One of the biggest trends on the web for 2008 is the reign of simplicity. Over the past few months, some of the biggest websites have revamped their site design, opting for sophisticated but simple over gratuitous graphical bloat. Stripped away are the blends and visual effects, replaced with meaningful information, helpful text, and thoughtful interactions. It seems as if some of the best practices in user centered design are finally getting through to people.
Facebook launched a new "cleaner, simpler design". They say, “We’ve made the changes... in order to highlight the most recent and relevant information that users value, give users even more control and ownership over their profiles and simplify the user experience,” said Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
And a couple month's back MySpace launched a design update, one of many, which they are working on with Adaptive Path.
My personal favorite new design is the BBC website. Launched in April after an open beta, their new design incorporates (gasp) actual user feedback. I think bbc.co.uk strikes a wonderful balance of visual aesthetics, user experience, and customization.
One note, the most important thing in regard to any website design is not to loose focus and over-design the interface. The content should be the focus. Facebook & MySpace would be nothing without their members. BBC would be nothing without it's news and entertainment content. Already I'm drawn in to the stories... what UI?