1. Minimal Design
The most noticeable trend of modern web design is minimalism. The time for making websites ‘busy’ with flashy and distracting graphics is long gone. The bare minimum of navigation options and content is presented, enabling a clean website design that is direct and compatible across multiple devices.
Page loading times have decreased thanks to CSS innovations such as rounded corners, shapes and transparencies removing the need for many images. User experience has benefited from the heightened focus on essential content, as well as the removal of visual distractions such as unnecessary sidebars, textures and redundant animations.
2. Simple Websites
Absolutely anybody can publish a website. It is easier than ever before to create a platform for your business, your thoughts, your shop, or anything at all that interests you. This is largely thanks to user-friendly ‘drag-and-drop’ website builders and Content Management Systems (CMS).
As a result, there are now a lot of websites online which are very simple. Far from being a criticism, this means that they do not attempt to fulfill any more purpose than their particular niche requires. Content often has depth instead of breadth, and is more focused.
The use of parallax scrolling has resulted in some very well designed pages. The site senses when the visitor is scrolling, and enacts dynamic changes to the page design or layout as they do so. This boosts engagement by promoting interactivity with the content, as well as looking very professional.
In practice, parallax scrolling designs often involve one high resolution image in the background which immediately grabs the visitor’s attention and provides atmosphere. A large call to action encourages visitors to scroll further, and the content is then revealed, overlaid on the background image. Parallax templates save you the trouble of coding all this yourself, and are available for a variety of Content Management Systems (CMS).
4. Large, Modern Fonts
Every website owner wants their content to stand out. Fortunately, the rapid increase in average screen resolution over the past few years has made this possible in the simplest possible way:
BIG FONT SIZES
Basic websites with large text advertise their content broadly on the main pages, revealing the details deeper within the site. Big headlines tell visitors what they can expect from your site, in terms of content and tone. Large fonts for headings are a particularly good technique to use as readers can easily scan the page for what they are looking for.
Typography is a crucial consideration in web design these days. The font style, color, spacing, size and readability all contribute hugely to the impression your website gives to its visitors. Websites such as FontSquirrel (among many more) offer a vast selection of categorized fonts to choose from – many of which are free for both personal and commercial use. See our article on choosing the right font for your website.
Widgets containing icons or images are popular in web design because they mimic the graphical user interface (GUI) style of popular smartphone operating systems (OS) such as Android, iOS and Windows. This familiarity puts website visitors at ease, and allows the designer to gently nudge them towards their goal with clear pictorial cues.
Often, website home pages will display a row of three widgets to offer visitors a clear navigational choice. These usually have CSS rounded edges and sans-serif fonts, their nonthreatening appearance welcoming the user into the site. Even more conveniently, they tend to follow responsive design protocols.
6. Subtler Animations
Sites that feature dozens of animations which distract from the main content or purpose of the site are generally viewed with scorn. This dovetails nicely with the aforementioned trend of simple, minimalist website design. Animations that are used will most often be rendered through HTML5, jQuery or CSS3, rather than Flash.
CSS3, HTML5 and jQuery can all be used to animate certain parts of pages. Typical examples include fixed navigation bars and scrolling image marquees. While web designers are now very cautious of over-animating pages, subtle and strategic use of animation can unobtrusively enhance the user experience in a big way.
7. Responsive Web Design
There are now so many different types of devices browsing the web that it's nearly impossible to design a universally compatible website without using responsive design. Websites built using responsive design techniques determine the device each visitor is using, and dynamically adapt to the device’s screen size and capabilities.
Clear navigation, large touch-friendly links, flexible layouts and scalable images are key aspects of responsive web design. They enable the site to shrink or eliminate columns, as well as combine all content into a single vertically-scrolling area. This way, visitors can easily access the site's content (be it reading articles, conducting research or making purchases) regardless of their device type.
8. Grid Layouts
Magazines and newspaper spent decades designing and perfecting the look that grabs readers at the newsstands. As many people now look to the Internet for their news and gossip, these techniques rightfully have a place in modern web design.
The grid layout is not a new idea in web design, but is still very popular. Grids of text and images provide clear navigation and allow you to keep fresh content on top. It also helps cater to mobile device users, as the larger blocks of content can scale down into small streams of information.
9. CMS (Content Management Systems)
Content Management Systems are now an integral part of any well-functioning website. They enable you to easily create and manage your content so that the formatting and layout are consistent throughout your website.
The popularity of Content Management Systems has skyrocketed in the past decade, and none more so than WordPress. Despite starting out as a simple blogging platform, WordPress has grown into an industry leader which is used to manage over a quarter of all websites on the Internet. Popular alternatives Drupal and Joomla are the 2nd and 3rd most popular but with much smaller market shares than WordPress.
Our 2016 Guide to Content Management Systems (CMS) will help you make the right choice in this regard.
10. High Resolution Images
Digital art and spectacular photography is all over the Internet, and often free to use. Many web designers have utilized this by creating sites with much of the homepage occupied by large headline images that scroll automatically, or at a click of a button. Used effectively, they can present highly engaging content in easily digestible chunks that immediately catch the visitor’s eye.
