Maintaining a high-converting website means adapting to constantly evolving design trends and site standards. Common website elements that drove website traffic five years ago may not perform as well in today’s market, so business owners must stay aware of changing trends to remain competitive.
In this article, our digital marketing and web design experts at Connective answer the question, “How have web design trends changed?” We explain the factors that affect website designs, outdated practices, and the new web design trends you’ll see on more websites soon. We’ll also help you determine if your business’s website needs a redesign.
Why Do Web Design Trends Change?
Website design has changed dramatically since the first site was launched in 1991. New technologies, programming languages, security protocols, and aesthetic preferences constantly change how website visitors view and interact with internet sites. Designers and marketers must continually adapt their strategies to create engaging and aesthetically-pleasing sites that users can easily navigate.
Technological advancement is one of the most significant forces driving changes in website design trends. For example, the worldwide adoption of the smartphone by the mid-2010s generated a need for mobile-responsive websites that could be viewed and navigated easily from a mobile device. Today, a business will miss out on many qualified leads by not offering a mobile-friendly website.
Web design trends will continue to shift and evolve as technology advances and website standards change. To stay competitive online, you must ensure that your business’s website keeps up with current trends and follows the modern principles of a good web design.
What Factors Affect Web Design?
Web designers must consider many factors when creating new websites or redesigning old ones. Factors that affect web design include, but are not limited to, the following:
Many website platforms exist to provide the framework for new sites. WordPress and similar organizations offer popular options that make it easy for site owners to create new content and make necessary changes.
Web designers must choose the platform that best suits the business’s needs to create an effective site. For example, an e-commerce company selling clothing to customers worldwide will have very different needs than a local contractor who remodels homes in a designated area. The online clothing store needs a platform that supports online sales, while the contractor needs other elements, like contact and scheduling forms.
The rise of responsive websites is an excellent example of how to answer the question, “How have web design trends changed?” A web design containing responsive elements will function smoothly whether the user visits from a computer, tablet, or phone.
Rather than forcing mobile users to zoom in and out of a PC-optimized web page, a responsive design shifts the content to match the user’s screen. A good website designer can create complicated responsive web designs that provide seamless experiences for visitors using any kind of device, whether mobile or on a monitor.
As technology advances, programming languages also evolve. Websites featuring outdated programming languages may not function well today. For example, Adobe Flash Player websites became extremely popular in the mid-2000s because they provided more functionality than HTML-written sites. However, Flash websites are utterly obsolete today and no longer function correctly.
All websites aim to not only attract visitors but also engage them and keep them on the site. Without a clear navigation strategy, website visitors click away and visit another site instead. A well-designed site will provide visitors with straightforward, clear navigation, making it easy for them to find the content they’re looking for, return to previous pages, and locate essential business information like operating hours and phone numbers.
Navigation best practices shift with changing web design trends. For example, the once-popular header menu (menu links in the website header section) has been replaced in recent years with the hamburger menu, the three-bar button in the top corner of a website that pulls up the site’s navigation.
Page Load Speed
Have you ever clicked on a website only to click away a few seconds later because the page was taking too long to load? The majority of internet users do the same thing. In today’s web design world, speed is everything.
Consider this study conducted by Pinterest Growth engineers. The Pinterest team set out to rebuild their web pages for faster load speeds. By decreasing wait times by 40%, they experienced 15% more SEO traffic and a 15% conversion rate increase.
Load speed often affects web design by dictating what a designer can and cannot add to the page. For example, a web design team must add engaging and interactive elements to each web page while simultaneously optimizing page load speeds.
Traditional web design born in the 1990s did not always provide the most user-friendly experiences for website visitors with disabilities, but today’s web designs often include many accessibility features. For example, bold typography, screen-reading accessibility, image alt tags, and captioned audio can improve a site’s accessibility. Click the link to learn about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and how ADA compliance affects web design.
Photography and Graphic Design
An effective web design relies on relevant, high-quality photography and graphics. As trends change, so do the types of images that web designers use.
For example, many designers once relied on stock photography, but current design trends lean more toward custom imagery. Photos of the business team, customized illustrations and graphics, and professional product and service photos make a better impression on website visitors compared to basic stock images.
Content best practices also affect web design trends over time. For example, many older websites feature long, content-heavy home pages, while current design trends encourage simple and minimal designs.
Recent years have also witnessed a significant rise in video, podcast, and other non-text content forms. The addition of just one high-quality video can make a huge difference in engaging with website visitors.
You may not consciously pay attention to the fonts used on the landing pages you visit when you look for products and services on search engines, but typography affects many aspects of web design. Web designers want to use eye-catching typography to catch visitors’ attention, but they don’t want to choose anything challenging to read.
