in law comes to mind) will fall ever behind.

On the other hand, the twin forces of Security and Standards will cause those who can upgrade to do so. So there will be a sizeable number of creaky old browsers, a majority of AJAX/standards compatible ones, and a gulf in between.

With the competition heating up to Ship Web 2.0 apps, one thing that will start to go out the window is the idea of degrading gracefully. It adds to development time. “enough!”, some developers will say. “upgrade, and come back after!”

In other words, in 2006, the weight of trying to support everything old is going to snap some camel backs :-)

Shojke said on December 13, 2005 12:33 PM

Funy and minimal design… Worm collors and a lot of tag combinations…

Mauricio Canchola said on December 14, 2005 7:51 PM

Full-screen flash pages with easing effects will prevail; big fonts and big background pictures

nathan said on December 15, 2005 3:50 PM

Design Trends:
Greater campaign integration into web sites.
More consistent brand experience across channels.
Web as the hub of all marketing communications.

Technology trends:
consolidation of silo’d technologies into the notion of a ‘global internet platform’ (within a company).
From the above, a move to centralised (global) content management platforms .

asdf said on December 20, 2005 7:57 AM

I’ll predict that the buzzword Web2.0 will die like most dotcoms.

Rick Russie said on January 6, 2006 2:24 AM

I heard somewhere that standards support won’t come until IE8, and that IE7 will mainly be to support vista and security.
It makes no sense that mozilla can fix their bugs and security flaws in weeks, but the engineers at Microsoft take years to just make their browser secure, let alone accurate.

Andy Budd said on January 6, 2006 10:01 AM

Hi Rick,

That was originally going to be the case, but due to the the excellent work of the IE dev team, that is no longer the situation. It currently looks like all the major bugs will be fixed and the majority of CSS 2.1 selectors (and properties) will be supported. Check out the IE Blog for the latest info.

avi said on April 20, 2006 11:25 AM

I have been using AJAX technology since 2002. But it was not named.