Most web designers keep, if not a close eye, at least a casual I on web design trends. If they don’t, they are in danger of being left behind and becoming irrelevant as new technologies and new tastes and preferences are developed. After all, would you buy a website that was designed and built ten years ago? Probably not.
Understanding web development trends are not just about keeping up with best practices or being trendy, it also helps you become a better designer. By knowing about the current state of web design and how it arrived at this point over a decade of development, you will be able to gain some insights as to how the trends are most likely to go in the future. This is not about following the creative herd but about taking stock of where the industry as a whole is right now.
Web design today is about user-friendliness and functionality. The biggest trends set to take over the web this year are all about the user experience. In addition to that, a well-designed, modern-looking website adds a professional touch and an air of authority to a brand. In an effort to help you stay on the cutting edge and keep your content looking innovative and fresh, we’ve put together a list of some of the best trends in this article.
The digital medium of web design is more subject to all kinds of changes in technology as compared to its predecessor – traditional print, and the past decade of web design has seen a lot of design trends rise and fall. Here are some of the top trends seen in the last ten or so years.
Web Design Trends of the Past Decade: What’s changed and what’s stayed the same?
2007 – During this time roll-over effects and three-dimensional glossy buttons were all the rage. Tables built with CSS replaced frames. There were background textures which included rainbow effects and ‘grunge’. These web design trends held firm until the end of the decade. The list of Top Websites from Time Magazine in 2007 included a lot of the names that are still familiar even today such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Etsy, and Tumblr.
2010 – The beginning of the decade saw the rise of the infographic. By this time a lot of web users had high-speed internet and this made it much easier to create websites that were graphics-heavy. This, together with the meteoric rise in social media sharing, is the reason why infographics became such a popular way of arranging website content and conveying information. This is also the time when websites started to move away from the box and grid designs and toward more modern layouts. Websites that incorporated parallax scrolling became more popular during 2011.
2013 – Flat design started its rein by this time. All the dazzling gradients, skeuomorphism, and shadows that had exploded in popularity in the previous years started to fade away. Sites with traditional navigation bars gave way to full-page sites.
2017 – With the advent of smartphones a decade ago, more and more people now browse the internet on their mobiles. This has driven the design choices of the latter part of the decade. Now sites with varying screen sizes are a necessity for all modern business. 2017 was the year that mobile internet usage officially overtook desktop browsing. Now that you know where the web design industry is coming from, here is a list of some notable web design trends that are set to take over this year so you can know where it’s going.
12 of the Biggest Web Design Trends
1. Data Storytelling
The ‘information storyteller’ is a necessity for the modern website. Web designers need to be able to come up with effective storytelling through design. They should be able to convey information that is often complex in a way that is not only simple and easy to understand but that is also engaging in a wide variety of audiences. This year will see designers thinking outside the box using new bespoke creations which favour vibrant colour transitions paired with bold typography instead of muted palettes. Wider access to new technology means that we will see more designers start to use animation for storytelling.
2. Playful Illustration
Illustrations help brands stand out in the sea of cookie-cutter websites that are online today. The past year has seen more and more illustrations on sites as brands discovered that it is such a wonderfully simple way to inject some personality into a website. Illustrations are engaging and don’t get in the way of functionality. They are very practical ways of explaining or presenting information and can be used to breathe some life into dry content. They come in infinite styles, shapes, and sizes. They are one of the most dynamic elements for designers to look for going forward.
3. Web Animation
On a related note, another of the web design trends that are set to make a huge impact is web animation. This can play a big role in simplifying ideas and interfaces so that they are much easier to understand. We live in a time where time is short and everyone is always in a hurry. The enthusiasm for web animations is understandable as they are not only informing and engaging, but they can also convey a complex idea in a very short time. Old and new brands all know the value of storytelling and personality when it comes to capturing users’ attention. This year will see a lot of animated logos and the return of the GIF.
4. Standardizing Design Tools
Speaking of new technology, it seems like in 2017, not a day went past that we didn’t see a new app, tool, or feature from the likes of Webflow, Adobe XD, InVision, Axure, Vectr, Marvel, Figma, and others. Although some of them have been real game-changers, this explosion of new design tools in the market shows how design has become a core part of how a business operates in today’s world.
However, this trend from the past year poses a challenge for web designers as the market has become saturated with different options. With no guidance on how to create efficiencies, this has proved to be a huge problem especially for agencies as there isn’t one tool that is the chosen one for the industry so teams with different processes are having a hard time getting through all of this.