The best typography matches the aesthetics of the business and brand. For example, a designer may choose a specific font for a more retro design vs. a modern one.
Many modern websites also use kinetic typography or moving text-based animations to catch the user’s eye. Any change that can spice up the text of a website while maintaining readability can set one website apart from its competitors.
What Are Some Outdated Web Design Trends?
Before discussing the latest web design trends, let’s review a few outdated trends that no longer help websites perform well. Outdated web design trends include:
Websites With Single Web Pages
Many outdated websites feature only a single web page. The result often takes one of two forms: either the site does not have enough content to drive conversions or has too much content in one space, creating a cluttered design. Today’s web design trends favor simpler designs with multiple pages over single-page websites.
Current web design trends prefer minimalism, but the mid-2010s took a different approach with infinite scrolling designs. This trend coincided with the smartphone boom as designers attempted to create more mobile-friendly web pages. By breaking long pages into sections that load as the user scrolls down, designers were able to improve load times for a smoother overall experience.
Many sites still use infinite scrolling elements, especially in e-commerce, but many others have adopted simpler and more SEO-friendly design trends.
Adobe Flash Elements
Adobe Flash changed the web design game in 1996 by introducing animation, video, and audio integration, and Flash-written websites reigned supreme through the mid-2000s. Despite its popularity, security concerns, a lack of mobile compatibility, and Google’s inability to read Flash content precipitated the discontinuation of Adobe Flash in 2020.
If your website includes any of these outdated trends, you may want to consider an overhaul. Any Flash elements, in particular, should be removed from your site to prevent a failure in functionality or security.
What Are the Latest Trends Web Designers Are Using?
We can’t answer the question, “How have web design trends changed?” without discussing today’s top web design trends. Current web design trends include the following:
Many modern web designs feature the grid layout, a simple and effective strategy for organizing Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). Grid designs provide web pages with the responsive design they need to function well on mobile devices. For example, a website’s grid may shift depending on the device, but the content itself and the content order do not change.
The grid layout has remained one of the most popular trends in web design because it provides a clean, attractive appearance. It also delivers a clean print layout because the page elements shift to fit the screen size.
Many web design teams have decreased load times for web pages by integrating lazy loading. With lazy loading, internet browsers (Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Firefox) download only the needed elements on the web page according to users’ different scrolling behaviors. For example, if the page visitor only scrolls halfway down the page, the browser only downloads half of the page content.
More and more websites have adopted machine learning and artificial intelligence-driven chatbots to provide visitors with chat support. Although this technology is still evolving, current chatbots can offer simple customer services, such as helping visitors navigate the website or suggesting products based on customer questions and information.
These chatbots often appear at the bottom corner of the site page, letting the visitor know immediately that they have support if needed.
Personalized forms and other content target consumers returning to the site. Rather than offering every site visitor the same content, personalized content changes depending on where the customer is in the buyer’s journey, where they live, their past behavior, and other metrics. This web design trend best suits e-commerce and directory sites, but applications may expand over time.
Websites often provide potential customers with interactive marketing tools, such as calculators, surveys, and quizzes. Current web design trends see a lot of interactive elements to engage site visitors and encourage conversion. For example, a marketplace lending website may feature a loan calculator to estimate monthly payments, and an e-commerce clothing store may hold an interactive contest to give customers a chance to win a free T-shirt.
Material design describes a web design trend started by Google in 2014 that’s still going strong today. It refers to web design with the physical world in mind. Rather than the flat, two-dimensional images of days past, this design trend uses shadows, textures, and colors to create the illusion of three dimensions, mimicking the real world.
Instead of simple, flat icons for linking buttons and other on-click commands, website designers create textured, colorful icons that seem to leap right off the page. Consider Google’s suite icons as an example. Overlapping colors and strategic shadows add a three-dimensional quality, especially to the calendar icon.
Micro animations create engaging user experiences for site visitors. These design elements may be as simple as interactive fonts that change color or size when the cursor hovers over them or as complex as moving hero images or dynamic page transitions. Web designs featuring the micro animation technique catch visitors’ attention and often make for a more playful internet environment.
Traditionally, web pages functioned as static pages that the user navigated by scrolling up and down, but new design trends integrate more modern scrolling options. Many web designers use horizontal scrolling or parallax scrolling for more dynamic web page designs.
Parallax scrolling creates a more engaging online space by moving images and content over top of other images and textures. Rather than simply following the one before, each page section slides under or over the previous one. Check out this website two graphic designers created for their wedding for an excellent example of parallax scrolling.
Virtual Reality (VR)
VR design elements aren’t new to websites, but as technology advances, these elements become easier to incorporate into any website design. Website owners can show potential customers what a product would look like in their homes, provide a tour of their hotel suite options, and more using VR interactive elements. We expect to continue to see VR elements evolve and expand as technology improves.
