Whether you’ve recently revamped your website’s design or left it untouched for months, the start of the year is a good time to take a fresh look at your design choices. Ask yourself: is this serving my audience in the best possible way?
If the answer to that question is anything other than a resounding yes, then it’s time to work some design magic. You may have already heard some pretty grave stats – for example, 90% of people say they have left a website because it was badly designed. If you want to capture your customers’ attention – and keep it – then it’s vitally important to keep your website design fresh, current, and above all, engaging.
2020 is already moving fast, and it’s bringing new design trends with it. We reached out to experts in the industry to find out which design trends are worth paying attention to this year, and how to use them to boost your business.
5 Hottest Web Design Trends For 2020
#1. Dark Mode
- Online stores and entertainment sites
- Brands in the tech industry
- Sites without large amounts of written content
There was a lot of buzz around dark mode when it first appeared early last year, and with good reason – it reduces eye strain, saves battery life, and just looks straight up awesome.
Did you know that people could be viewing your website in dark mode whether you want them to or not? Is your website ready for them?
There’s a new Google Chrome extension on the block called Night Eye, which forces dark mode on any website – even if it wasn’t designed for it. If you haven’t designed with dark mode in mind, you could risk visitors seeing your site like this:
Walmart evidently hasn’t caught on yet – unlike brands such as YouTube, which still look suitably sleek in dark mode.
Dark mode is best for customers browsing late at night, so take a look at your data. Do most people visit your site during the day, or in the evening? Online shopping prime-time starts at 8 PM, so if you’re running an eCommerce brand, then dark mode is something you might want to consider.
The key here is to always give your visitors a choice about how they want to view your site – don’t force dark mode on them, but perhaps make it available should they want to use it.
#2. Bright Colors
- Ecommerce sites
- Businesses with a young target audience
- New or changing brands
This trend is especially relevant for ecommerce businesses. We’ve been seeing a lot of minimal design in the ecommerce industry, with tons of white space and monochrome color schemes.
However, this is set to change as 2020 rolls on. Bright colors are cropping up and popping out more and more, with online stores increasingly embracing bolder color schemes.
Alex Vasili, head of brand at MVF Global, shed more light on this trend:
“We’re seeing a real mash up of styles across the board… This means we are seeing bold patterns and colors being used across the industry in both print and digital.”
He explained how the minimalist designs we’ve been seeing over the past years have given way to a more bold, and even disruptive, aesthetic. This has resulted in a greater mix of styles, with bright colors and fresh patterns mixing up how business can approach their design.
Caption: Studio Job is the perfect example of a disruptive aesthetic, using bright bold colors and clashing patterns across its site.
Apart from being visually stimulating, choosing vibrant colors can also do wonders for creating a strong brand identity – hence the often-cited statistic that color can increase brand recognition by 80%.
So, what’s the best way to apply this to your own website or online store? The good news is that it’s a really easy trend to implement – you don’t need a web designer or coding skills to refresh your color scheme.
Make sure you sit down and think about which colors would work best on your site. Your colors should match your brand, and there should be reasoning behind every choice. Are you re-imagining your business’ visual branding, goals, or audience for 2020? If so, it’s a good idea to adapt your color scheme to reflect this new direction.
As Kevin Murray, Managing Director at Greenlight Commerce, pointed out:
“Brands need to engage with users, understand where customer satisfaction lies and where they need to modify their site to improve this. This way, brands will be able to meet customer expectations, increase trust and consumer loyalty and ensure that users continue to return to their site.”
You don’t have to scrap your current theme, either. If you’re using pastels and pale pinks, for example, experiment with a bright, bold shade of the same color to make call-to-actions and menus stand out.
Caption: Online store Cowboy uses highlights of bright color to attract attention and emphasize areas of its website, doing so to great effect.
Simply adding colorful highlights like this can help your page pop, direct the user’s gaze, and motivate them to take action.
#3. Voice Search
- Local businesses
- Online stores
- Brands with a young target audience
- Growing businesses
41% of adults (and a whopping 55% of teens) use voice search on a daily basis. If you’re wondering what new actions you can take to continue growing your traffic in 2020, say hello to voice search optimization.
