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Design trends of 2018 and a unique perspective on web design.

Drawing tablet

Drawing tablet

Most people believe that design is important when building a website and this article touches upon why that is.

Why is design important and why should we pay extra attention to it. In a conversation with our lead designer, we share the importance of web design.

In his view, the design is where your brand comes alive. It is the part of a whole where you entice the viewer with the uniqueness of what you stand for… and you want to do that as well as possible.

Nowadays, there are a lot of websites that try to copy each other and as a consequence look a lot alike.

In there lies opportunity. A chance to differentiate and to stand out. Because when something is unique, it is easier to remember. Also, big brands struggle with staying innovative. But those who do and keep pushing boundaries are those who are going to last.

A perfect example is Dropbox. They recently launched a radical new design. The general reaction by the mass was: why? The previous version was clean and very clear. The rebranding was pretty outspoken. But that is how you make an impact and how you stay relevant. By taking a risk to stand out. Awesome to see that such a big brand is not afraid to make huge changes and see what happens.

Dropbox — new

Dropbox — new

Dropbox — old

Dropbox — old

Change is always met with amazement of even friction. That’s human nature. That also happened with the Dropbox community. By taking a step back and really listen to the customer feedback, iterating on it and ultimately building a new, better Dropbox they made the rebranding work.

Another example and probably less known than Dropbox is Klarna. A brand with a very own face.

Klarna

Klarna

From the logo and font to the colors and imagery. It is designed in such a way that when you see it, you think this is something I have never seen before. Often when looking at a website, you try to find recognizable elements that you’ve seen at other websites. If something is truly unique you are more likely to be impressed, remember it and even share with others.

We operate particularly in the B2B market en we often notice a certain degree of reserve. And it is completely understandable. Ideally, investing in a new website is not something you want to do every year. So you would rather play it on the safe side right? But it might just be an opportunity to distinguish yourself from the competition. Be bold.

A website needs to touch the user. Or rather bring across a brands identity that sparks emotion. A lot of websites do that using good imagery. Real pictures of real people that tell a story. Not stock photos because you will sense the difference immediately. Using real stuff gives a brand authenticity. It is more credible and therefore trustworthy. Here we give the example of photo and video but it can also be done through animations or gifs for example. The reason why gifs are so trending at the moment is that you give people a very short reason to smile which causes them to experience a short moment of happiness. Numerous studies have proven that when people are in a ‘good mood’, conversions go up.

A good example is the case of the Twitter button. The hart with virtual confetti coming out when pressed caused an enormous spike in the use of that like button. The fun animation has simply made people want to use it more.

Another example, this time from Dutch soil is Tikkie.

Tikkie

Tikkie

The app that allows users to send payment requests via WhatsApp. Paying someone is usually not the most fun thing to do. They made it more fun by adding a funny gif when the request is paid which ads to the overall user experience.

Just to be clear, we do not believe that design is the almighty most important thing that will make or break your business. A product or service nobody wants is not going to change with a perfect design. People tend to want to see things separately from each other and preferably in a hierarchy. What is the most important element of a great website? As with almost everything, this is arguable. Branding success is never based on one element and one element alone. It is always a mix of elements. Doesn’t matter if you are building a house, a team, a SAAS product or a website. It all adds up to whether it is going to be successful of a failure.

It comes down to first building a story around your brand. If there is no story, your brand is nothing more than a name that nobody can identify with. Storytelling is visual, imagery, words but also the interaction and design. The internet offers a ton of ways for people to interact with your brand. For most brands, their website is the epicenter of that interaction. The central point where all brand elements should come together.

And that does not only happen on a desktop. Mobile use has grown significantly over the past few years. Still, we see a lot that the mobile web version is seen as a sort of light version of the desktop site. While we like to see that the mobile version is at least as good as the desktop version. That basically feels like an app. If people think of a website, they still imagine something you view on a desktop. Whereas looking at the statistics, mobile internet use, in general, is way higher than on desktop. One might argue it has something to do with the rise of social media and the opportunity for advertisers to pull people to their websites via social ads. Anyways, design wise there are a lot more possibilities on mobile versions of a website than most people think. To be clear on what a responsive website is, a website that scales to different screen sizes, optimally showing the website’s elements without compromising the user experience.

We would also like to offer you an interesting point of view on ‘mobile first’. Something you hear a lot nowadays. There are pros and cons that you should be aware of using the perspective of mobile first.

Take the following analogy:

A painter may paint a beautiful painting with the finest details, displayed on a broad canvas. Consequently, using a smaller canvas means less room for painting the same details and often means making concessions in the end-result to display something similar. This is often seen as a bad thing. But remember that the most important thing is that users have the same brand experience. They already expect a slightly different version on mobile. Make the experience your priority instead of trying to cramp up a 15-inch screen into an iPhone screen. That isn’t going to work.

Making concessions does not have to mean you should stop being creative. For example, there is a lot you can do on mobile you aren’t able to do on a laptop. Using a phone’s gyroscope, for instance, to move elements on the website based on how a user holds his phone. The challenge is to find a way that enhances your brand experience instead of downgrading it.

Then let’s talk about trends in web design. These are the trends we have seen developing in the last few years.

The use of white space

It used to be the belief that when you fill empty spaces with more text, people have to scroll less so they will read more of your content. Wrong. If the design is not ‘breathing’, it feels very busy leading up to achieving the opposite effect. People will likely scroll away from time-consuming pieces of content.

Mailchimp

Mailchimp

Mollie

Mollie

Calmness

This one often goes together with white space but in general, excellent websites nowadays are content-wise way less busy than what used to be.

Look at Apple for example. Apple uses whitespace to focus attention on its products. If Apple stands for anything, it’s the importance of design in tech, and its own website demonstrates that masterfully. When you have products like gorgeous-looking as this, you want to focus attention on them, and the acres of white space surrounding them achieve just that.

Apple

Apple

So we might conclude that it is not such a bad idea to leave some open spaces on the website to let it breathe. This also forces you to put the emphasis on the quality of content instead of the quantity.

Animations and transitions

This has become a thing lately. It is a perfect way to bring across emotion to your visitor. There is enormous power in subtle movements on your website. It feels more real and alive when there are dynamic elements implemented. It does not have to be all static anymore. People are triggered by moving images and elements. It enables you to communicate with less and can also improve the user experience. Autoplay video is another way to say a lot with less. It also works on mobile these days. We’ve integrated it into our own website using the Andreas Crosses.

Story of AMS

Story of AMS

Another awesome example of the use of animations and transitions…

Kayak 3D Transition
by Minh Nguyen

Kayak 3D Transition by Minh Nguyen

Big, bold typography

More and more websites start to have custom Typography. Not only gives this your website more personality but it can also make it more visual and pleasant to read. Using big bold typography in headings, for example, can give your website a magazine-like-feel.

Implement Consulting Group

Implement Consulting Group

O and 3

O and 3

Bright Colors

Using bright and vibrant colors is an easy way to make your brand and website stand out. They grab attention and set yourself apart from the traditional color schemes. This will help visitors to remember you instead of the competitors.

Airtable

Airtable

Spotify

Spotify

And lastly, please don’t be so dead serious all the time. Use a bit of humor where you can. It is one of the most powerful ways to increase conversions. The more positive someone’s state of mind, the more likely they are to take some form of action. But above all, it is one of the most powerful ways to brighten someone’s day.

On a final note, the mentioned trends are to be seen as tools. They offer ways to develop a design that is unique and fits in contemporary context. As we said before, you don’t want your website to look like someone else's. It’s the way you incorporate these trends in a meaningful way with your brand that will separate you from the others.