keeping an eye on web design trends

When people think of vintage web design trends, images from the internet’s infancy often come to mind. Do you remember animated GIFs, shiny roll-over buttons and websites organized through HTML frames? These design elements, which now seem painfully outdated and cringeworthy, are easy to spot and avoid.

However, the last decade of web design has shown its own rise and fall of design trends. The changes from 2007 to 2017 may be a bit more subtle. However, they’re vitally important to understand before you embark on design work of your own.

How Understanding Web Development Trends Makes You a Better Web Designer

Keeping up with current design trends and best practices isn’t just about being trendy. Modern website design is about function and user-friendliness; the most up-to-date trends are all about the user experience.

Additionally, having a modern-looking website will add an air of professionalism and authority to a brand. Top names and leading brands often set web development trends in motion.  Sites that emulate these trends will appear to be on more even footing with the leaders from a user’s perspective.

Finally, understanding the current state of web design and how it’s gotten to that point after a decade of development provides some insights as to the direction things may go in the future. By predicting future design trends, you can stay on the cutting edge and keep your content looking fresh, innovative and professional.

Web Design Trends of the Past Decade

Web developers didn’t know it at the time, but 2007 would prove to be a very important year for the future of design. Apple launched its first iPhone that year. A decade later, smartphones would become a primary way for many people to surf the internet, and designs are made with mobile technology in mind.

Let’s take a look at the top trends of the last 10 years: what’s changed and what’s stayed the same:

2007 and the End of the Decade

Three-dimensional glossy buttons and roll-over effects were still in vogue at this time. Frames were gradually abandoned in favor of tables built in CSS. Website designs were still built very much around a grid.

Most of these web design trends held firm through the end of the decade. Background textures, including “grunge” textures and rainbow effects, rose and fell in popularity.

In 2007, Time Magazine’s list of “Top Websites” included many names that are still familiar to us today including Etsy, LinkedIn, Tumblr and Twitter. The sites themselves look quite different these days. You can easily see the gradual influence of social media building, even a decade ago.

2010: The Rise of the Infographic

By 2010, most web users had high-speed internet, making it much easier to build graphics-heavy websites. This combined with the swift rise in social media sharing made infographics a more popular way to convey information and arrange website content.

Other big design features of 2010, according to Web Designer Depot, included print-inspired designs resembling magazine pages; serif-style fonts; large above-the-fold graphic headers and image-dominated designs.

These image-heavy, bold designs continued to pave the way for the first half of the decade. Websites escaped the box-and-grid designs and began to move toward more modern layouts. By 2011, websites were incorporating parallax scrolling, and mobile optimization started to become more necessary.

2013: Flat Design

Flat web design started to become the norm by 2013, skipping the flashy gradients, shadows and skeuomorphism that had been popular a few years prior. Full-page sites, rather than those reigned in by traditional navigation bars, also started to become more popular.

2017 Web Design Trends

Since the first iPhones rolled off the shelves a decade ago, mobile browsing has exploded in popularity. The rise of people visiting sites on phones and tablets has driven many of the design choices of the second half of the decade. Web designers must make sites with varying screen sizes in mind, making the full-screen responsive designs a must-have for modern sites.

According to the marketing agency IMPACT, 80 percent of modern internet users own smartphones, more than half of them reach for their phones immediately upon waking. This should be a huge wake-up call for anyone still wondering whether responsive designs are important. By 2014, smartphones and tablets combined to represent 45 percent of all online traffic. That number’s only going to go up as time goes on.

As this year’s “Awwwards” show, web developers are beginning to experiment again with designs that incorporate more complex or eye-catching elements than the simplistic designs that have reigned supreme over the last couple of years. Now that users and web designers alike are comfortable with full-page, endlessly scrolling designs and other established trends, some designers are feeling more adventurous about pushing the limits of these designs.

One advantage to the “endless scroll” style of website is the ability to build a narrative into the flow of information on a site. Previously, when site information was laid out across multiple pages, designers had no control over which links would be clicked or what pages would be viewed in what order. Now, more control is back in the hands of developers. Web designers can combine text, images, multimedia and design together to create a more thoroughly immersive experience that tells a carefully guided story. The visitor needs only to scroll through the page to absorb this experience. It’s likely that this will come to affect both web content and design over the next few years.

The Future of Design

No one knows for certain what the future of web design may hold. Any item of technology today may come to shape the future of the internet experience. However, there are a few things it’s probably safe to assume: Mobile designs will continue to be popular; more big-name websites will move to their own dedicated apps; users will expect swift and easy access to the content they’re searching for.

Keeping an eye on emerging web design trends can help with spotting what ideas are here to stay and which are gimmicks that will fade as quickly as the dancing baby GIFs of the 1990s.