Web design trends – 2015 edition

October 2, 2015 8:50 am

I’ve written previously about some of the silly trends that web-design has gone through over the last 20 years or so, mostly focusing on the odd-ball bits and pieces that we can look back and laugh at.

Today I wanted to write about some patterns and trends that I see coming up on more modern times.

It’s something that has been on my mind for a while; that most modern web design looks very similar, very generic. Here’s the quick mockup of the patterns I’m seeing in a lot of places (including our own work!)

generic website design layout

These days you see the same patterns on many sites: a big header, a quick tagline, a few key points, and a call to action. It feels a bit like the design has been homogenised. Side note: obviously there will always be cases where a website is experimental/out-of-the-box/fun… but these are often for more artistic purposes.

Now before designers give up on our jobs, throw our computers out the window, and start new careers as Inuit bear trackers, it’s worth mentioning the history of how we ended up in this position.

Inuit bear trackers

Back in the early days of the internet, design was a bit of a “wild-west” experience; there were no rules to follow. Designers would regularly come up with inventive interfaces and techniques. It was pretty common to visit multiple sites and none of them looking similar or follow any of the same patterns.

space jam website design


This was a good thing a bad thing though – many of these designs were plainly terrible, but at the same time they pushed creative boundaries. The designs also could freely use flash, and only had to only work on a couple of browsers on a small range of screen sizes.

But technology evolved over the years; sites need to be responsive now, work in a multitude of different browsers, and work with a new set of technical limitations. So web design adapted to these situations, and new best practices started to emerge.

Website layouts start following certain patterns and formulas, because we figured out what works best. Header stating the site’s purpose and navigation – show some images of the product – then give people some options if they want more information.

We started testing and tracking users on websites more, and the data backed this up. When a site was designed to have a clear message, focus on the content, and offer simple options to a user; it gave a better return than a website that had spinning banners, text wrapped to the shape of a circle, or had an interface that appeared to be built by someone from 1970 who had to imagine what something from 2050 might look like.

future website design 1970


What’s also interesting is that we’ve set up frameworks to make designing and developing to these patterns easier to do (i.e. twitter bootstrap), which in-turn makes many sites even more similar.

If we look to other mediums/industries, we can see that designing to a convention becomes quite common. Look at industrial design: car design over the last 100 years ahas eventually led us to a point where, to a common person, large 4-door-sedan’s are indistinguishable from a distance. We don’t have any crazy 3 wheeled cars any more. Even the architecture of a modern house is becoming homogenised.

What’s our opinions on this? Well, like most things, it’s tricky to take an absolute position on it.

only a sith deals in absolutes

We are humble enough to realise that our job isn’t just about decorating, but about helping our clients solve a problem. And in web design that means helping the right users find our clients content, and presenting it in a relevant fashion. Trying to be inventive with a design can often get in the way of this. However, at the same time, presenting something exciting in a boring way can also mean you might lose people interests.

We have to strike a balance between functional and attractive. We also have to utilise and focus on content to be the main difference.

Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that these things are always evolving over time. Right now, many sites follow a reliable pattern, but who knows what it will be like in 10 years time when we have giant lasers beaming virtual reality directly into our visual cortex.

futurama eye phone

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