Do Web Design Trends Matter?

The short answer is…that depends. Some do, some don't, and most can be avoided. We'll help you figure it all out, and show you how you can make design trends work for your new site.

Published

December 4, 2017


Author

Sam Daugherty


Topic

Design Trends, Marketing


We’re coming up on the end of the year, and in the marketing world, that means we’re looking at emerging trends for next year. Marketers do this all the time, but is it really relevant for most people?

The truth is, as much as I love making really trendy stuff, most of it doesn’t matter for the average business owner, or even the average website. Let’s look at a few of the trends for 2018, talk about why they do/don’t matter, and what you need to know about embracing them for your next website. We’ll start with some easy ones!

Let's Get Going.

Bold Typography - Go for it.

This is something we’ve been seeing a lot this year, and I really like it. We used it on our site, if you needed more proof. Gone are the big, full-screen header graphics, and they’ve been replaced with big, bold, in-your-face headlines. It gets your attention, and you can’t get more concise than just saying “READ THIS”, right?

Typography might sound boring, and to most non-designers, it generally is. I once watched a documentary about a font, and my wife thought I had lost my mind. I live for this shit. Why? Because fonts have character, and give you a feel for where you are, before you even read the words. Gothic, or serif, fonts (like our headlines) invoke stability and classicism. They’re timeless. Modern typography are super popular with tech startups, and tend to be edgy and fashionable. They’re sleek and modern. Script, or handwritten fonts are fancy and elegant. You see them in a lot of marketing targeting women. Fonts create a sense of style, regardless of the words they're creating.

Font is so important, that many brands spend thousands of dollars having custom fonts designed for their company. Intel and AirBnB both did this. You don’t have to go that far, but this is how powerful typography can be.

Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) - Use them.

SVG is not new, but we're seeing it used in new ways. They’re graphic files, like pictures, but these illustrations use a vector file that can be blown up to any size. And in a lot of web applications, it’s essentially plotted coordinates on a screen, that the browser draws. It’s using math, instead of photographs, and the file sizes are substantially smaller. This helps with load times, and load times are massively important these days. You don't want a slow site.

The downside is that they aren’t supported outside of modern browsers. So, if you’re using an old version of Internet Explorer, they just won’t show up for you (and also, stop using old version of Internet Explorer). But for every smartphone out there and computer released after 2010, they’ll work great. And we recommend them whenever possible. They cannot replace photographs, but for icons and graphics (like logos), they can go a long way.

Scroll Animations - Maybe?

We used them. It’s little subtle movement on the page, like how things pop up into place as you scroll on this website (and then fade out of sight when you scroll back up to the top). Go ahead and scroll around, I can wait.

This is one of those things that is really trendy, but not exactly necessary. It looks cool, for sure, but that’s not always the best reason to do something. The most important consideration for the average person: it costs more. It simply takes more time to create a site with animation than it does to create a site without it. So if it’s in your budget, go for it. People will definitely tell you how cool it is. But if you’re trying to get a website up, and keep costs down, go ahead and skip it.

Crazy Menus - Hold that thought.

Think of almost every site you’ve ever visited on your phone, and it has a “hamburger” on it. That’s the three lines that you click to open the menu. The hamburger has been around forever, and designers are trying to kill it in favor of new things, like continuous side-scrolling, or just no menu at all. Again, it’s fun and trendy, but it can create a poor user experience, and even confuse people who are simply used to using a conventional menu to navigate the site.

If you want to implement a different sort of navigation, you can have fun, be different, and still stick to convention. Maybe that hamburger opens up a full-screen menu, with your contact info and social media links right in it? That’s fine. Have some fun with your site, but have a reason for doing it too. And never confuse your visitors.

Brutalism - It’s a thing

What is it? It’s a rebellion against “minimalism”. Think 90’s MTV graphics, and that’s pretty much what it is. Neon colors, multiple fonts, complicated designs. It’s the exact opposite of “clean” design. It’s a really hot trend right now for designers, but it’s really only impressing other designers. Most people aren’t going to be fans of it. It essentially throws all that we’re used to about websites out the window, and User Experience is an afterthought with brutalist designs.

You can take some of the trends though, and roll with them, as long as they fit your brand. Bright colors, bold gradients, duo-tone graphics, are all hip and cool. They can work for your site, as long as you use them in a way that makes sense for your company. Remember, strengthening your brand is way more important than being cool. Trends are temporary. Your business shouldn’t be.

Video - Use it if it makes sense.

First off, video is expensive. And I don’t mean kind of expensive, I mean double-the-budget expensive. So that’s the main consideration for a lot of people, and you should have a good reason for spending that kind of cash. Secondly, you need to know why you want video.

I’ve had customers ask for video, and full-screen video backgrounds, but they rarely know why they want it. Most of the time, they just think it looks cool. But that video is going to distract user attention away from the content too. So if the video isn’t complementing what you’re trying to say, then it’s doing more harm than good. Using video as a part of your marketing, especially on social media, is a really good way to increase engagement. But it should make sense why the video is there. Keep in mind that video files are huge too, and take a long time to load. That’s rarely a good thing, so make it count.

So That's That.

TAKEAWAY

There are a lot more trends out there, and everyone has their own predictions. But I made sure to pick the ones that showed up on everyone’s list. There’s nothing wrong with trends, and as designers, we always like to be on top of what they are. If your only goal is to win a design award, then you need to try and use as many emerging trends as possible. But that’s not a good goal if you plan to make your money back on the site. So if you’re looking for a new site, talk to your designer (make sure it’s us), and make sure you have a plan with clear goals. Any good designer will know the trends, and know if they’re right for you.