10 Exciting Web Design Trends for 2020


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In this article, we cast our eye over 10 exciting web trends that people inside the industry are expecting to take hold in 2020, and beyond!

Change is a funny thing. It’s constant, inexorable – but it doesn’t necessarily happen overnight.

The author C.S. Lewis is often quoted as saying: “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes – but when we look back, everything is different?”

It’s the same with web design. Like a fine wine, our industry continues to mature with each passing day, month and year. That change isn’t always immediately noticeable – but it never stops. And those who fail to adapt are quickly left behind.

It’s little wonder that the million dollar question in the web design industry is so often: what’s next?

So that’s exactly the question we decided to ask. We asked a diverse group of web designers, agency owners, content managers and marketers which web design trends they believe will be shaping our industry in 2020 – and beyond.

 Here’s what they told us…

 1. White Space & Simplistic/Minimalist Design

It’s often said that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication, and many in the industry expect a minimalist, stripped-back approach to become ever more popular in the coming months. 

“The most exciting web design trends for 2020 are going back to simple more minimalist designs,” argues Sean Pour of Sellmax

Minimalist design means a hundred things to a hundred different people, but it generally refers to an extensive use of white space, with no single element distracting attention from the visual hierarchy.

This threadbare, stripped-back style means limited color palettes, with content being given lots of room to breathe on a page, like in the example below…

And it’s more than just a cosmetic decision, as Lee Santos of Revive.digital explains: “This is because it can help improve the speed of the site & perform better, especially when it comes to mobile.”

Make sure to speak to your clients about minimalist design, and have plenty of examples at your disposal. 

2. AI & Contextual Technology

AI is making its impact felt in a range of different industries, and web design is far from an exception.

There are two layers to this.

Firstly, there’s the idea of what’s sometimes called “artificial design intelligence.” This is technology, essentially, that is able to ‘automate’ aspects of web design. Web design tools like Sitejet are making it easier, and quicker, to create beautiful websites – creating more time and freedom for web designers to innovate and grow. This technology is progressing at a rapid pace and is likely to yield real benefits for the designers who adopt it going forward.

But artificial intelligence and automation also feed into ‘contextual’ technology – which can help your site feel more ‘human’ by interpreting user behaviour and circumstances to deliver really personal, tailored experiences.

“(The future of web design) likely includes contextual technology that combines the needs of a user’s environment with modern technology like VR in a seamless way that the user doesn’t even notice,” argues Jake McKenzie, Content Manager at Auto Accessories Garage.  

 “Using AI in a smart way to make your site feel more human is going to be the key to success.” 

Contextual technology can take many forms. But, in essence, it’s about delivering a tailored experience to the visitor based on the particular circumstances of their visit. Content, and design, may differ based on the date and time, location, user language, operating system, and dozens of other characteristics.

The other way in which AI might make its impact felt is in the form of chatbots, delivering around-the-clock support and assistance for website visitors. Yes, chatbots still lack the emotional intelligence of human support operatives – but they’re becoming increasingly sophisticated.

“Websites will become conversational, with chatbot-like features built in, to guide visitors through their site, services, and answer questions more intelligently,” argues David Sanchez of Mammoth Web Solutions.

3. Voice

Voice technology is another trend experiencing rapid growth in adoption – its growth was a prediction offered by numerous people we spoke to!

This is partly a result of technology, like smart speakers, that many of us are becoming increasingly accustomed to having in our homes. “We live in the age of Siri and Alexa,” explains Taura Woolfe, of Woolfe Agency. “Audio controllers have become our friends and have dramatically changed our digital experience the past few years. (But) many companies have not yet adopted VUI onto their websites. 

“As we continue to move into the future, VUI will enhance the UX by making navigating websites and completing online purchases easier than ever.”

Amine Rahal, of IronMonk, agrees: “I would predict a larger emergence and further integration of voice command within the web interfaces and user experience of web design layouts and apps.” 