The advent of retina displays resulted in the amount of pixels available on the screen doubling overnight. Monitors are now large and high definition as standard, and the increase in pixels available has had a profound effect on designing and supporting a website. Low resolution images and textures which were previously fine now often look pixelated and out of place. High resolution images provide your content a certain degree of future-proofing from further advances.
We have listed several free high quality photo search engines for your convenience - check them out!
11. Endless Scrolling
Website designers implement endless scrolling when aiming to showcase large amounts of content. It requires no additional input from the visitor other than to continue scrolling. As a result, the visitor feels happy that the site anticipates their need, and the owner is happy that the visitor stays for longer. Page size is reduced as content loads only when it has been requested by scrolling further down the page.
Overall, simpler navigation between pages and shorter loading times contribute to a more positive and productive user experience (UX). Combine this with the intrinsic SEO benefits and you have a feature which is definitely worth a few additional lines of code.
12. Clear Navigation
Few websites miss the opportunity to show you something else when you have finished with the page you initially arrived on. Many have links to related articles and sponsored pages (based on the tags of the articles you've read) in a sidebar or below the main article content.
The influences of this highly popular front-end network for building websites can be seen all over the Internet. Bootstrap is open-source and intended to be accessible to web developers of a wide ability range, which is why you will see many of the HTML and CSS stylings it espouses all over the Internet. Stylings such as rounded CSS edges, sticky top menus and grid formats are all web design techniques made mainstream by Bootstrap.
Bootstrap was started by a small group of Twitter developers and first released in 2011. It has since become fully mobile responsive and compatible with all major web browsers, as well as receiving over 90,000 stars on GitHub.
14. Social Media Integration
Social Media cannot be ignored. People Facebook their friends, Tweet celebrities, Instagram and Pinterest their artistic moments and use LinkedIn to get ahead of the competition. Any website that doesn’t attempt to engage with at least one of these platforms is missing a huge opportunity.
Additionally, the algorithms search engines use to rank websites focus on visitors’ social engagement more than ever before. The theory is that if somebody has shared or liked a page’s content to their own network of friends and colleagues, the content will probably interest other people too. The site authority receives a boost and the page ranking increases.
Take advantage of this free marketing by including clearly visible social media icons at the bottom of your page. These buttons should take visitors directly to their social media account so they can immediately share your page. A counter on the button can indicate the number of shares the page has had – high numbers give a very positive impression. Visitors are more likely to share a page they like if there is a simple way to do it and they think others have done before.
The average attention span on the Internet is decreasing and to many visitors, a wall of text looks intimidating.
Infographics are a useful technique for making content more easily digestible through pictorial diagrams.
Graphical representations of information have always been popular – it’s an attractive form of presentation and eases visual comparisons. Previously dominant pie charts and bar graphs are now being eschewed in favor of bright, boldly designed infographics.
Circular shapes are easier to code than ever, and are therefore very popular in web design circles (pun intended!). Circular links, navigation buttons and profile images are commonplace, and Apple’s mobile operating system iOS has used circular numbers in its Phone application for several years.
Circles are typically more compelling than straight-edged shapes, as they look more friendly and non-threatening. They are sleek and futuristic, and offer the opportunity to take advantage of screen displays with increasingly high resolutions.
17. Website Builders
Thanks to the advent of HTML5 several years back, there is now a plethora of user-friendly, web-based web design software available. These are commonly referred to as ‘drag and drop’ website builders, and enable people with little to no coding knowledge to create a highly polished website.
Many Cheap Web Hosting plans come with some form of drag and drop website builder included in the price, and all of the plans on our Website Builders page do. Alternatively, websites such as Wix, Weebly and Squarespace are very popular. Be aware though, that you will still need a Web Hosting solution in order to publish your site with its own domain (e.g. www.yourbusiness.com).
More and more people are using websites to present a professional digital portfolio. These are useful as the URL can be included in a CV, distributed via business cards and shared amongst fellow professionals – particularly when looking for a job. Having your own website is a positive first impression to give in and of itself, before you even consider what it contains.
Any website can be adapted for use as a portfolio, but some prefer to use existing sites to achieve the same goal. LinkedIn has functionality which allows attachment of files, but using a new platform to creatively express yourself will capture more interest. For starters, take a look at clippings.me and Adobe Spark Page – both can be effectively and easily used to promote your talents.
In an effort to cater to all demographics of potential visitors, websites are increasingly using videos on their main content pages. These are particularly useful on instructional websites for people who don’t want or like to read through long text-based guides. There are also SEO benefits; sites with embedded YouTube videos tend to rank better in Google searches.
Instructional videos have become a trend on Facebook in particular. Channels such as Tasty (for cooking) and Nifty (for crafting) use deliberately brief videos to convey a sense of simplicity with the task they are showing the viewer how to accomplish. For various how-to videos to do with running your own website, check out our Video Tutorials section, which includes a step-by-step WordPress setup guide.
20. Live Chat
Live Chat is a popular feature used for improving the user experience (UX) of a website. An unobtrusive but easily noticeable chat button will usually appear in the bottom-right corner of a page, offering assistance.
Being able to get an immediate, direct response from another person goes a long way to improving the visitors’ impression of your website. They are also a great way to increase conversions on eCommerce websites, enabling you to catch the users that want to buy, but perhaps can’t figure out how.
What do you think are the most common web design trends at the moment? Let us know in the comments, and check out these related articles: