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That Was the Year That Was: 2016 in Web Design

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Read Time: 7 min

Well, that was 2016–and what a year it’s been! Forget world politics for a moment, let’s gather the crowd, shout it aloud, and look back on what the last twelve months meant for web design.


January is always a strange month, filled with anticipation as we release our grip on the year prior and step out into the new. Jonathan Cutrell told us what we could expect from web design in 2016, suggesting a rise in “live experiences”, more Internet of Things, plenty of U.S. political design discussion, continued importance of JavaScript, growing hype for Virtual Reality, motion design, and SVG. I’d say he was pretty much on the mark!

Chris Coyier and friends kicked things off in grand style, with episode 200 of The ShopTalk Show, and a fancy new JavaScript console for CodePen.

Our very own Cyan spoke with The Sunrise about Envato’s early days.

“Remote work and a results driven work environment were baked in [..] right from the start.” – Cyan Ta’eed speaking on The Sunrise’s AMA


February was a busy month as the year started gearing up. Adobe launched Animate CC (formerly known as “Flash”, which some of you might remember), then with somewhat poetic irony, the original Envato flagship shut its doors for the last time.

In more positive news, a rejuvenated launched:

The Chinese mainland rang in the “Year of the Fire Monkey”, so Kendra wrote a piece on it for us: Happy Year of the Monkey! Decrypting Chinese New Year’s Symbolism in UI Design.

Jon Gold tweeted this rather divisive, but hugely resonant comment (what did you think?)

Sarah Parmenter ‏questioned if web design work as we know it is drying up: The Elephant In The Room. And helped everyone enjoy trumping.

How did the web improve in February? We published John Hartley’s (excellent) Beginner's Guide to Web Accessibility, and Google, in their quest for a better web, launched AMP listings in mobile search results. Has AMP improved things? Did Google just add another layer of complexity to our jobs as web designers? You decide.


Building on momentum from the Chinese new year Kendra asked (and figured out) how do you say Envato in Chinese? Spoiler, it’s: 艺云台.

In terms of new launches, Adobe gave us a preview of Experience Design (later to become XD). opened its doors, beginning with a nugget about Paul Rand and the original UPS logo.

In terms of books, Design for Real Life hit the A Book Apart shelves, and Val Head gave us this (thanks Val):


April was a month during which discussion around the ethics of using ad blockers went up a notch; users are sick of slow websites and intrusion, content creators need to earn money in order to do their job. Tricky.

Etsy launched Pattern, a website builder for its sellers, and Tim Brown made his Pocket Guide to Combining Typefaces completely free for download (thanks Tim).

At Tuts+ we ran the CodePen Challenge #6: Decorative Drop Caps, then Nicole and I explained how we made our shiny new emails.

Zach Leatherman rated U.S. presidential candidates based on their font loading strategies.


May 2016 saw Adobe launch Spark; its graphic design app for creating social graphics, web stories and animated videos. Netflix launched, arguably the simplest web speed testing tool on the web.

And Kim won a Webby for breaking the internet:

“Nude selfies till I die” – Kim Kardashian West


Summer arrived, and with it Google invited us to “find out how well our sites work across mobile and desktop devices” with the launch of Other Google teams were busy too, Google Fonts launched a swish new redesign:

We published some practical, yet technical tutorials:


Oak Studios launched one of the most inspiring (certainly color-wise) websites of the year–their own:

Craig Campbell addressed the world’s pressing need to learn motion design, in one of our most popular courses this year 3 GreenSock Projects: Practical Animation With GSAP.


August! We celebrated Envato’s tenth birthday, prompting Collis to describe what it was like designing a website ten years ago. He was also interviewed on his role as CEO:

“But I also just work a lot. I have a fairly heavy workload. I’m a person who’s just comfortable working a lot.” – Collis Ta’eed, on Management. Disrupted.

In terms of tutorials, Kezz Bracey explained how to setup a Jekyll theme. And how did the web get better? Google announced that it would start penalizing “intrusive interstitials” (annoying pop-ups to you and me).


More new stuff in September, including OpenType variable fonts which have been greeted with equal parts excitement and confusion. Gmail announced that it would begin supporting Responsive Web Design standards (media queries and squishiness). launched its YouTube channel and A Book Apart published the brilliant JavaScript for Web Designers by Mat Marquis.

We launched our Understanding CSS Grid Layout tutorial series, whilst Jen Simmons provided inspiration in the form of a grid-based lab relaunch:

Stripe did the same, showing off a spanking new homepage. See more of Stripe’s design work by following the team on Dribbbble.

In terms of making the web a better place Google reported how mobile latency impacts publisher revenue, and Christian Miller stated that he thinks your body text is too small. I think he’s right.


Whilst the world was embroiled in the U.S. Presidential Election, it emerged that Donald Trump had neglected to register certain (pretty important) domains. This left and, amongst others, out of his campaign’s control. 

Putting encryption, data integrity, and authentication at the top of the priority list, Envato Market moved over to HTTPS.

Kevin Marks followed up on what Christian Miller wrote in September, giving us How the Web Became Unreadable.

A certain front-end framework turned five:

Finally, Caniuse introduced “date relative mode” in order to highlight when browser versions were released and therefore when they adopted technologies.


Moving towards the end of the year, Tuts+ published its 3,000th translation, whilst @tutsplus_es crossed 1,000 followers.

There were a number of releases; Sketch 41 hit the shelves, with a fresh new look, nested symbols, and more. iA Writer 4 was released, and Brad Frost published his long awaited Atomic Design, the book. On the flip side, Fontdeck closed its doors.

Big improvements were made to debugging the web with web tools:

“Our goal at Chrome Dev Tools is to maximize your productivity as a developer.” – Paul Irish, Chrome Dev Summit 2016

Then Jason Levine did that thing at Adobe Max.

A significant internet usage milestone was crossed:


Twelve months in and a few things were launched to mark the end of the year: Tim Kadlec launched www.webworldwide.ioEthan Marcotte launched a (responsive) redesign of his own website. WordPress 4.7 “Vaughan” (along with the brand new Twenty Seventeen default theme) was released. 


To round off the month we were given inspiring and strong design as launched:

“What got us here, won’t get us there.” – Matt Mullenweg, State of the Word 2016

Here’s to 2017!

That wraps up our quick look at web design in 2016! What did you feel was significant this year? How did web design change, and where do you think it’s going? What are you looking forward to in 2017?

Some would say web security will play a big part in what we do next year. Others will be looking forward to the release of new frameworks. Perhaps UX will be our priority? Or internationalization? Matt Mullenweg will probably suggest you concentrate on JavaScript. Purists might tell you it’s time to dial things back a little and remember the basics of what the web should be.

I’ll just leave you with this:

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