It’s no secret that the world of web design is upgrading itself faster than most can keep up with. What is trending in one moment is a cliche in the next.
You know what a terrible website looks like – think one that hasn’t been updated since 2002 and is still running on Flash – but the nuances of what appeals to users today can be trickier to pin down.
In this article, we are going to critically examine and break down what elements you should be considering for your website while in the design process- especially if you are trying to appeal to those hip, design-savvy Millennials.
No matter what platform you are creating your website on – Wix, WordPress, Squarespace, Weebly – good design is good design, and all the templates in the world may not stop you from making a website that doesn’t look good or function as intended.
Your website = your credibility
As Molly Fischer states in her article The Tyranny of Terrazzo Will the millennial aesthetic ever end?
“For an unknown start-up cutting out the middleman on sneakers or shampoo, design performs the work of salespeople and stores: It’s the hook, but also the promise of legitimacy. And as companies devise offerings that are less about innovation than about making familiar experiences more pleasant, design looms ever larger.”
Your website gives you legitimacy if you do it right. So without further ado, here is your list:
1. Make it pastel and leave lots of space
If I could summarize the new design aesthetic in two words ‘pastel’ and ‘space’ would be the winners. Of course, it’s more complicated than that, but across the board pastels, minimalism, and white space are increasingly popular trends that don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.
Pastels: In our hyper-agitated political and social climate pastels are calming and neutral. They appeal to many, not just a few, and they are SO in right now.
Casper mattress as a brand seems to pride itself on being a ‘different type of mattress company’ – there on a mission to make mattresses cool.
· In the above section, you can see how they use a pallet of pastels throughout the site.
· The colors used in the Header photo perfectly mirror those in the three boxes below.
· The text is simple – only a line or two, with plenty of space for your eye to rest on the key points.
It makes sense that they would want a soothing website since they are, after all, a company focused on sleep.
Notice all of the white space as well. Because all of our feeds – from Facebook to Instagram – are throwing information and content at us, the ‘information overload’ of the internet has lead white-space and minimalism to dominate.
By strategically placing the RIGHT content that is easy to digest, users will enjoy interacting with your website. More is not better when it comes to your site.
2. Icons – your best ‘frenemies’
Icons, icons, icons – gotta love them until you don’t.
Icons do a grand job of illustrating points and giving visual cues to your text. When used right they are sure to spice up any site – but this spice isn’t salt – it needs to be a unique blending of flavors like your family recipe handed down through the generations.
All this is to say that you want your icons to be unique. If you’re thinking of using stock icons, maybe reconsider.
“Stock” is a four-letter word, or is that five?
Users have grown increasingly suspicious of all things stock – it is all too easy for ANYONE to spin up a site about anything. That is why having stock images and icons ring a little alarm in our head that this site might not be legit.
Having custom images and especially icons on your site shows that you spent time, and invested money, in making visual content that branded and custom to you.
In the image above, you will see how Thinx makes icons their friend by using custom illustrations. The icons match their color Pallett, artistic style, and branding. They help to emphasize the text.
The below example shows how the icons are even used as playful buttons themselves to illustrate the different types of products.
3. What moves you?
Wozber’s site shows how movement on a page is used to add an extra element of excitement and dynamism.
However, you should use movement sparingly – to highlight one specific feature.
Websites that have everything moving everywhere feel messy and chaotic – it’s too much of a good thing. Furthermore, too much movement can create a slow load speed for your site, which is sure to up bounce rates.
When you’re putting some movement in your site, do it intentionally and strategically. Use movement to draw your user’s attention to the most important feature on the page.
4. Breaking out of the box is all the rage
Ironically Squarespace does a great job and showing you how to beak out of the squares that exist inherently in web design.
The challenge of website creation is that it is deeply tied to grids and squares.
A substantial new trend that I’ve witness coming to the forefront is that of designers trying to break out of the box by using boxes overlayed over other boxes.
As convoluted as that sounds, it actually works when done right. Similarly to movement, you want to use it strategically.
Some sites have gone over the top with overlays to the point the legibility and functionality are negated in service of looking ‘crazy-cool’.
If you are overlaying elements so much that a user can’t even read the text anymore, you need to reign it in.
BUT if used right, you can find ways to spice up an otherwise ‘dull’ background and add a compelling component to your side that feels oh so hip right now.
Another way to ‘break out of the box’ is to literally break elements through the box. I do this on the homepage of my website by breaking my image into the next section.
This is a more advanced technique that would require you to have some higher level of photoshop and Webdesign skills – or hire a designer to work with – but when it works, it really can catch your user’s eye and interest.
5. K.I.S.S. your site goodbye if…
You don’t keep it simple. aka KEEP IT SIMPLE SILLY.
This is a rule of thumb for the websites of our era. Users today are bombarded with content – this leaves them feeling overwhelmed. Having a simple website helps them feel calm and focused while on your site.
ETQ. is an excellent example of including plenty of space and only having the most necessary text as captions of the images. People don’t want to hear your prose about each item on your site, ESPECIALLY not on the homepage. If they want more content, they will go to your blog or about section.
So for your homepage, keep it simple and clean.
Even though we can’t say what will be popular tomorrow in the world of web, knowing the trends is essential to making a site that converts.
A great way to stay on top of the trends is to look at the websites of brands you know and love and decide for yourself if you like what they are doing.
By studying websites with a critical eye, you can start to teach yourself not to scroll through websites mindlessly, but use them as an educational course in web design 101.
DIY Website Design Course
Speaking of which, I’m developing an online course in DIY website design. As a professional web designer for over ten years, I’ve learned A LOT about making great websites.
We live in a time where making your own website is increasingly more straightforward and budget-friendly, and so I want to help you to get all the tools to do it yourself (if that’s what you want).
Why would I do this, you may ask? Isn’t that just killing my prospects of getting jobs? Well, truth be told, high end, highly designed and optimized websites and still very much in demand, and with that, I’ve become very in demand. I’m only able to take on so many clients at a time, and I want to help so many more.
That is why I’m developing this online course – to help everyone who wants to rock website creation regardless of their budget and my availability.
If you’d like to be kept up to date about this online course and sign up when it’s released, sign up below to be updated and receive other valuable website design content in the meantime.
Bottom Line: Understanding Trends helps you make conscious decisions about your design.
If your website appeals to the current aesthetic of our time, not only will it be perceived more legitimate, but it will also convert potential customers better.