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Written by Caroline Cox on Jun 24 , 2020

From lazy loading to dark mode, these are the design trends you need to know about before your next website overhaul.

Here, you’ll find:

  • The year’s top website design trends
  • Examples of these trends in action
  • How to decide which trends will work for your site
  • Tips for what to avoid

The first time I created a website, I used the Angelfire platform to make a page for my neighborhood babysitting services in the very early 2000s. (What can I say? I had an entrepreneurial spirit and wanted my own funds to spend at the mall.) 

Believe it or not, website design has come quite a long way since then.

With millions of business websites online today, you can’t simply lean on templates to beat the competition. Let these top website design trends of 2020 inspire you to make your own site stand out from the crowd.

hawksem: website design trends blog

Your website’s white space doesn’t have to actually be white — it just means the area is free from images, graphics, or text. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Whitespace galore

There are a few tell-tale signs of an outdated or spammy website. These include: too many intrusive pop-ups, hard-to-find CTAs, and an overall cluttered look that makes your eyes unsure of where to look next. Modern, well-designed sites, on the other hand, know having an ample amount of whitespace is key. 

Not only does whitespace make your site look clean, organized, and easy-to-navigate, but it makes the visitor less likely to get distracted from the reason they landed there in the first place. And, of course, your website’s white space doesn’t have to actually be white. Whitespace just means the area is free from images, graphics, or text.

See where you can inject more whitespace on your overall site design, whether it be at the margins, between blocks of text and images, or both.

hawksem: site design trends blog

An example of color blocking from our homepage

2. Color blocks

Color blocking is an easy way to add some flair to your website while keeping things simple. Ideally, you’ve got a handful of designated brand colors that you use across your site, materials, social media handles, and collateral for cohesion. It’s best to pick a few lighter and darker brand colors so you have more options to play around with when it comes to design.

Your brand colors should, of course, be complementary, so you can pair various shades together without clashing. This is where color blocking comes in. You can use color blocks to block off text, frame graphics and images, or as background elements that’ll grab your visitors’ attention.

hawksem blog - design

Hand-drawn imagery on the Mailchimp website

3. Hand-drawn text and icons

Thanks to technology advancements and the fact that it’s easier than ever to connect with a talented designer online, hand-drawn site elements have become a bona fide website design trend. And we don’t mean sloppy text and amateur sketches. Today’s hand-drawn text and icons still look polished and on brand.

Designers will often use software tools to create hand-drawn elements, allowing them to be easily replicated, reproduced and repurposed. Ideally, you should have access to your hand-drawn files so you can use them on your website, collateral, and other materials as well.

hawksem - lazy loading

A look at how lazy loading works on Medium’s website

4. Lazy loading

As Google explains, lazy loading is a design technique that means your website’s page elements (such as images, text, and videos) load as needed instead of all at once. This can apply to elements that only appear on the page as you scroll, or placeholders that turn into images as you move the page.

In addition to being an impressive design element, implementing lazy loading can potentially help your website load faster. Just beware that, if you set up something like a blog to lazy load, it may negatively impact your SEO, so it’s better to keep it to smaller design elements.

hawksem blog: website design trends

Dark mode proponents claim this design is easier on the eyes, saves your battery, and creates a better experience for people who are sensitive to bright light. (Image via Unsplash)

5. Dark mode

You may already have this enabled on your smartphone, but dark mode isn’t limited just to mobile. Dark-mode design is basically a darkened version of a website’s layout, wherein the background is dark navy or black. 

This trend really caught fire in 2019 when Google added it to Chrome and YouTube, and social media sites like Twitter did the same. Dark mode proponents claim this design is easier on the eyes, saves your battery, and creates a better experience for people who are sensitive to bright light.

While some sites allow you to choose between regular and dark mode, the level of coding involved here means it may be easier for you to try dark mode as your overall website style during your next site refresh, rather than trying to create two site designs.

hawksem blog - squarespace

Layered elements featured on Squarespace’s homepage

6. Layered elements

Having a website with layered elements can transform a simple design to one that’s modern and eye-catching. As Wix explains, a layered effect can be achieved through “placing elements on top of one another so that they’re partially obscured from view, or by allowing additional content to pop into view once clicked.”

Depending on how fancy you want to get, you can even layer multimedia elements, such as an auto-play video (without auto-play sound) over a static image. Just be mindful of spacing — you don’t want things to start getting cluttered.

hawksem - Minimalist navigation

Minimalist navigation on the Bolé Road Textiles e-commerce website

7. Minimalist navigation bars

Think about the purpose of a navigation bar: it’s like the beginning of a trail. You have a few different trailheads that’ll show you a few different types of scenery. But when you have too many trailheads, it can be difficult to know which one to choose — and you may just end up turning around entirely.

Keep this from happening with visitors on your website by keeping your navigation bar as minimal as possible. An easy way to do this is by having categories with drop-down menus to keep your site easy to use and organized.

For example: Instead of putting blogs, infographics, and your knowledge base in the top navigation, you can file all these in a drop-down menu under the “Resources” category. 

The takeaway

Whether you’re building a new site from scratch or hitting hard-refresh on your existing one, knowing about the latest website design trends can help you determine the best way to proceed.

Your website is where many people get a first impression of who your brand is — by making thoughtful design choices, you can make sure you’re putting your best “face” forward.

Need more help with your website and other marketing content? Let’s chat.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

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