Stacy Caprio, the founder of Accelerated Growth Marketing, sees voice increasing as a vehicle for audience discovery, with voice search becoming increasingly common. “I think more companies will start optimizing for structured snippets including voice-focused and answer sites to make them more effective for artificial intelligence technologies such as Google Voice search and Alexa to use,” she says.

4. 3D Models and Rendering

Often, ‘new’ trends aren’t new at all. They simply hit the mainstream due to a lowering of their barriers to entry. One such trend, in 2020, might be the rise of 3D modelling and rendering.

“In 2020, we’ll see a lot more 3D rendering as a major web design trend,” says Mark Krenn of Coastal Creative

“The reason? 3D modelling has historically been very expensive and out of reach for most designers.

“We predict the costs will drop significantly, and we’ll see more design software tools released that make this design available to those without specialized 3D training. 

“Usually, when the prices drop for certain methods, the popularity explodes.”

We already see examples of 3D modelling appearing on websites. Take energy drink, Defy, for example…

Sports megabrand Adidas have also dabbled in 3D modelling, with the product site they created about Futurecraft – a 100% recyclable performance running shoe announced in April 2019. The 3D trainer model rotates slowly around the screen, and the user is able to navigate the site by scrolling and interacting with the model itself.

Of course, it’s worth keeping in mind how additions like this will affect loading times, particularly on mobile; but it’s exciting to see how this technology will continue to unfold in 2020.

5. User focus

It goes without saying that the most important person on any website is the user – but many expect the user focus to become even more pronounced in 2020.

“The biggest web design trend you’re going to see take off in 2020 is the focus on the user,” explains Alana Kucharski of Whittington Consulting

“Thinking through what the client is looking for or trying to solve by coming to your site—instead of a company pushing for what they hope the user will do—will be a much-needed departure from the old way of thinking about a site.”

6. The end of flat design?

That flat design movement – a shift towards minimalist, simple, block-colour design – started in the early 2000s. By the early 2010s, it had become the dominant style. 

Despite being an industry standard, flat design has not been without its critics.  

And, according to some in the industry, its time on the throne may now be running out!

“Flat design, which has proven to have a myriad of issues when user-tested, is going to start the pendulum swing back in the other direction, creating a hybrid of the two extremes,” suggests Alana Kucharski.

“Elegant, simplified elements that still give you context to their action will be the happy medium. 

Buttons, for example, won’t just be words with a box around them; nor will they be strictly bevelled, with gradients, shadowing and imprinted text. 

Better context clues are starting to emerge, allowing the user to interact with the site the way it was intended.” 

7. Accessibility for visitors with disabilities

One trend that might not be particularly sexy – but is incredibly important – is accessibility. In other words, making websites that are welcoming to everybody.

And, as Sharon Rosenblatt of Accessibility Partners explains, this is becoming a real priority in the world of web design.

“My clients are web designers, and I’m in the field of technology compliance—so the biggest trend I’m seeing is increased accessible design for consumers with disabilities,” she explains.

“I see this for two reasons: Firstly, unfortunately, a number of website owners and businesses are getting sued for not providing accessible websites for users with disabilities—across industries like retail, food service, hotels, air travel, and more! 

Right now, the Americans with Disabilities Act is being used (and has for the past few years) as a driving force to level the tech playing field and increase more access to websites for people of all abilities. 

But more important is the second reason. There’s been an uptick in responsible web design and corporate social responsibility. People are seeing a good ROI and marketability of accessibility, and it’s a nice thing to advertise.

So while I don’t feel that accessibility and inclusion are trendy and stylish, I know for a fact that they will be at the forefront of designer and developer’s minds, if my inbox is any indication.” 

8. Data collection

For years now, people have been talking about data being ‘the new oil.’ But now, with new ways to actually utilise that data – some of which we’ve discussed in this article, like contextual technology – it’s perhaps more important than ever.

Brianna Brannan at Digital Nomad Designs believes that the collection – and leverage – of that data, will shape the world of web design in 2020. “No matter what industry we’re in, it’s becoming more and more valuable to collect data from users,” she says. 