Catering for voice search is a smart move – especially if you’re running a local business, a restaurant, or an online store. A study from 2018 showed that 58% of US consumers surveyed had used voice search to find local business information in the past 12 months.
If that’s not an impressive enough statistic for you, how about the fact that Google reported a 150% growth in mobile searches for the term “__ near me now” over two years? And an eye-popping 900% increase in mobile searches for “__ near me today/tonight” over the same period?
Combine the rise of voice search with our increasing impatience as consumers, and you have a winning combination – one that’s ready to be leveraged by businesses of all sizes.
Okay, you might be thinking: how is this a web trend? Well, optimizing your website for voice search means rethinking your design – you’ll need to consider where you place certain information, and how you target your content and keywords.
It’s a whole new level of SEO!
There are many ways you can improve your business’s chances of being chosen by voice search algorithms. Here’s a few to get started on:
List your business
For example, using Google My Business can boost your chance of being picked out for local or “near me” voice search results
Directly (and concisely) answer common consumer questions in your content
Ideally in under 30 words. Our top tip is to create FAQ sections!
Use natural language
When people ask questions vocally, they talk “normally” – so conversational, relaxed language is much better for voice search.
Use long-tail keywords
“Buy thick walking socks”, for example. When was the last time you said “Okay, Google, best local restaurants”? Instead, you say something like “Okay Google, what’s the best restaurant near me?” Smatter long-tail keywords through your copy, and watch the results roll in.
Target question keywords –
Look to answer and include questions starting with:
While this may seem like a lot to take on, if you put user experience at the forefront of your business, then it’s worth making these changes. Voice search makes your clients’ lives easier and helps you stay ahead of the curve – as well as the competition.
- Brands looking for a better connection with their audience
- New businesses building a brand identity
- Tired, flat, or otherwise dull business websites
This is one of the more fun web design trends, but don’t assume that this makes it less effective. Illustration is just drawings and doodles, isn’t it? Well, not quite!
One of the main benefits of using illustrations is that it combats many a business website’s worst enemy – stock photography. When used poorly, stock photography is bland and devoid of any real meaning.
Caption: Stock images that look staged or aren’t relevant to your content aren’t going to engage your audience.
Research has shown that most visitors don’t even see “decorative” stock photos like these – they’re wasting space and not connecting with your audience.
Illustrations, on the other hand, have the power to deliver character, emotion, and connection. Just like picking a color scheme, choosing an illustration style can say tons about your brand without you ever having to write a word.
Messy, imperfect illustrations and increasingly abstract designs are also appearing more and more, as these often help to convey feeling and capture the imagination.
Caption: Fixate, a UX agency, uses colorful and simple illustrations to immediately capture attention and give visitors an idea of the brand’s key characteristics.
If arty, hand-drawn illustrations don’t match your brand, why not check out vector illustrations? These digital graphics range in style, and can bring more depth to your website than stock imagery.
Creative Digital Designer Ella Johnson shared her insights on the rise of illustration in web design:
“Illustration, particularly vector illustration, is making a comeback – more so than realistic drawing. Because of this, I would expect to see the continued use of patterns and bold colors to enhance images.”
Johnson also went on to explain why vector illustration is so great – it can be used widely, and also has a small file size, meaning it doesn’t have to affect your loading speeds. Finally, it’s fun for both your customers and you – after all, as Johnson pointed out: “who doesn’t love a little doodle!”
The key to using illustration is to make sure it reflects your brand values. There are many brands out there you can turn to for inspiration – some of our favorite examples include Headspace, Mailchimp, and HubSpot.
#5. Minimal Mobile Design
- Mobile websites
- Businesses struggling with slow-loading websites
- Brands with young target audiences
Minimal design isn’t exactly a new or surprising trend for 2020, but it’s still set to be hugely important – especially for mobile. As networks become faster and attention spans grow shorter, it’s essential to create digestible and fast-loading websites – or else risk losing visitors.
You don’t have to embrace extreme minimalism – simple design and a focus on important content can go a long way to improving user experience.
Mobile users want to find information quickly and easily, and this is the key thing to remember when designing your page layout. Decide what your most important content is, and give it pride of place.
