10 Web Design Trends We’re Already Over
Design trends have to be used cautiously. Just as quickly as many trends come into fashion; they can fall out of favor and make a design feel dated.
Don’t ignore them completely — testing out trends can stretch your creative muscles and help you create something you might not have tried otherwise. But do be aware of what’s fresh, what’s timeless, and what’s out of date!
Here are 10 design trends that are over (or should be anyway).
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1. “Vintage” Everything
For a while, it seemed like every design trend started with “vintage.” Vintage typography. Vintage color. Vintage textures.
The problem with the vintage styles is that the elaborate look is just too much. Characteristics of vintage elements include:
- Rough overlays on images and type.
- Scripts and typefaces with plenty of flourishes, swashes and tails.
- Muted color palettes.
- Overlays to add sepia or old-style coloring to images
- Highly textured backgrounds
While none of these techniques is inherently bad, they present challenges for website design. The primary concern is readability. With so many things happening in the design, it can be more difficult for users to understand the message at a glance.
Attention spans are short, so the design needs to communicated something with impact immediately to pull users in.
2. Coming Soon Pages
These pages are still out there: A website that tells you an app or full website is coming soon.
What’s the logic in that?
Why not just wait until the website is ready? Think about what a horrible user experience it is to send someone to visit a website that’s not actually there yet. I can be tough sometimes to hold back, but it will be worth it in the end. Coming soon pages need to die.
3. Super-Thin Typography
It might have been one of Apple’s biggest mistakes of all time – using a super thin, condensed typeface in its OS. And while Apple scaled back immediately because of readability issues, thin typefaces started popping up everywhere. And plenty of websites still use them.
Thin type is difficult to read on screens.
From backlighting to screen size to lack of contrast between text and other elements, thin typefaces just don’t have a real place in most website projects.
If you are still using a font with a thin stroke or a variant that’s ultra-light or condensed, consider adjusting the typeface to the regular version. More website designers are leaning toward larger typefaces in general and bumping up the weight can make all the text in the design feel a little larger without a full makeover.
4. Obvious Social Media Feeds
Social media websites have a distinct purpose and are designed to be viewed and interacted with in a native format through their website or app. So why is there a “feed” on your website homepage?
It’s an unnecessary use of valuable space in your design.
Including a social media feed on another website is somewhat pointless and doesn’t contribute to user experience. If you want to incorporate social media links into the design, include icons in the head or footer or buttons to share content. Incorporating a feed serves no purpose in today’s digital landscape (and most of them are pretty ugly to look at as well).
For most users with social media and a website, social media can actually be a driver to the website. Having a feed that shows content from a social media channel, might actually serve as duplicate content for users. Any content you add to a website design should contribute value for the user.
The one caveat is that you can include a social media feed – such as Instagram photos – in a way that looks like usable content. Displaying photos from your feed to highlight events or activities can work. Just stay away from the content widget that has a running display of posts.
5. Hero Image Sliders
How many times do you actually click on one of the images (or multiple images) in a hero image slider?
Most users don’t regularly engage with this design technique. And there’s data to back it up. The Nielsen Norman Group did a study back in 2013 that found that users ignore these sliders and that often a slider makes it more difficult to find important information.
What you should do instead is plan for one key piece of content with a call to action in the hero header location. Don’t overwhelm users with multiple options. (If you must have multiple header elements, consider manually changing a single content element on a regular schedule.)
The problem with these auto-play sliders is that you don’t know when a user will land on the content. For many users, as soon as they see something that might be of interest, it moves away to the next thing. Finding the element that was interesting is often too much work for a user to invest in and you’ve just lost that person’s attention.
Instead, opt for a highly interesting photo or video. Consider a cool animation or illustration. Don’t try to cram six different messages into one website location. It’s not something you’d try to do anywhere else in the design, so why is it so common on the homepage?
6. Heavy Video
Full-screen movie style video can be engaging, but it doesn’t work for the way many users digest web content.
The trend leans toward more high-resolution viewing. That works great for users on large screens with super-fast internet connections. For everyone else, the experience falls flat with lagging load times, video glitches or moving content that’s not viewable on mobile devices.
These are all problems you don’t want to have because they can impact whether users stick around to interact with the content or not.
The other problem with heavy video content is sound. Too many sites rely on video that has an audio component that ties everything together. While audio works some of the time, not all users will want to listen to a video. (Think of how many people are surfing the web at work; they probably don’t want the person next to them to hear an auto-play video running.)
Scale back on big video or design it so that it isn’t the only first impression the website makes. A long loading animation is not a substitute for loading quickly.
A dive into your website analytics will tell you whether a heavy video is working or not. But a better option of most websites is to include a lightweight video on the homepage that provides a glimpse into the content, allowing users to click into a more immersive video experience.
7. Page Loading Animations
The main reason designers were using page loading animations was to hide heavy, slow-loading websites.
But users are wise to this. This design trick isn’t fooling anyone, so you should stop doing it.
If you want to create a nifty animation, include it in the design itself, not on a loading screen. Your design should be lightweight enough to load with ease without a delay. (If it’s not, you have some more work to do.)
8. Icon Overload
Stop going crazy with icons in design projects.
While a great set of icons can be a useful tool, only use them when they are commonly understood and serve a purpose. Just packing the design with icons to create visual elements isn’t useful.
Most websites only need a handful of icons – for social media, shopping carts, search, etc. And they don’t have to be big or fancy. A simple set of solid icons is enough.
Remember why you are using icons in the first place. They serve as commonly understood directional cues for users. Icons shouldn’t be a dominant part of the design; they should be subtle, simple and almost fall into the background.
While oversized icons were fun for a while, the biggest issue was that the trend was severely overused. It seems like every site that didn’t have good images or video was using an icon-based design. Everything started looking too similar because of the nature of icons; they are designed to have universal meaning.
9. Mega Menus
Seriously Target? You expect users to open a menu that scrolls?
Navigation should make using a website easier, not more complicated. Mega menus with dozens of links are hard to navigate and make getting into a design tougher.
If you have a content-rich website, consider making search a key element of the design to help users find what they are looking for. Asking a user to read all the elements in a large menu or scroll to find the right link aren’t good ideas and can be rather risky. (Would you stick around for this user experience?)
If you have hordes of information, spend time looking at user flows and goals to streamline the main navigation to a more usable format with three to five choices.
10. “Ghost” Buttons
The button trend you stopped using almost immediately (hopefully) is the final element in our list of design trends that we’re over.
The problem with this style of button is that it looked cool, but wasn’t all that functional. Users just didn’t quite understand what to do with it. The design did not stand out on the element that should scream CLICK ME, TAP ME!
It’s a good example of something that has a sleek exterior but lacks the true function and usability that are necessary for a website design to work well. You have to have both things and if you are lacking either, it’s a design technique that should be avoided.
Make sure to pay attention to your designs when it comes to trendy elements. Use them sparingly and with classic design pieces so that your projects don’t get dated in a hurry.
What website design trends are you totally over? Are there trends you wish you’d never tried in some of your website projects? Share your worst of trends with us on social media, and make sure to tag @designshack.