“I think that we’ll start to see more web designs based on user data.

By performing more functionality and interface tests, we can see what users respond best to and mimic that within web designs. Websites will be designed around user behavior.”

It’s certainly an exciting prospect to imagine a world of web design in which decisions are made based on what we know to work, rather than what we think will work.

9. Microinteractions

Microinteractions, sometimes called UI animation, are a relatively new phenomenon. They’re tiny design elements but can play a significant role in creating ‘human’ feeling websites that delight the audience. 

And many people, like Nikki Bisel at Seafoam Media, believe the usage and popularity of microinteractions will soar in the coming months.

“For years now, the focus has been on streamlining and “templatizing” web design,” she says.

“Over the course of the next year, though, one of the big things you’re going to start to see are microinteractions. At its core, microinteractions are meant to delight the user. 

When you upload a file, hit the submit button, and see an upload status bar go from 0% to 100%, that’s a microinteraction. 

When you hover over a subtle Call To Action and the colour saturates and the button gets bigger, that’s a microinteraction. 

When you scroll down an eCommerce category page and focus your cursor over a particular product and a sale icon jumps up and down on the product, that, too, is a microinteraction.

Microinteractions let the user feel what they’re doing. They bring a site to life!  They let the user interact on a level that feels tangible and palpable. The user gets instant feedback, direction, and emotional validation. 

So when you’re designing, there’s a new meaning for “What do I want the user to feel?” Now, it’s not just emotions, it’s sensory, too.” 

A classic example of a microinteraction is Facebook’s ‘Like’ functionality. You might not ever have even noticed it but when you hit that little ‘thumbs up’ icon – just look at the tiny animation that happens.

Or how about this awesome login example where we have a yeti character on the page? He watches us enter our email address as we go…blocks his eyes so he can’t see our password…but peeps if we click ‘Show!’ This sort of cool, creative microinteraction is going to be such a cool point-of-difference for you and your clients going forward… (Try it for yourself here.)

At a surface level, these additions don’t seem all that significant. But across whole websites, they really add up to immersive, engaging experiences, turning mundane, generic functions into something really memorable – and contributing greatly to the overall user experience.

10. Augmented Reality

Augmented reality has been on the radar for some time but has never quite had its ‘breakthrough’ moment. 

Could that moment be upon us? Many people believe it is – with its impact particularly likely to be felt in the world of eCommerce.

“AR is essentially the mix of reality and virtual reality,” explains Woolfe Agency’s Taura Woolfe. 

Think Pokemon Go – the mobile game where Pokemon characters were ‘overlaid’ into the real world, so we have a sensory combination of reality and virtual reality. 

The use cases for this technology could be wide and varied.

“Stores and brands alike are able to implement AR into their websites by allowing customers to virtually “try on” different clothes, jewellery, makeup, and so on, or by allowing users to see how furniture would look in their homes or offices before purchasing,” Taura continues.

“This takes the mystery out of online purchasing and allows consumers to make their purchases with confidence.”  

Specsavers’ Virtual Try-on is a good example of this approach. The UK-based opticians recognised that people may feel more comfortable trying on glasses at home – and more likely to buy their frames. And so, they created Virtual Try-on – where customers can quickly and easily ‘scan’ their face into a 3D model, then overlay that model with a variety of different frames to find out what works for them.

The same logic applies to IKEA Place, which allows you to photograph your room and then use augmented reality to try out furniture – to scale – making sure it a) fits, and b) suits!https://www.youtube.com/embed/UudV1VdFtuQ

As web design increasingly goes mobile-first, AR becomes a much more tangible possibility. There are still challenges in this area – and the best is definitely still to come – but that time is getting closer. AR is certainly something to be aware of for the future!

Final Thoughts

It’s really tough to overstate the importance of staying current in the web design industry. By keeping an eye on the trends we’ve outlined in this article – and no doubt, plenty more! – you’ll give yourself the best possible chance of staying ahead of the curve, delighting your clients and doing awesome work for years to come. 

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