Caption: Travel booking site Trainline’s mobile app instantly addresses its users’ needs: people want to know about train times and ticket prices, and so this form fills the whole mobile screen.
Don’t clutter or complicate the page with unnecessary information, ads, or distractions.
Taking care over minimal design, as well as scrapping heavyweight and redundant code, will also do wonders for your loading speeds. The SEO benefits of minimal, lightweight design were recently highlighted by Senior Technical SEO Specialist Edd Wilson:
“It’s of paramount importance that web developers consider page speed throughout the initial design process, to ensure the site is able to be optimized as effectively as possible to load faster for users. Not only will this deliver a superior experience for users once on the site, but it will also be favored by search engines such as Google in its ability to rank for certain key terms.”
The rise of mobile is pushing all sites to load faster, deliver information quicker, and rank higher. Page speed has never been so important – as Wilson went on to explain:
“Page speed has become a critical factor for SEO because of the mobile-first approach to the web… Within the mobile-first index, Google takes page speed into consideration when supplying results to those users, as they wouldn’t want to present a frustrating experience of waiting for websites to load when a user clicks through.”
This goes to show that adopting minimal design isn’t just a trend for mobile – it’s also a good idea for web pages looking to improve their SEO, too.
Useful Design Skills to Brush Up On
Although many brands hire web designers to handle their websites for them, there are plenty of entrepreneurs and startups who may want to take these projects into their own hands. If you want to expand your skillset and learn a bit more about web design, here are some handy skills to brush up on – or learn from scratch!
If the section about using illustrations caught your eye, why not take it one step further and embrace the exciting world of animations? Motion design is the skill most web designers want to learn in the next two years, so you’d be moving with the right crowd.
This is a trend Alex Vasili was quick to point out:
“Firstly, the clearest thing for me is the use of motion and animation across the industry. It’s everywhere – from applying small animations to web or app design, to the prolific use of motion design in social media advertising.”
Useful tools for creating animations include both Adobe Photoshop and Adobe After Effects, and you can find online courses on sites such as Lynda.com.
It’s often overlooked, but having a good understanding of UX (user experience) will help you get the best out of your website. You might find it also makes your relationship with your web designer easier, as you’ll better understand their choices.
There are plenty of courses, articles, and forums where you can start to get a grounding in UX.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
We’ve all seen those groan-worthy websites online – but your website might be committing some serious design sins without you even realizing. Check out this list to see if you’re guilty of any of these common design mistakes:
- Auto-playing media. Videos that play as soon as you load the page, ads that blare out at you before you’ve even scrolled down to them, even multiple videos playing at the same time. It’s a big no-no; avoid at all costs.
- Bland stock photography. We said it before, and we’ll say it again; leave boring, filler stock imagery at the door. Find meaningful, relevant images that connect with your audience instead.
- Too many calls to action. Don’t litter your pages with calls to action – UI Designer Ana Abrantes has this advice: “On each scroll (both desktop and mobile), you should only have one main call to action. Having multiple will only confuse the user.”
These are three design mistakes that are particularly annoying and all too common – especially on business websites. Break the trend in 2020 by making sure none of these make it onto your web pages!
Web trends can be fickle and fleeting – knowing which ones are worth paying attention to can help you stay ahead of the curve, and safeguard your website for the future. In 2020’s competitive landscape, it’s vital to keep engaging your visitors and clients – and the first way to do that is through your website’s design!
Here’s a quick recap of the top five trends to think about this year:
- Dark mode
- Bright colors
- Voice Search
- Minimal Design
You don’t have to throw them all at your website. As always, your brand comes first, and everything else should fit around your core values. Seek inspiration, be creative with your ideas, and don’t be afraid to try something new – 2020 is the year to deliver awesome web design for your customers!
Lucy Carney writes for Website Builder Expert, the leading authority in helping people of all abilities build an online presence. She specializes in website building, from eCommerce to web design and beyond, and is particularly interested in using her digital expertise to help growing businesses find success. Lucy’s writing has been featured on blogs such as UsabilityGeek, Shopify, and Serpstat – see more of Lucy’s work or connect with her on LinkedIn.