Your average internet user may not notice it day by day, but web design trends are always changing.
We can all agree that what looked good to visitors in the 90’s certainly wouldn’t play well today, but noticing the more subtle changes in design that happen each year is harder.
The shifts in web design norms are slow, but they’re worth paying attention to. Even if you’re not a great web designer and your skills begin and end with what you can do in a website builder, you can avoid waking up one day to realize your website is hopelessly outdated by reading up on the web design trends of 2018.
1. Responsive Design
Responsive websites are not a new web design trend in 2018, but they’re an important enough one to still include here. As mobile usage only seems to keep going up – it firstsurpassed desktop a couple of years ago – making sure your website works at least as well on mobile devices as it does on bigger screens is crucial.
Visitors quite simply won’t stick around if your website provides a disappointing mobile experience, and it’s bad for SEO on top of everything else.
While you could create a separate version of your website that works well on mobile devices from the one people see on desktop, for most businesses the better option is to make one website that’s responsive.
On a responsive website, each page has all the same copy, images, and elements no matter what device you view it on, but they’re arranged differently based on the size of the screen. An image that shows up next to the text on your desktop may show up below it on a smaller screen, for instance.
Making your website responsive ensures that your mobile users get all the same information and value from your website, while still having a user friendly experience.
As an added tip, if creating a responsive website sounds intimidating, consider a website builder that offers responsive templates. Most of the work will already be done for you.
You’ve probably noticed in your own internet surfing that a lot of business websites now have a little window pop up at the bottom right side of the screen when you land on the website, giving you the chance to chat with a representative.
Adding a chat window like this to your website means any visitor with a question can have it answered immediately. But for many websites, having someone available to answer those questions in real time is too much of a challenge.
One possible solution: utilizing a chatbot. You can program a chatbot to answer the most common questions your customers have so that most visitors still get their answer right away. For questions the chatbot doesn’t know, you can at least program it to provide details on how best to get in touch with a live representative so your visitor still knows what to do next.
Chatbots don’t make sense for every type of website, but if you have a business website and you frequently hear a few main questions from your visitors, they can save your staff time while still providing your visitors with a good experience.
Autoplay videos are very much out, but that doesn’t mean your website has to be completely static. You can add some movement to your web design with some simple animations.
A growing number of websites are working animations into the background or images of web pages. A good animation will draw the eye and capture a visitor’s interest, without distracting from the main information you want them to see on the page. It’s a web design trend that makes your website a little more engaging and adds some personality.
These create a positive user experience because they hand visitors power over what they see as they interact with the site. Knowing your actions shape the design in front of you is a good feeling, even if it’s only in minor ways.
Microinteractions are becoming more common around the web, making them a good web design trend to have on your radar in 2018.
5. Original Illustrations
Stock photography’s easy, but it doesn’t add any personality to your website. That’s why many website owners are now turning to original illustrations for the images on their pages.
Custom illustrations do come at a cost – artists must be paid – but they can transform the style of your website and create an entirely unique experience. Custom illustrations often feel playful, while still doing the work of communicating something about your brand.
You get to choose the colors you want to include and can craft imagery that might be hard to stage in a photo. If you can find a good artist for your website, they’re a good way to inject some extra personality into the website experience.
6. Including Social Proof
So far, most of these website design trends come with a fairly hefty price tag that may be out of reach for small businesses or websites devoted to passions rather than profit. This one is much more affordable.
Social proof is a way to convince new visitors that you’re awesome by showing evidence of your success with other visitors. For a business, it could be logos of companies you work with or testimonials from other customers. For a blog, it could be publishing the number of email subscribers you have.
You can (and should) tell other people how awesome your website is in your copy, but your words aren’t going to mean as much to visitors as proof that other people like them think you’re awesome. Find a way to work social proof into the design of your website to better highlight your value to new visitors.
7. Hamburger Menus
This is a controversial web design trend that’s commonly used on apps and mobile websites because it’s an easy way to provide a menu that takes up very little space. The hamburger icon itself is very small, and it opens up your main menu when you click on it. As it’s become more familiar to internet users with the growth of mobile, its use has started to spill over into the design of desktop websites as well.
