5 Web Design Trends to Avoid
Earlier this year, we covered the top web design tips for 2019. Now, it's time to turn our attention to a more troublesome topic – the web design trends you should avoid at all costs.
Naturally, we spend a lot of time around websites. We have our own ideas of what constitutes a poor web design trend, but we also wanted to find out the things that everyday users of everyday websites find most irritating.
So, we decided to message the whole office, asking what irked everyone the most when it came to web design – and it’s fair to say they had some thoughts. Lots of thoughts:
1. Autoplaying videos (especially with audio)
So, this is a tricky one. Don’t get us wrong – auto playing videos can be great. They’re engaging, eye-catching, and sleek – everything you’d want from a modern website.
However, they’re certainly not without their problems.
Firstly, if your video has sound, it will auto play at moments when your user would probably rather it didn’t. Scrolling on the bus, sneakily browsing in a meeting, working from the library – these are just three examples of when unexpected audio would spark panic, and inevitably result in users leaving your site as fast as they possibly could.
Secondly, in terms of file size, auto-playing videos are basically as big as it gets. This means they’ll be the last thing to load on a page (particularly when the internet is sub-par), leaving a gaping block of white space in the meantime. This is especially problematic when the video is the first thing users would see, i.e. it’s positioned ‘above the fold’.
Auto-playing videos will also slow your page down – big time. This is a serious SEO no-no, and could really harm your site’s chances of ranking well on Google.
2. Large cookie alerts
There’s an argument for making the copy on these alerts quite comprehensive. By being as transparent as possible, you should gain your user’s trust, right?
Well, this may have been true when the regulations first came into play, but things have shifted since then.
The bottom line is, users expect to see cookie alerts. Not only do they expect them, they’re kind of sick of them. They’re very used to clicking ‘Accept’, then moving on to find the information they came to your site for in the first place.
Making these alerts as unobtrusive as possible, especially for mobile users, can only be a good idea. When we canvassed the office opinion on annoying website traits, cookie alerts which block the whole screen came up time and time again.
3. Hover menus
With a hover menu, the subcategory options for each menu choice ‘drop down’ when a user moves their mouse over that part of the navigation bar, rather than them actually needing to click on it.
It’s a common misconception that hover menus help guide users through your site. The reality, in fact, can be very different.
Firstly, hover menus are presumptuous. The user is effectively always ‘hovering’ – doing so over a menu item doesn’t mean they necessarily want to click on it. You’re just as likely to annoy and distract your visitors as you are to guide them.
Secondly, navigating through a hover menu requires a certain level of dexterity, particularly when there are several sub options within sub options. It can start to feel like you’re playing a very dull and mildly irritating game, and can also be very hard on those who struggle with shaky hands or poor eyesight. As one (rather gymnastic) colleague put it, ‘it’s like doing balance beam to get to the final click’.
All in all, we’d recommend you just stick with a simple ‘click’ menu – especially if your site has an older demographic.
4. Endless scrolling
Again, this is another web design trend that seems like a really good idea on the surface.
We scroll now more than ever before. Back in 2016, the average Brit scrolled 5.1 miles a year on their smartphone – and we dread to think what this distance is today.
But again, there’s a problem. A one-page website may seem like a smart choice, but in reality, the endless scrolling can be hugely frustrating for users who want to reach the links at the bottom of the page, or to go back to the top.
If you’re an artistic company with minimal content, you might be able to make it work. Otherwise, it’s generally better to divide your content into separate pages for better usability.
Now this isn’t in itself a ‘web design trend’ – we’re pretty sure that nobody sets out with the intention to create an overcrowded website – but it can be caused by trying out too many trends at once.
There are a lot of websites out there which have fallen into the overcrowding trap – so how can you make sure yours isn’t one of them?
When designing your website, it’s easy to try to do too much. Modern website builders are so sophisticated that it’s easy to get ‘drag-and-drop happy’, resulting in too much content and too many colors. If you allow adverts on your site, this can only make things worse.
The first step to avoiding this is setting a site color scheme. You’ll need maybe one to three ‘main’ colors for your primary palette, then perhaps four more muted colors for your secondary palette. Stick to these, and these only.
Secondly, make sure you prioritize white space when designing your website. This might feel wasteful, but you need to let your content breathe for it to be digestible and effective. Similarly, make sure you never have more than one animation moving on screen at any one time; animations can be a fun way to draw the user’s attention to something, but use too many and it all starts to feel very overwhelming.
If you are using a website builder, and don’t have much design experience, not over-customizing your set template is a good way to stay on the right track. These templates are designed by designers, so should follow best practice – deviating from them too much may do more harm than good.
But there’s no ‘perfect’ web design formula...
In this article, we’ve covered five web design trends which, by and large, are best avoided.
That said, when it comes to designing a website, there really is no ‘one size fits all’ option. The key is to know your audience and the trends they prefer, and most importantly, to keep testing new layouts and elements using tools like Optimizely and Hotjar.
Find which changes improve both engagement metrics (like time on page and bounce rate) and conversions, implement them, then keep on testing. Even the best websites are never ‘finished’!