It’s smart to brush up on web design trends every year and incorporate them where appropriate. It’s also smart to take a look back at what worked, what didn’t, and what trends are best left forgotten.
Are you guilty of trying to keep an outdated web design trend or tactic alive this year? Here are a handful of design trends not worth your time in 2019.
Web design trends that are looked back on fondly by both designers and users.
Obvious stock photos littering a company’s website are a thing of the past. Sure, stock photographs serve their purpose, but there was a day when websites would be entirely populated by stock photography—smiling employees around a conference table, a headset-wearing customer service representative looking into the camera, or any number of instantly-recognizable stock images.
Many businesses today opt for a more personal approach to web design images, and original images are taking the place of stock photographs.
Content Above the Fold
Speaking of images, today’s savvy web designers often use them in place of written content when thinking about what users want to see “above the fold.” This once-content-heavy area was prime real estate for the majority of a website’s important information.
The idea was that users didn’t like to scroll—at all—so designers needed to get as much information in front of their audience as possible. The answer? Tons of content crammed above the fold.
Today, users aren’t as averse to the idea of scrolling. In fact, it’s become par for the course, and web browsing (especially on mobile devices) is all about scrolling. That means web designers have a lot of space to work with, both above and below the fold, without having to worry about the important stuff needing to be front-and-center when first clicking over.
Web design trends that were maddening in their time and are still as maddening today.
There was a time when it seemed like every web designer or business manager felt the need to put a call to action everywhere on a website. That meant users were often greeted with an intrusive, unwanted pop-up window seconds after clicking over to the site.
The worst-case scenarios would see users plagued by pop-ups that reacted and reared their ugly heads on a handful of pages during browsing. It was frustrating and annoying at best, infuriating and a site killer at worst.
Smart designers and marketers saw the folly in pushing pop-ups on users, and Google even started cracking down on mobile pop-ups in 2016. Today, a good pillar page and quality content do more than a reactionary pop-up.
Excessive Sidebars and Widgets
Tag clouds, calendars, category labels, and any number of widget-driven sidebar occupiers overloaded users with unnecessary options.
Today, users are quick to turn away from a website when met with these excesses. It’s just too much, and the drag-and-drop web design wave that made it easier for anyone to create their own website led to sidebar congestion that was just … ugly.
Clean, minimalist sidebar design took the place of widget excess, and savvy designers know that things like tag clouds just don’t work anymore (if they ever did).
Fonts, Fonts, and More Fonts for No Reason
Too many websites took the Liberace approach to web design and bedazzled their content with a variety of different fonts wherever possible. Two, three, four, and more fonts were often found on any given page, and the result was a website that looked gaudy.
Fonts can work wonders for aesthetics and branding when matched well, but when slap-dashed together for no reason there’s a sense of inefficiency and confusion. Using more than three fonts is just bad design.
Web design trends that served their purpose but have become an eyesore.
Web designers used image carousels to present a variety of content in a simple, attractive format, but the design trend is almost kitsch today. Users just don’t interact with carousels like they used to, and people often scroll right past image carousels and miss out on the content within.
The Nielson Norman Group—way back in 2013—advised against image carousels and recommended using static hero images instead.
Desktop Hamburger Menus
Hamburger menus—the three little lines most often found in the header/menu section of a website—are staples on most sites optimized for mobile devices these days. Users expect them on mobile. Unfortunately, some companies still use hamburger menus on their desktop sites, and these menu formats don’t work as well on desktop as they do on mobile.
Users prefer fleshed out, simple menus that can be dissected at a glance. Users miss or misinterpret navigation when websites choose to use hamburger menus on desktop.
On the Way Out
Web design trends that are still common today but appear to be on their way out.
Parallax scrolling was the name of the web design game not long ago, and many websites still employ the tactic to present attractive, image-heavy, storytelling content.
Unfortunately, users seem to be getting tired of the trend, and parallax scrolling sites are more of a novelty than an innovative technique these days. Expect to see less parallax scrolling in 2019 as designers steer away from the trend.
Missing Form Labels
Minimalist design trends led web designers to strip down websites to the bare bones—no labels, no content blocks, no direction (in some cases). Minimalism was a fresh, welcome approach to UX/UI design in the sense that users were tired of being bombarded with design for design’s sake. Less is more, so they say.
Today, the minimalist web design approach means many designers are still leaving important information off of website content like forms, and this can be a little confusing. Modern designers are realizing a little information goes a long way, and form labels once deemed inappropriate and in the way are coming back to help guide users. Missing form labels are bound to become a trend of the past.
Web Design Trends are Hard to Forget
Again, web design trends come and go. Most that make a mark—either for good or bad—are hard to forget. It’s fun to take a stroll down memory lane and look at design trends that stood out for one reason or another. Remember Comic Sans font everywhere? How about drop shadows, beveled and embossed icons, scrolling marquees, or even crudely animated gifs (lookin’ at you dancing, Baby from the ‘90s)?
Keep your eyes open for innovative web design trends in 2019 as well as those that are outdated and on their way out.