TechRadar recently delivered what they and top experts consider to be key trends for the next 12 months in web design. At the core, is an increased focus on usability. Smashing Magazine sought to promote better user experiences with storytelling, encouraging designers to capitalize on users' emotions. The bottom line: by focusing on usability, a better website can be built.

Plagued by a turbulent economic outlook, web designers are finding it in their best interest and those of their clients to scale back on building micro-sites and head-to-toe redesigns, and focus more on improving the overall usability of their websites.

According to TechRadar, the advances the industry has provided have also enabled "clients to take advantage of the web's efficiency and modularity" perhaps making usability and functionality all the more important because they now know what to expect. 

As well, better usability can help web designers assert their authority about how the web is used and how it can translate into revenue and brand loyalty for companies. But usability, as we often find, just makes sense.

1. Functionality

In 2010, functionality incorporates elements of common sense and viability. Integrating third-party enhancements into a site are often more user-intuitive and free, saving designers lots of time and money spent recreating the wheel.

Video and photos are best to be showcased using well-known distribution channels like Flickr and YouTube, while Twitter and other social media APIs can be integrated within sites.

2. Interaction

While seemingly complex, website interactivity can actually simplify user interfaces. Richer interfaces that use Flash are diminishing their threat, being replaced, instead by JavaScript.

Meaningless (and cumbersome) visual animation will be replaced by beautiful interaction that works to promote specific user engagement behaviors. Pretty and functional interactive displays will be essential to the user experience.

3. Dynamic Content

Smashing Magazine says,

storytelling and user experience have common elements -- like planning, research, and content creation -- that can be utilized for effectively developing an experience.

Putting a face with a name essentially helps users relate to personas and makes them want to contribute to the story, either helping to shape it with their own words or how they choose to share it with others.

Blending emotions with design can help steer users in the direction appropriate for your website, ultimately improving functionality and customization.

4. Web Standards

In the last few months, we've covered the measures taken by the W3C on how to handle inaccessible websites, CSS3, HTML 5 and the semantic web, among others. As designers and developers adapt to changing web standards, they must also be mindful of anyone using browsers that don't support cutting-edge technologies.

Web standards don't just target traditional websites, but those that are mobile-based, as well. In the interest of time, money and accessibility, creating mobile-specific sites may be less important than designing better accessible websites altogether.

5. Expanding Skill Sets

Whether it's designing apps for the iPhone or working with open source technologies, designers and developers alike need to get skilled. Customers are already demanding cutting edge applications and enhancements. Being able to make educated decisions about designs that promote new technologies, web standards and good usability will be a challenge, but ignoring it all together, won't make them less relevant.

Overall what design and usability intend to do for websites in 2010 is very similar to what the underlying goal of any website should be: making information easy to find, navigate and engage.

Do you agree? Tell us what you think the key design trends will be for 2010.