The world of web design is ever changing. As the ways in which people browse the internet continue to evolve, businesses must adapt by updating their website to meet their needs.
Every time a new website is created, there are even more new considerations to keep in mind, and it’s why at this time of year, we like to speak to experts across the UK & Ireland, to see what they think the future holds.
In 2016, we did this for the first time, and found many web design experts believed we’d be shifting more to responsive, mobile-first websites in the following year. We updated this again in 2017, getting a preview of 2018, with topics coming up including mobile-friendly layouts, increased SVG use, and more videos.
As we approach the end of a decade that has seen some huge changes, we’re looking ahead to 2020 and beyond. We’ve again been in touch with web design & development experts across the UK & Ireland, asking them the following question:
“What trends in web design do you expect to see develop in 2020 and beyond?”
Topics we suggested included:
- Dark mode
- Split screen content
- New UX features
- Responsive design
- Chatbots and customer support features
- Optimised design for voice search
Here’s what they had to say…
Jamie FitzHenry – Grizzly
I expect to see more minimalist, stripped-back designs in 2020. Minimalist design can be interpreted in many different ways, but generally speaking more use of white space, with no single element diverting attention from the visual hierarchy will help to create a sense of simplicity, which is key for achieving a sophisticated look and feel for a website.
This approach usually gives content more room to breath on a page and helps to guide the user through the website. Whilst whitespace has always been a central design principle, in 2020, I think we will see whitespace growing bigger and becoming prominent.
Craig Murphy – ALT Agency
With many design trends expected for 2020 such as micro-interactions, full page forms and bold colours with simplicity – It is the custom illustrations that we are most excited about.
Already picking up trend in 2019 the rise of the custom illustration is fast, and we expect this to continue to grow throughout 2020 and beyond.
Custom illustrations give a much more personal feel to a website, they add a new dimension and they allow brands to convey their own personality and creativity.
2018 and beforehand saw the rise of the “thin line icon” very professional and clean that was very web 2.0 – 2020 is for sure going to be the year of the custom illustration and brands willing to take a risk and animate their illustrations will be able to tell more of their story and image with less words.
Robert Fenech – Kappow Digital
We’re predicting a huge rise in the use of Augmented Reality within web design and development over the next 12 months. Some bigger companies already have this in place. If you look at Ikea for example, who are already using it with their Ikea Place technology. We also have Specsavers, who have recently added a way for users to ‘try on’ glasses, with a facial scan that maps the product to the user with AR.
As web design increasingly becomes mobile-first, Augmented Reality becomes much more palpable. There are still huge issues to overcome in the area, but throughout the 2020 we should see a big leap in companies making use of this kind of black mirror-esque technology. The time is getting closer for Augmented Reality to make a big impact on web design.
Rachel Greig – Yellow Cherry Digital
Mindful designing will be key to 2020, while minimalism continues to be a design trend this needs to be done with careful thought as you want users to stay on a website for as long as possible. Too little content, or not enough user interaction as a result of minimalist design is a no go.
2020 will see video content and interactive user content threading through what would have previously been flat content pages as businesses recognise the shifting content needs of their websites both in terms of real user interaction and in the epic battle for the sought after search engine rankings.
With the advancing take up of AI technology designers in 2020 need to also be mindful of designing for these technologies, voice search will continue to grow in use and this means coming up with creative ways for the website to be found through potential users questions but without diminishing the experience of users on the website itself.
This is why we believe split screen designs will continue to grow in popularity throughout 2020. Split screen designs allow designers to mix things up when it comes to content display and with the growth of Video and VR content being produced for websites they are an ideal way to display a collage of media across a variety of devices without affecting user interaction.
While currently spending the time to add dark mode to a website or application might be viewed as providing a luxury to your users, 2020 will see a marked shift in this but not for every kind of business. The benefits to providing users with dark mode options will be led by content heavy websites and also websites and applications that users are interacting with several hours a day, we believe one of the biggest focuses will be for businesses to provide their staff with dark mode environments from an occupational health perspective.
Advances in AI, AR and VR technology are going to allow us to see some marked improvements in customer support and chatbot features across software solutions. While this will be slow growing we do see advances into this in 2020 as these kind of technologies will allow users to access on demand instructional support in a variety of media. This means users will be able to access the support they need in a medium they will understanding ultimately minimising user frustration which is apparent with many of these solutions presently. With that being said we are all about customer communication here and sometimes people just need to speak to another human and the growth in these technologies will also be beneficial for real customer interaction and troubleshooting across businesses.
Simon Moore – SPM Creative
With the fast evolving technology of AI and Machine learning. I predict that user personalisation will be a key factor in converting search users into customers. With search intent being a key ranking factor. Google now displays meta descriptions based on the users search term.
By personalising landing pages, products, CTA’s based on the user’s metrics such as traffic source, location, device and previous interactions with a brand will build customer trust, satisfaction and an improved user experience.
