One five-minute surf of the internet, and you’re sure to detect a number of fresh web design trends. And if you’re like most business owners, the first thing you’ll do is wonder if you’re missing out on valuable attention for your brand by not employing those trends.
Lots of trends are fleeting: they’ll be old news by the time your web designer gets around to implementing them. Others are junk: created in vain for the purpose of competing with another trend or showing off non-relevant coding skills. Other trends actually stick for more than the calendar year. Why? Because they were not only designed with a real consumer need in mind, they make something easier, more effective or more efficient.
So how can you tell the difference between the fleeting web design trend and one that will enhance your website’s branded experience for more time than it takes to pay your web designer’s invoice?
The key is knowing your brand and its audience. What is your ideal customer looking for in a website experience? What are they hoping to accomplish? What will they value and what will they see as a total waste of time?
Sometimes, it’s appropriate to ask these questions out-right, in an online poll or survey of your target audience. Sometimes, your audience members won’t know what they want (and don’t want) until they see or use it. In that case, it’s up to you to research their past behaviours and make a best guess as to how they’ll react to new web design developments.
In any case, I’ve created a list of some web design trends with brief descriptions to help you determine if they’re right or wrong for your brand’s unique audience.
- Hamburger Menus: If you think this sounds like something reserved for restaurant websites, you’d be incorrect. You’ve seen these—a series of small horizontal lines that when clicked on, reveal a larger menu. These little devils have proven especially helpful for websites often viewed on mobile devices, where screen space is precious. By now, most internet users recognise these tools and are quick to click. If your website is popular among mobile users, and those users who are internet savvy, I think this trend may be more of a staple than a passing trend.
- Simplified Menus: “Along the lines” of the hamburger menu is the menu that has fewer options, overall. I can’t think of many audiences that would be stoked about having to read through 30 page options in order to determine where to go for the answers they need. Along with fewer options come fewer pages…and therefore the need for more succinct language and only content that is uber-relevant. The modern website is not overly verbose…again, catering to the short attention span of today’s consumer. This isn’t easy. As Mark Twain stated, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”
- Precise Colour: It would seem that all the talk from How to Build a Brand about the importance of colour is catching on. Today, when a web designer asks for a brand’s colours, he is less likely than ever to accept an answer like “blue.” Shade is imperative to communicating your brand’s values and message…and for that matter, the slightest tweak of that shade can affect the feelings your most important ideal customers get when visiting your website. I do not look for this colour-precision focus to fade any time soon, but just in case it does, I would suggest taking advantage of it sooner rather than later.
- Bold Colour: This is huge, particularly if your target audience is filled with visual learners. Websites are progressively moving toward reduced verbiage and increased unwritten communication…mostly in the form of images and graphics that make bold statements. There are cases in which bright, saturated colours will not serve your brand; however, if you’re looking to make a bold statement as soon as your homepage appears, this is a trend that should be followed.
- Colour Gradients: How many colours does your brand have? And are you hoping to create a feeling of fluidity, togetherness or melding? Then colour gradients may be the answer for backgrounds, block fonts or other colour-filled areas of your web design. The fading of one colour into another isn’t right for every brand (i.e. those with definitive segments or rigid cultures); however, if you’re hoping to lend feelings of flexibility, inclusiveness, collaboration or free-spiritedness, this could be a trend to keep.
- Duotone: This one worries me just a bit—mainly because colour is so important to the communication of your brand’s message. This web design trend limits your entire page (or website) to shades of only two colours. This lends a contemporary feel; however, I question whether it has the power to convey messages and evoke emotion as well as a strategic, branded colour scheme.
- Animation: This might include a background image that streams like video, load bars that are more innovative than the standard, or moving words on the screen. If your audience is energetic and easily bored, this could be just right for your website. However, if your visitors are often distracted, or are uber-focussed on finding an answer to their question or solution to their problem, I would steer away from animation. Simply ask yourself: will it add or detract from the experience my ideal customer is craving? And more importantly: Does it support or undermine the customer journey I’m creating through my website?
- Vertical Flow: If your ideal customers are searching on mobile devices, they’re reading about you (and your competition) in a vertical fashion. Unless you own a dating app or a photo gallery platform, they’re not swiping left; they’re scrolling down. Fewer and fewer people are searching using their PCs, which have landscape-oriented screens. More and more are using mobile phones, which have portrait-oriented screens. Keep this in mind and make use of vertical flow content, where all text is viewable from left to right on mobile devices.
- Obscure Fonts: Whether it’s overlapping letters, reduced contrast between whitespace and lettering, or fine-lined fonts, there is a movement toward illegibility that doesn’t make much sense. I will say that if your audience is made up of youthful people with 20/20 vision and they place high value on puzzlement or artistry-over-information, then filling your website with harder-than-average to read headlines and/or content might be the way to go.
- Card Layout: This is something that seems to be working well for my blogsite, and for others I know. If your audience is driven by visuals, it may work for you, too. Not only does a card layout provide lots of opportunities for the integration of your brand colours and photos that are unique to your business, it allows for restructuring on different devices, automatically reorganising the layout for each.
These only represent a portion of the web design trends available to you today. I hope that you’ve gotten the message that not every trend will work to build your brand—and that some will actually sabotage its effectiveness.
If you’re confused about which web design trends to embrace and which ones to ignore, you’re not alone. This is not a simple subject. I’m talking about this and more every week in my LIVE Brand Breakthroughs Sessions in the How to Build a Brand Facebook group. I invite you to submit your questions prior to each session, and I’ll answer them for you and the rest of the group. Or you can ask your questions right in the comments section as each session is happening live. Join me, won’t you?