5. Creative Typography
Typography is powerful and its use on the web has broadened this year thanks in part to device resolutions getting sharper which boosts their legibility. It seems that a lot of web designers are thinking the same thing when it comes to custom fonts: subtlety is out, oversized typefaces are in. Bigger is better! Styles like Helvetica remain popular but in the current battle for eyeballs, a lot of designers are branching out and sampling the wide array of typefaces (fonts) available to them and using them in bold, dramatic ways. Serifs will likely return to the screen and some designers will pair serif and sans-serif fonts to create beautifully dynamic experiences for the user.
6. More Bold and Adventurous Colors
The past year saw an increase in the use of bold colours and that trend is expected to continue. New tools like Khroma are providing web designers with new and exciting ways of using colour and more of them will be exploring how they can leverage such tools to bring exceptional experiences to users. It will be very interesting to see how they use colour alongside personalization and customization to deliver unique content for consumers.
7. Flat design 2.0
Flat design made a huge impact on brands like Stripe, Instagram, Apple’s iOS icons and others but it has to adapt to stay relevant in 2018. The new Flat 2.0 adds nuance and depth to its prior ascetic identity by using gradients and shadows in moderation. This semi-flat design is one that more and more designers are experimenting with. While back in 2007, gradients brought up images of Powerpoint presentations and dated web headers and logo designs, now they are evolved and back in vogue. Gradients now have vibrant, updated colour palettes and softer transitions which are more subtle to add both beauty and functionality to the site.
8. Asymmetric Design Layouts
At the start of the decade, the responsive design movement enabled web designers to create sites that seamlessly adapt to different designs. This year, however, there is an increase in web designs that attempt to be more creative and rebel against the constraints brought on by responsive design. Spotify was one of the first rebels in 2015 and this trend has been growing ever since. Web designers are constantly looking for ways to break away from the rules and differentiate themselves and now, because of new technologies in web design, traditional rules are being broken and web designers are finding new ways of pushing the boundaries and presenting content.
9. Kinetic Emails
It’s time to move from just making emails mobile responsive to considering what comes next. Web designers now have to come up with new ways to promote interaction within emails using CSS3 and HTML. Users are now very comfortable with the UI language of websites and mobile apps and that is where this trend stems from. They are now happy to see it in emails as well and kinetic emails are enhancing the way brands communicate with customers. Now a single email campaign can be treated as a journey in itself and it’s starting to change what email means to individuals.
10. Mobile Rules
Mobile has long since overtaken desktop browsing and that means that this year, as in the last couple of years, web designers will focus more on the mobile audience than ever before. Innovations are expected to fully use mobile functionality the likes of which has never been seen on desktop. Designers in 2018 will come up with extremely creative ways of organizing information intuitively and in an aesthetically pleasing way. This will lead to more refined user experiences with more focus on gestures and micro-interactions as opposed to buttons and icons.
11. Evolution of AI
No longer a subject for sci-fi, artificial intelligence is already in a lot of mainstream web designs today thanks to the use of technologies like chatbots. A lot of people may already be using artificial intelligence in their day to day work without even being aware of it. For example, voice assistants such as Apple’s Siri and Google Home already use artificial narrow intelligence. ANI also runs smart home devices, self-driving cars, and recommendation technologies for Amazon, Spotify, Netflix and other such sites. The use of the conversational interface in design is growing as people are becoming more used to interact with bots and expectations are that over the next couple of years, AI will be introduced into a lot of systems we interact with.
12. End of the Homepage
Some experts predict that the home page will soon die. Some forward-thinking brands have already created new websites that are less and less like the traditional home pages that we usually see. They are embracing the more dynamic entry points. Everything is way more personalized when you visit those websites and you can expect the actual content to change on the go as you interact with it. This means that we will likely start to see some real transformation in how content is organized and consumed in a particular central space. Websites will no longer be considered as separate pillars of knowledge but as a part of a multimodal system involving other complementary interfaces.
Bonus Web Design Trends: The Boom of E-commerce
As more clients explore strong e-commerce platforms and the possibilities that they offer, the trend of Black Fridays, Cyber Mondays (and whatever else will come next) will only continue to grow at an explosive rate. By nature, we are all consumers which means that we always need (want) more things and the internet is packed full of everything we can dream of. The possibilities of e-commerce are just starting to show themselves to us with sites like Amazon which own no shops but can bring almost anything to you in a day, and sites like Just Eat which own no restaurants but can deliver any kind of food you desire – the list goes on.