As we draw closer to the halfway point in 2019 it is a good opportunity to look back at what will turn out to be a seminal decade for web design. The world of ten years ago from a tech perspective looks almost as unfamiliar to us as the 50s must have done to 90s kids. We have seen the complete invasion of the smartphone, the introduction of augmented and virtual reality, and now the rapid rise to prominence of artificial intelligence that will no doubt usher in yet another new paradigm in the coming years.
Nowhere are these changes and advancements felt and seen more keenly than in the web design industry. Though designers and creatives tend to have an awkward relationship with the idea of ‘trends’ (and their reluctant obedience to them), the mass adoption of certain features and stylistic choices gives us a clear observable trail, from which we can trace back, and also predict what will happen in the future.
Indeed, when people reflect on the work we did at this point in time, they will not see what ideas we struggled with. They will only see what we did. What the market dictated was the right course of action. And what they will see will be the beginning of the merging between beauty and technology, the intellectual and the mechanical.
Read on below to learn the top six web design trends 2019.
Serif typography and typography based layouts
For a long time there was a hard and set rule around the use of serifs, driven by our need to have both paper and digital products. Now, with digital extending its reach and continuing its takeover of traditional media, things have changed. No longer are serifs just for print and sans serifs just for the screen. Today, both are used together to create prominent digital displays that delight the eye and appeal to our inner sense of aesthetics.
The bold use of serifs by brands to add prominence to their headlines and call-to-actions is in many ways a break with tradition. For many years serifs were considered too decorative and associated with a past time to be used in conjunction with technology. Now, as the line between the ‘real’ and the ‘virtual’ worlds begins to blur, we find it is the perfect companion to sans, which is still commonly used for long-form copy.
And yet, highly visible brands have even began to transgress on this idea. Billion-dollar companies such as Uber, Marketo and Mailchimp have all adopted Helvetica fonts in recent times, clearly attempting to shed the quirkiness of their past selves and become something altogether more uniform. This seems to mirror the journey we all go through as we pass into maturity. We shed our ripped jeans and dyed hair in favour of the more conservative. It is interesting to see our most famous corporate entities do the same.
Vibrant colour schemes with even more (subtle) gradients
The use of bright colours to effectively communicate branding is not a new thing but web design in 2019 shows no sign of cooling off on this trend. From bright image overlays and animations to subtle gradient backgrounds, ‘cool’ brands such as Spotify have taken this template and made it intrinsic to their identity. And other young pretenders are likely to follow for a long time to come.
In recent times there has also been a throwback trend towards nostalgic design, with many elements of the ‘old web’ being refreshed and repurposed for a younger and far more aware audience. What does this craving for nostalgia on the part of designers mean? Simpler times? Maybe. But one thing retro design does is use bold, bright colours (think: 1980s neon spandex) well.
The good news for designers looking for inspiration is that colour palettes are pretty easy to deploy and can have a huge affect on the perception of your work.
Video and more video
As with all things on the web, when Google decides to do something the rest of the world follows. In this instance, the introduction (and preference) of videos in the SERP listings caused the majority of brands to go into video production overdrive. This also plays into our need for engaging, fast-paced content that we can easily share with our immediate social networks. In our high-tech world people are often put off by a wall of text that they need to wade through. A well-produced video explainer is a natural successor for product pages and promotional campaigns.
Almost all web designers have adopted video in a big way. Not only does it add variety and a sense of diversity to a web page, it also fills our desire for sheer efficiency and a sense of modern style. Gone are the days where busy pages were seen as the most reliable and the simplest the most chic. Nowadays, with video, less is more, but we do more with the less.
Natural, organic and fluid shapes
There has always been a bias towards hard lines and systematic grids on the web, due largely to how its underlying architecture works. However, as we become more and more symbiotic with our digital selves there has been a gradual shift towards more natural shapes and softer lines, no doubt mirroring the free-flowing, ‘imperfect’ forms we find in the organic world, and bestowing on us a sense of comfort and familiarity that we generally find amongst the hills and the trees.
The overarching trend of 2019 has been for curving, free-drawn elements that attempt to capture the spontaneous energy and art of humankind. The curves give a sense of movement and natural order to our minds, and where the straight lines of old gave us stability, the ‘new web’ is all about making the artificial natural and embracing it as a prominent element in our lives.
3D renders of real life objects
It feels strange to talk about 3D in 2019 (it’s been around since 2011!) but even though it may seem to have died down in the world at large its development within the industry continues apace. Much of this we can attribute to the flourishing games market, with its development engines (Blender, Unity) and the rise of 3D printing pushing the technology to newer and greater heights.
Virtual reality as a whole also deserves to be a part of this conversation. Although it is not exactly mainstream the tech is extremely impressive and designers are using it to add a depth to their creations that has not been seen before. Expect non-game brands to showcase VR heavily in the coming months and years, especially in consumer markets and on ecommerce platforms. Anything that can make the product experience more seamless and an easier ‘sell’ will be used in abundance by innovative designers and 3D rendering of objects (negating the need for a physical shop or storefront) will be top of the list.
Inclusive design and accessibility
As the world has come online and billions more people have gained access to the internet there have been positive sentiments towards the near-limitless possibilities of inclusive design. It is not a stretch to say that technology has blown the world wide open. We are now connected at a scale that the generations before us could only dream about. Long-held borders, cultures, traditions and identities are coming together in an unprecedented shift of mental and physical merging, and our tastes in design have begun to reflect this new reality.
On the simplest level that might mean removing vanilla stock imagery and putting in its place visuals that better reflect our diversified world. But on a higher, abstract level this aspect of web design demands a serious commitment to self-awareness and the ability to make socially conscious choices. It is not something we have ever had to deal with before but it is a long time coming. Anything that can help real people make real connections and experience real joy is a huge net plus in our book.
NOTE: There is also the small fact that making your designs accessible to the majority of the world’s population can only help (sometimes exponentially), rather than hinder, your business goals.
Web design is at an interesting point in its existence. We could compare it at a glance to when the world’s great explorers had finally circumnavigated the globe. We know where everything is on the map now. The design of digital beauty is no longer uncharted territory or a trip through the wild west. We have a good idea about where things go and what works best depending on our goals. So where do we go now? Where does the future take us?
The big trends highlighted above lead us to one conclusion: technology is going to change web design entirely in the coming years. As the way we interact with those little screens in our pockets changes, so will our aesthetic ideals. And as more of the world is afforded the opportunity to join us online, there is going to be a huge movement towards all-embracing, inclusive experiences.
Jordan Thompson – Creative Director
“Both personally and i know i speak for the KIJO team as well in saying that we are in a truly exciting period for web design as a medium. The technology at our disposal now in comparison to say 3 years ago is astounding – the pace of progression has been drastic. It’s become the new normal to utilise multiple disciplines and techniques when designing for the web. From video production, 3d rendering, illustration, colour theory and typography.”
Have you read our Web Design Trends Article for 2018?