Website design has changed dramatically in the past 10 years or so. The problem is, many businesses haven’t updated their websites in that timeframe.
The internet is littered with websites from the 2010s or earlier.
Not updating a website is a little like not doing maintenance on your home. If you never fix what is broken or outdated, it could cause a variety of problems: From not ranking on search engines to frustrating users to losing sales.
A website shouldn’t be something you create one time and leave to sit in perpetuity. I recommend businesses do a larger refresh at least every five years. And we all should be making small adjustments in between then as well - testing different things and adjusting them based on what works.
This week, I’m going to be talking about some trends in website design that you may want to consider if you are looking at redesigning your site.
You may not be a website designer, but whether you DIY your site or hire someone to do it, knowing about current website trends can help you make big picture decisions about the direction you take your online presence.
Here are a few hot trends in website design in 2021:
1. User experience
Years ago, there was a trend to make websites flashy and complex. Developers used technology called flash to create animations, sounds and interactive elements. Photos were used as buttons to jazz them up a bit. There was even a trend to customize cursors into little emoji-like objects.
But all of these things can be distracting and confusing. When a button is a photo, it wasn't always clear what to click. If things are flashing and moving around, what is the next step?
Here in 2021, there has been a lot more focus in making sure websites are easy for the user to navigate. This can mean a few things:
Minimalism - We are realizing that less is more is especially true in website design. Cluttered websites are hard to navigate. Too much flashing and flair is overwhelming. Instead, keeping a website’s design simple can help draw a visitor in the direction we want to take them.
Clear paths to goals - I often see sites with home pages that have 15 different options visitors can choose from. Businesses want to make sure that people know EVERYTHING they do and ALL of the options. But too many choices often means a visitor makes no choice at all. Instead, designers are working to guide people to one choice per page - the one we want them to make.
Website speed - In 2021, we all have no patience. If a website takes more than 3 seconds to load, a high percentage of visitors will leave. So there is more focus on making our websites fast. Sometimes this means stripping them of things that weigh our websites down. Other times this is a more technical endeavor. Learn more about how to speed up your site here.
Mobile responsiveness (optimizing a website for mobile phones) - This year, mobile usage has crossed over 50 percent of all website visits globally. This has a lot of implications for website design. If more than half of visitors are on their phones, we should take care to make sure our sites work well on mobile. Otherwise, we could be losing visitors. This has been part of the conversation for years among website designers, but it is only growing in emphasis. In fact, Google’s latest algorithm update puts more weight on mobile experience when considering which sites to rank in searches. I wrote more about Google’s latest update here.
Making a website accessible to those with hearing, visual or physical impairments isn’t always top of mind for many of us. But a growing emphasis in inclusivity has website designers talking more about accessibility. This can get a little technical, but there are some simple things you can do to make your website easier to use for those who have disabilities.
Make sure colors are high contrast - Color choice is important for someone who is color blind. Someone with limited vision can discern objects and text better if they are high contrast.
Use alt tags on images - Alt tags are descriptions you can add to your photos so someone can read them. Google, which can’t crawl images, also uses this to rank websites in search.
Add captions to videos or transcription for audio - This way someone can read your content instead. This also has the added bonus for people who tend to have their phones on silent.
There is a lot more to this. If you want to look more into how to make your site accessible, read this.
3. Thinking out of the box
For a long time, websites were designed in boxes with elements in clean grids. Designers are pushing the envelope now, with a variety of practices that “break the rules.”
Asymmetry - While symmetry is beautiful, if done right, asymmetry can add a unique element that offers the kind of tension that draws people in. The key with this though, is knowing the rules so you can break them. This can go wrong if not done right.
Illustrations and abstract art - Instead of classic photos, more websites are displaying art created by an illustrator, or using abstract elements to highlight text. It adds a little creative flair to a website and skips the need for trite stock photography.
Gradients and 3-D design - Gradients are very popular right now. This could be a trend that fades out and looks dated in a few years. But for now, it’s showing up on a lot of websites. 3-D design is creating items that seem to pop out of the page. The eye-catching nature of these graphics has made them popular this year.
Interactive elements - There is something so satisfying about elements that respond to our actions on a website. Word of warning: Use this wisely and sparingly so your site doesn’t end up like the sites of old.
Some of the new trends in web design are just that: trends subject to change. So use them with some restraint and make sure they fit into your branding. Others, like those in the user experience and accessibility categories, are here to stay.
Try out just a couple of them and let me know how it goes.
Concerned your website isn’t meeting the mark and keeping up with modern times? Download my website audit checklist.