A hamburger menu removes the list of pages in your main menu from all the pages of your website and puts them behind the hamburger icon. If you want a website that has a very clean design, it allows you to include fewer elements on each page while still providing the navigation items your visitors need.
As mentioned though, it is a controversial web design trend. It may not be right for your audience. This is a trend you should be very intentional about considering – only use it if you have a good reason.
8. Rounder Edges
For a while buttons, windows, and containers on websites tended to have sharp corners. Recently more web designers are starting to shift their website designs toward softer, rounder edges.
This is a web design trend you can see in buttons and chat windows around the web.
Plenty of websites still maintain their sharp edges, and some use a mix of both. This isn’t a trend that’s outright replaced the former way of doing things. But if you want to keep the shapes on your website a little softer, you’ll be in line with one of the web design trends of 2018.
9. Tactile Design
Another common trend of the past was keeping web design flat. Many websites are now starting to buck the old trend by adding more shadowing and depth to the images on their pages.
Tactile design can bring the images on your website more to life for your visitors. In addition, it provides a way to add emphasis to your images. The difference is often subtle, but it changes the user experience of your website and adds a little more realism.
10. Unique Fonts
Choosing a unique font is an easy way to add some personality to your website and make it stand out a bit more. Fonts are part of a website that many visitors don’t really notice, but you can use your font choice to add some additional style to your website and draw more attention to important words.
Make sure that any font you choose is easy for your visitors to read. Style shouldn’t trump clarity here. But as long as you keep the text on your website legible for all your visitors, you can use your font choice as a way to add some extra personality to your site.
A bold choice that’s showing up on some websites now is asymmetric design. Using asymmetry in your web design provides a unique experience for your visitors, especially as it’s still not a particularly common design choice at this stage.
This web design option definitely isn’t for everybody. Because it’s uncommon and unexpected, it might be less intuitive for some visitors. And it can complicate a website’s ability to remain responsive. But if you want to provide a website experience that’s outside of the box, going asymmetrical can do that.
12. Accessible Design
If you don’t have any disabilities yourself, you’ve probably approached web design in the past without thinking about how people with disabilities will experience your website. That’s unfortunately normal – many web designers just haven’t had accessibility top of mind in the past.
But that’s beginning to change. One of the web design trends of 2018 is working to make websites more accessible for everyone. Design magazines and blogs have started to provide tips for more accessible web design.
Designing an accessible website requires broadening your perspective and doing a little work, but when you commit to it, you open up your site to an audience that was left out before.
13. Data Visualization
“Big data” has been a buzzword for a few years now and businesses in all industries have seen the growing influence of data on the tools and latest trends that shape how we do business. Perhaps it was only a matter of time until the influence of data made its way to web design as well.
Many websites are now incorporating data visualization into their design. In some cases it becomes a part of the main website, in others they launch a separate site to highlight valuable data they’ve created.
In either case, data visualization becomes a part of the story the brand tells and the visual identity they have on the web.
14. Bold Colors
A lot of the web design trends for 2018 are about standing out and this is no exception. Many websites are employing color schemes that are bright and bold. Bright colors provide a distinctive experience that make your website more memorable.
You can use your color choices strategically to draw attention to parts of the website you most want people to see.
This is another website design trend that isn’t for everyone. Some brands will be better served with more subtle colors, but if you’re looking for a way to make your website stand out and really get attention, making bold color choices could do the trick.
15. Floating Navigation
Most of the websites you visit have their navigation in the same place: across the top of the website. Some websites are experimenting with different options though. We already talked about the hamburger menu option, but another possibility is floating navigation.
Floating navigation stays visible even as you scroll down the page. It provides a unique experience, but also offers the practical benefit of keeping all the navigation options present and visible no matter where your visitor is on the page.
You can see an example of what that looks like on the Anchor and Orbit website. As yet, it’s not a particularly common web design trend. But for any website owner looking for another way to stand out, it makes your website a little more distinctive.
Staying on Trend in 2018
As in any year, in 2018 make sure that everything about your website design puts the user first. Trying out something new that you think looks cool or interesting is fine, but only if you’re confident your target audience will respond to it as well. Following website design trends can often be worth it, but paying attention to your visitors is always more important.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.