Web design trends become more compelling every year as the web matures into a more complex combo of technology, user expectations and creative solutions. The web is certainly prettier than ever before and at the core of most design trends today is a visual impact aimed at providing a more immersive web experience.
However, these trends can have the exact opposite effect when they are used for the wrong reasons, without reason at all or executed poorly. Sadly, this seems to be the case more often than not and we need be careful that we never lose sight of the end user when we design our projects. None of the design trends in this article are bad so to speak, but the implementation of them across the web has been patchy at best.
It seems any website with a decent budget is obliged to take the parallax approach. I can already imagine site owners seeing the final product, thinking “Wow! That looks expensive!” – which may well be the first impression their visitors get as well. But that won’t last if your parallax designs confuse visitors, overcomplicate navigation or give them a migraine. Speaking of which, if you fancy a good headache, take a look at this parallax effort from Muffi:
Sure, it’s easy to pick on one design that makes a mess of parallax – but it’s not as easy as you might think. The majority of parallax sites I come across are pretty cringe-worthy and it was actually quite difficult to narrow it down to one example.
Navigation is always one of those tricky design points from a UX perspective – because it’s so fundamental to websites and applications. Thankfully the days of hover and drop-down menus are behind us, but the latest navigation trends come with their own UX issues that need to be addressed.
Just like parallax scrolling, off-screen menus are the norm when it comes to responsive design. Now I have my gripes with off-screen menus as it is, but it’s not always easy to come up with an alternative when you have small screens to deal with – fair enough. What I can’t understand is ‘desktop’ layouts opting an off-screen navigation.
After waiting for the D.FY website to load I find I then have to click a hamburger icon every time I want to navigate, see what pages are on offer or simply open and close the menu. Hmm.
Another alternative to the navigation issue is the use of icons instead of the standard text menus. The only trouble with this is that you run the risk of confusing visitors when you don’t literally spell it out for them. It’s a risky game once you start making assumptions about people’s interpretation of symbols and studies show that icons cause a lot more confusion than you might think.
Scroll activated animations are a good example and I rarely find myself thinking yes, that really adds to the experience of this website. More commonly they distract from the brand message or simply doesn’t function very well. And this is how I see things on my laptop – I don’t even dare attempt a visit on my smartphone.
As websites become more complicated the rise of the loading screen is upon us. Good things come to those who wait you might say, but why wait for a homepage to load when yo can simply go elsewhere?. The homepage is often the first impression visitors get of your clients’ website, perhaps their entire brand. Do you really want that first impression to tell users they’ll just have to wait a moment and you’ll be with them when you’re ready?
Pop-ups are a tricky one when it comes to the balance between design and marketing. A number of studies show that pop-up forms and sign-up options drastically increase subscriptions and other conversions – pretty damn compelling from a CRO and email marketing perspective. The stinker is that pop-up ads are a killer when it comes to user experience and you should always avoid interrupting the user from a UX point of view.
I tend to favour the user when it comes to these conflicts of interest – and that’s the way it should be. But the marketing philosophy – if it converts, it works – is tough to ignore and when a client wants pop-ups you don’t always get a say in the matter. So if you take this route, all you can do is put your efforts into working the least obtrusive design possible into your projects.
Design trends catch on for a reason and there’s nothing wrong with flexing your muscles when it comes to design projects. The danger comes when the user slips off the top of your priority list and you start designing for yourself. There’s no room for ego when it comes to user experience and web design trends need to be handled with care. There is no point in falling back on trends like parallax scrolling just because the technology is there. If you don’t need it or it doesn’t benefit the user, you’re just adding a load of bloated code to a website that won’t work on many devices or browsers – a ridiculous compromise when you think about it.