Some web design trends catch on because they solve genuine problems and improve user experience. Sadly, that doesn’t speak for every trend we see in the industry. Many become popular for reasons we can’t quite explain, despite causing more problems than they solve.
The problem is, design trends can be hard to stop once they catch on and even the worst of them crop up all over the web. This is bad news if you start taking design inspiration from the wrong places and end up shooting yourself in the foot. Here are five common design trends you should probably ignore.
Page speed couldn’t be more important in the modern web. Smartphones are the most common point of internet access for users around the world, leaving them with weaker hardware, patchy connections and limited data plans slowing them down. Mobile users are on the go, too, meaning they don’t have time to stand around and wait for things like this:
Page speed is also a direct ranking factor with Google. So, if your homepage needs a loading screen, it’s probably too slow to begin with.
Popups have made a real comeback over the past few years and sparked an old debate. Some marketers will tell you they work and the numbers don’t lie. UX purists will say they cause more harm than good in the long run. We’ll let you make your own call on that one, but be careful with popups on mobile.
Not only do they take up the whole screen, they normally wait until everything else on the page has loaded. Which means people will be half way through your content when they get interrupted by a popup and have to tap that tiny little ‘x’ before they can get back to reading. Not only is this annoying for users, it interrupts the marketing message that brought them to your site in the first place.
You can still target subscribers and promote your content to mobile users, but explore less intrusive options.
See also: The pros and cons of using popups on your site
This is probably the most glamourous trend to come out of web design in recent years and also one of the most damaging. Subtle use of parallax and other scrolling effects can really bring a page for life but overdoing is guaranteed to give users a headache.
First of all, parallax simply isn’t a part of a mobile friendly web design – so save it for desktop if you really must use it. Even then, you’ll want to keep things simple, using lightweight code, or it’ll bring your website to a halt. Next thing you know you’ll be resorting to loading pages and you’ve got two bad design trends on your hands.
There’s another ongoing debate among web designers about autoplay videos, which you’ll often see on homepages. However, something that isn’t up for debate is having autoplay audio on a website.
Users are constantly browsing the web while they watch TV, listening to music on the same device and go about their daily business. Having audio blare out while people are multitasking is a great way to make them hit the back button and visit another site.
This is a bizarre design trend to say the least. Mobile gave designers a problem in the sense there isn’t much space for navigation menus on small screens – hence the birth of hidden menus and the ‘hamburger’ icon:
For some reason, this trend eventually found its way onto desktop, too. Let’s start by saying it’s a bad idea to hide navigation, unless completely necessary, because adding an extra click to every page view is crazy.
Not only is this bad for user experience, there’s absolutely no need for it on larger displays. It’s a classic example of a design trend catching on because it’s popular, not because it improves usability.
Hopefully, by pointing out some of these design trends, we’ll help you make decisions about the websites you manage. These trends have become so commonplace many designers use them without even thinking. But every design choice should be made with careful thought to assess their impact on the end user.
Wez headed up the design team at Vertical Leap. A brand and UX specialist, Wez has spent the last decade travelling the world working with iconic brands in event and digital marketing activation projects. Wez now lives on the Isle of Wight and commutes by boat to Vertical Leap HQ.