Chris Williams – Williams Graphics
As website designers and developers, we are on the forefront of the attention-economy. Despite more and more devices and platforms trying to get our attention every day, we still only have 24 hours of time with which to create “engagement” metrics. Typically we’ve seen this lead to either 1 platform gaining a larger share of a users attention (Instagram, for example) or everyone getting less and less time spent on their platforms individually. While this has typically been a battle fought mainly with social platforms and streaming services, I think we’ll see this “hey, look at me, pay attention!” mentality bleeding into business sites too.
They’ll likely achieve this with interactive experiences, dynamic content, augmented reality features, and anything else they can do to keep you engaging with their message or brand. Designs might become interactive or increasingly and deliberately obtuse in an effort to get people engaging with content in a way that simply hasn’t been done at scale before. No longer will a design challenge be about “what’s the clearest way we can display our message”, it will instead lead to “what’s the most memorable way we can get our message across”. If you can create something so incredibly cool and engaging that people want to show their friends and family, that’s when you know you’ve won. My prediction is that we’ll see the beginning of this in 2020 and as devices are getting more and more sophisticated in the next decade, we’ll only see this accelerate.
Paul Lambden – Førest Web Design
Web browsers like Chrome, Firefox and Safari now have built in dark mode, utilising a feature called prefers-color-scheme. This is a CSS feature that asks your browser if you have dark mode enabled, and will then load a different stylesheet than usual. I personally use dark mode on YouTube in the evening so my eyes have some time to relax before bed. Over 2020 I expect more websites to start experimenting with dark mode, certainly if these websites are the type that are browsed late at night.
Mobile first indexing on search engines has been the case for a while now, so responsive and mobile friendly design should be one of your first considerations when building or designing a website. However this is not always the case. I’m continually surprised by how many websites still don’t have an easy to use mobile layout, with links and buttons too close together, spacing and alignment all wrong, as if making the website mobile friendly was an afterthought. I would consider myself a website expert, so for the sake of the casual web browser I’m hoping as the year progresses more and more websites will become easier to use for the majority.
Chatbots and customer support features
Aside from the fact that popups on website can be quite annoying, there have been numerous occasions in the last few months when I have chosen a particular supplier or bought a particular product as I was able to immediately speak with someone and get answers to my questions. As long as you have enough staff to make sure people’s queries are being asked more or less instantly, I’d recommend utilising on your website. However I think chatbots never really grasp what you’re saying and the whole process leaves a lot to be desired. As time passes and bots get more clever I expect this to change, but I think it’s still a long way off.
Daniel Hurst – Black Tiger Creative
Responsive design over the years has become further and further to the front of all designers minds. It all stems from “form follows function” – it should look good before it works good. Tables are turning and now you can’t have one without the other. Responsive design now means having web sites that work around the viewer with a design to match, without it, you tend to sink into the back of the millions of websites that our potential clients have seen in the past years. Take responsive design with dark mode, and you’ve got a recipe for success if done right. Dark mode has taken off recently since Apple added it to iOS 13, and websites have been taking a shining to this sleek yet “responsive” style of designing.
Here’s where the fun starts though, if you’re wanting to jump on the good ship 2020, responsiveness should be something that comes naturally to a site designed around the dark mode theme. Who knows what 2020 has to offer in terms of design trends, but one thing I and every other designer knows is that your site has to work around the viewer, ALWAYS. The responsive element should flow like tears down Elon Musk’s face when the rock went through the Tesla Cybertruck’s window.
Liam Pedley – LP Design
In 2020 we expect to see more sites “breaking the grid” and moving further away from the traditional and familiar column and row format. When done well, asymmetric designs are both engaging and effective at directing attention to certain areas of the page such as call to actions. Coupled with subtle shadow and good use of colour you can also create stacked designs that invite you in or leap off the page.
Declan Harkin – DEX Design Excellence
2 main talking points we see as major players in web design for 2020 is Ultra Minimalist Navigation, and Dark Mode. With the rise of wearable devices like smartwatches, web design in general is thinking smaller. The area most affected by this is navigation, the glue that holds a website together. Over the last few years, navigation has been getting simpler and simpler to accommodate extremely small devices and even smaller attention spans, meaning users are now generally clicking not thinking. Extremely minimalist navigation takes away much of the difficulty in usability. The less a user has to think about moving around, the more time they spend immersed in the site, actually moving around instead of wondering how.
Dark mode, as with lots of software programs like InDesign and Illustrator, has been slowly creeping in over the last couple of years, but now with platforms like Outlook and Facebook switching to dark mode this could be the main game changer in 2020.
Ciaran Connolly – ProfileTree
We love seeing how colours change and impact design. It is a critical design element, which unlike many other aspects of design – will not impact load time (hero videos, animations or unusual sliders/scrolling features). There seems to be a push towards much brighter and bold colours in the last months, how a design works with one loud colour, or no colour at all can be very interesting. Clients are becoming more brave when it comes to colourful websites that still follow brand guidelines, but stand out from the crowd. Being creative with colour allows a client to show their personality, especially when applied throughout an entire branding experience.