While traditional website design trends favored symmetrical and geometric shapes, current trends lean toward more organic or fluid shapes. Organic shapes and asymmetrical layouts create more visual interest compared to symmetrical and flat design trends. Designers use natural shapes to present a softer look without sharp angles and lines.
A gradient refers to a color slowly changing shade or shifting into another color. The use of gradients in web design is certainly not new, but current trends have witnessed some unique variants that feature incredibly bright colors. Many web designers use gradients to create dynamic backgrounds and more interesting typography.
Depending on the colors used and the sharpness of the gradient, designers can create simple, professional designs or bold, playful ones.
White space refers to the empty space between the elements on a web page. Not always white, this negative space helps separate the different sections on a page. Many websites from the beginning of the internet era featured cluttered designs, as if the designers wanted to present as much information to the viewer at one time as possible.
Modern web design trends prefer more white space between elements to make the page easier to read for site visitors.
Dark mode is a common web design trend experiencing an increase in popularity due to its modern look. Many websites and applications have a dark mode to help visitors with eye strain issues so they can visit the website for longer. Making your website dark mode compatible makes it more user-friendly for visitors who prefer dark web pages.
How Do You Know if Your Website Needs a Redesign?
An outdated website design may hurt your business more than it helps. Ranking high on search engine result pages and encouraging conversions require staying up to date on current web design trends and redesigning outdated elements. You may need a website redesign if your current site features any of the following:
No Mobile Responsiveness
Most web users will click away if they encounter a website with poor mobile responsiveness, but a high bounce rate from site visitors isn’t the only potential issue with having a non-responsive website. Google (the most commonly used search engine) won’t rank your site on the first page of organic results if your website doesn’t feature a responsive design.
If your website doesn’t adjust to mobile screens, it’s long past time for a new web design.
An effective web design needs simple and clear navigation to help visitors get around the site. If a user struggles to find the information they’re looking for, they may abandon the site and visit a competitor.
To identify this problem, ask your past customers about their experiences on your website. You may also ask a friend to click through the site and help you identify any problematic navigation.
Every business needs a consistent brand identity across its website, social media pages, and other platforms. A clear brand makes your business more recognizable to consumers and helps you appear more dependable and trustworthy.
If your website fails to capture your brand or you’ve recently rebranded, a new web design can make a significant difference in maintaining awareness and reputation for your company.
Like web design trends, website security standards evolve as technology changes. Old websites may not follow current coding standards or have the latest security patches, putting business and customer information at risk.
If your site contains sensitive business or customer information and you have concerns about its security, you may consider a total site redesign.
Today’s online shoppers and searchers won’t wait more than a few seconds for a website page to load, so slow speeds can have a massive impact on bounce and conversion rates. Google’s algorithms also pay attention to website speed and give ranking priority to speedier websites.
A website redesign may be your best option if your website loads slowly or struggles to load an entire page. You can test your site’s load speed using free online tools like GTmetrix.
Consistently low conversion rates may indicate the need for a new web design, especially if the website receives a decent amount of traffic. Websites fail to convert for many reasons, but a redesign can help you address them, whether you need more calls to action, more targeted content, or other important elements.
The best content management systems (CMSs) feature user-friendly backends that make it easy to post new pages, make navigation changes, and integrate SEO. Platforms like WordPress, Magento, and Drupal all provide simple CMSs popular for modern web design.
If your website CMS makes you jump through tiny flaming hoops just to post a single web page, you could greatly benefit from redesigning your website using a new platform.
As businesses grow, websites must evolve to provide all the needed functionality for site owners, business employees, and customers. For example, a redesign may suit your needs if you want to create a customer portal, an automated appointment scheduler, or another new function for your site.
Keeping track of competitor performance helps business owners understand where they stand within their industries. If you notice that many of your competitors boast cleaner and more modern-looking sites, you may be losing customers. A web user choosing between two services will most likely choose the company with a more professional or engaging site, so we recommend doing everything you can to make sure that’s you.
If your site needs a redesign, don’t worry. Many marketing services have the experts you need to create a high-performing site for your business.
Final Thoughts on Web Design Trends
Now that we’ve answered the question, “How have web design trends changed?” consider how the latest web design trends can benefit your business. Whether your site suffers from too much clutter, a confusing CMS, or an inconsistent brand identity, a new web design may provide the boost you need to reach more potential customers and maximize conversions.
The web design team at Connective would love the opportunity to create a new site for your business. We create modern website designs using cutting-edge technology and the best platforms. Check out our portfolio to see our latest work, or contact us online to get started.