You’ve always been up-to-speed on the latest trends. You were that seven-year-old toting your Nintendo Game Boy around in the car while your parents ran errands. As a teenager, you saw the rise and fall of Guitar Hero and flared jeans, and (whether you’ll admit it or not) you knew every N*Sync song. You had a flip phone and then a slightly smaller flip phone and then, finally, a smartphone.
You’re what is known as an early adopter, according to the diffusion of innovation theory. This is the speculation that markets have customers who will accept a new product at different rates. Or perhaps you’re even one step ahead of the game and can claim the title of innovator.
It’s no surprise that you’re interested in a cutting-edge field like web design. Professionals in this field know how important it is to stay on top of the latest trends in technology and design techniques. But just like popped collars and puka shell necklaces, some fads fade fast. That's why it’s equally important to know which trends are not worth your time. You don’t want to be the only one stuck on a bandwagon that left town months ago.
4 dying web design trends
We recruited some industry pros to help identify some web design trends that are on their way out the door. Knowing this means you won’t be wasting your time mastering outdated skills and can focus on the web design skills that will help you land a job.
1. Flash Intros
What is a flash intro? When you navigate to a website’s home page, you may be greeted with a short animation that automatically plays before the page actually appears. Depending on the website, these introductions can slow down loading time and may deter the user from visiting the intended page.
FACT: Google does not index flash intros
“Flash intros are time consuming to make and don't work on mobile devices,” says Jonas Weigart, co-founder and CTO at LawnStarter, Inc. He goes on to explain that Google doesn’t index flash intros, rendering them useless for SEO purposes. Put simply, the content and keywords included in these intros are not recognized by Google, meaning it doesn’t help improve the site’s search engine rankings.
With the predictions that mobile browsing will eclipse desktop browsing in 2014, the usability and relevance of flash intros seems to be declining rapidly. Internet users want information and they want it fast. A website that won’t load on a mobile device or takes too long to get to the good stuff will simply become a waste a time to the keen and competent Internet users of today.
There’s nothing more irritating than uninvited pop-ups cluttering your computer screen when browsing on your favorite website. If you haven’t installed the Adblock Pro extension to your Google Chrome browser, you might as well do it now.
“Nobody likes annoying ads and on top of that, [marketers] are seeing reduced results,” says Michael Riley, co-founder of Boxter. He explains that online advertising must evolve along with everything else. Many of the older techniques are not producing the results they have in the past.
"Nobody likes annoying ads."
As markets change and people adapt to different methods of advertising, companies have to be smarter about how they grab our attention—and annoying pop-ups are becoming one of the least attractive ways to do so. As a generation that’s grown up with technology, most millennials know that “pop-up” often translates to “spam.”
What’s taking the place of these irksome and disruptive online promotions, you ask? Riley says the answer is native advertising, which refers to content that is entertaining and interesting to a targeted audience. This type of marketing provides value to consumers so it doesn’t come across as an ad.
Sidebars are precisely what they sound like: bars on the side of a webpage that hold additional content. As responsive website design becomes more and more popular and the Internet becomes more and more intricate, it has become apparent that less is more.
“On a full screen, the sidebars make it tricky to ensure that the most important content will be visible on small monitor sizes,” says Marie Sonder, web designer at EZSolution. She adds that on a responsive website, sidebars make the rest of the content crammed and unreadable on mobile devices.
"Horizontal menus are much better tailored to standard user behavior."
Just like other web design trends that are dying, sidebars simply try the patience of today’s Internet user. Too much unrelated content and a surplus of visual stimulation will likely result in a user leaving the website.
How can you display additional content more effectively? It seems like an easy fix, but simply turning that vertical sidebar into a horizontal menu can make a world of difference.
“The horizontal menus that scroll with pages through parallax are much better tailored to standard user behavior,” says Austin Paley, corporate marketing communications manager at Blue Fountain Media. He adds that, in many cases, horizontal menus have resulted in more clicks and better engagement from onsite users.
This strange-sounding word refers to the way a designer makes a website, app or user interface resemble materials from the physical world, like wood, metal or objects with shadows. Skeumorphism has popularly been known as one of Apple’s key design principles but is now going out of style because many of the icons are starting to lack relevance and connection to current generations.
"It's a design crutch that is no longer needed."
Paley says some examples of ineffective skeumorphic designs are icons that depict landline phones or a floppy disk. While these representations may have made sense ten years ago, younger generations don’t fully understand what the iconography is trying to portray.
What’s on the horizon? Flat design! The user interface no longer needs to feel like the physical world for people to feel comfortable with it. Check out the transition between Apple’s iOs 6 and iOs 7 for a side-by-side comparision of skeumorphic design and flat design.
“As more and more people grow up with smartphones and tablets, there's less reason to use outdated design elements,” says Riley. “It’s a design crutch that's no longer needed.”
A fading fad or a trend that’s here to stay?
We want you to be prepared for what’s headed out as well as what’s coming in. Now that you know which trends to avoid, learn more about the web design trends that seem to be here to stay.