2020 web design trends
Updated: Mar 22
Digital design trends are ever-changing. What looked good 3 years ago won’t help you stand out today. With better screens, evolving user preferences, and clever techniques at play, web design trends are becoming far more experimental.
Those who fail to adapt to new web design trends often get left behind, while there more forward-thinking competitors gain competitive advantage by staying fresh. The trap some business owners get caught in is thinking that they’ll simply look a bit older than their competitors, and that doesn’t usually bother them very much. But only two words are needed to back up my point about adapting to market trends; Woolworths and Blockbuster.
However, some web design trends, such as minimalism, offer such variability that they’re unlikely to go anywhere in the next 5-10 years. With so many people discussing new web design trends, the possibilities seem endless. So, where do you start?
For the past 3 months we have been scouring the web for the top emerging web design trends for 2020 and here’s what we found.
We’ve all heard “less is more”, and when it comes to design, there are plenty of quotes that spring to mind when describing the relationship between design and simplicity. But something Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once said has stuck with me for years.
“A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
In this sense, Saint-Exupéry speaks of balance. He is talking about the ability to strip back the unnecessary or the obvious, so the necessary may speak.
With dwindling attention spans and the urgency in which people request information, this rings true for web design in 2020.
The trouble is, minimalist design can mean different things to different designers, but in web design, it generally refers to the use of blank space, with nothing distracting from the information, design element or point you are trying to communicate.
This means using limited colour palettes to give the content a stage to communicate the message effectively. As Jobs once said; “design is not how it looks, it’s how it works”.
Another non-visual benefit of minimalist web design is that it helps sites perform better. With less multimedia and more use of blank space to emphasise web design elements, page loading time is reduced and mobile site performance is greatly enhanced. With Google’s recent mobile-first changes to indexing (read more about this in number 3), a minimalist approach may be the answer.
2. Floating elements
This is one of my favourite emerging web design trends for 2020. Flat design has become, well, flat. It’s become lifeless and it gives all web pages the same depth. With seemingly endless design possibilities, creating some depth by layering seems like the logical next step for web design.
You can create a faux-3D effect on graphics, photos and text to give your website a little extra oomph by simply using shadows. The use of soft shadows has become increasingly popular as it adds a subtle elegance to web design elements and offers an extra layer of depth - a strong contrast from traditional flat web design.
It helps to highlight certain web design elements in a clear and attractive way, without being too overbearing.
3. SVGs for mobile prioritisation
At the beginning of 2019, Google implemented some changes to their site indexing. The changes mean they’ll be using mobile-first indexing to rank websites. It didn’t come as a huge surprise as mobile users have outnumbered desktop users for a few years now - especially in B2C industries - but it means businesses need to prioritise mobile design elements.
Content-rich websites usually suffer from slower page-load times and with the rise of mobile-first search, Google will likely penalise sites which have lots of files to load. Traditional formats like JPEG, GIF and PNG are notoriously poor for mobile, and this is where scalable vector graphics (SVGs) come in.
GIF, PNG, and JPEG files aren’t mobile-friendly but users love multimedia, and websites that host quality multimedia perform better than text-only web pages when it comes to engaging and retaining users. All this really means is that it’s time to make the switch to mobile-first designs, putting mobile prioritisation at the core of the design process.
SVGs scale with the size of the screen while maintaining the quality of the original file (as shown above). Scalable vector graphics aren’t pixels, rather a digital language, which is a large reason they’re so scalable. They ensure consistent quality and improve user experience and it’s all to do with creating a mobile-first web society.
For illustrators and creatives who like to appeal to the users’ emotional language, this is one of the more exciting web design trends for 2020 and beyond.
For as long as the web has been around, designers have been seeking perfection. But humans are quite imperfect, and we connect with other imperfect things, so this idea of achieving perfection just doesn’t fit our mould. That’s why social media has become so toxic for certain demographics - people can’t connect with the ‘perfect’ image others project, so their perception of themselves is warped and damaged, while the people causing the damage are only presenting themselves as perfect because they themselves are striving for perfection. But it doesn’t exist. So everyone’s unhappy. This is why you’ll be hearing more about micro and nano-influencers this year.
Anyway, back to web design.
Imperfect illustrations and hand-drawn design elements humanise web pages and appeal to users in a far more natural way. That’s one of the reasons video has become the strongest performing content in recent years - it’s humanising. We get to see imperfections. It seems that humanisation is slowly growing in popularity, and this couldn’t be more true for the web design trends for 2020.
Hand-drawn icons, unique illustrations and other web design elements reveal the soul beneath the skin of a brand and helps businesses to communicate their uniqueness which users find ever more appealing. At least initially this trend is going to seem somewhat rebellious. It’s against the grain. No one’s perfect, so your business doesn’t need to be either. Again, it’s a move away from pixel-perfect flat web design which we love.
5. Mixing photography with graphics
Mixing photography with graphic design is what first ignited the flame that led to Dimartec. When I first got into photography over 10 years ago, it was a way to connect with my Father who is an incredible photographer. But any true creative needs their own voice and their own identity. So before long, I started to add to my photographs using Adobe Photoshop (after editing them using Lightroom). It let my creative spirit run free and come up with truly unique and expressive work. 10 years later, despite running a creative marketing agency, I still find myself mixing photography with graphics in my spare time for fun. I love it.
Utilising both forms of creativity adds true versatility and will set you apart from your competitors. Again, this trend fulfils the need to add personality and realness to web design.
Great designers can take a page of text, trim the fat, and come up with a creative graphic that ultimately shouts about the important stuff, and excludes the obvious or irrelevant stuff. Messaging becomes more powerful and your business will stand out amongst others. To make the most of this design trend it is worth sitting down with your creative agency to brainstorm some initial ideas so they don’t go too wild and move away from the brand’s identity. However, if you trust the design agency you’re working with - that they really know and truly care about your brand - you might not need to go into too much detail. Let the designers do their best work by having fun with it.
Want an example of what it might look like for your brand? Get in touch and we’ll get to work on a sample today.
6. Glowing and luminous colour schemes
Coinciding with the running theme here, which is ultimately to make web elements ‘pop’, becoming more impactful and standing out, creating an adventurous colour scheme with a luminous effect is an exciting way to help web designs jump off the screen.
Considering the soon to come rise of dark mode, glowing web design elements and luminous colour schemes could prove super effective if used in the right way. As web design becomes more daring and experimental, neon colours combined with darker shades and soft shadows gives designs a luminous effect.
Using trends like duotone, which are visually compelling and constantly changing, you can transform almost any company image to make it truly stand out. It also works great when used in parallel with bold typography.
Web design is getting more interesting by the year, but it feels like the key themes for 2020 are going to be centred around these three areas:
1. A continued rise in the use of minimalism, but in conjunction with other design trends to trim the fat and make your messaging standout.
2. More humanisation and personalisation.
3. Being more experimental and creative, moving away from the traditional flat design approach to web design.
What’s stopping you from taking action today?