10 outdated web design trends

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Website design trends move at neck-breaking speed. This is due to the rapid advancement of technology, and a new generation of users who are extremely web savvy, described by some as having short attention spans and evolved expectations of instant gratification. The truth is, we are all becoming conditioned to function this way in an attempt to keep up with our fast-paced world. This evolution has greatly influenced our website design strategies.

Additionally, as the eternally restless creative types, website designers like to try new things and go where no man has gone before. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.

To better connect with our users, we've had to make a huge shift from "look at these cool effects" to masterfully blending technology, psychology, art and science. This new design strategy is at the core of "User Centered Design" and "User Experience". Both focus on the users' expectations and quality of website experience, and strive to come up with new and innovative methods for capturing and maintaining a visitor's interest and loyalty.

While much can be said about the myriad of design elements required to produce a compelling website, there are a few really easy tell-tale signs that your website is out-dated and ready for a refreshing makeover.

01. Ancient relics

These are: page hit counters, animated gifs, flashing banners, scrolling marquees, flash intros, auto-play videos, background music, images opening in new windows, and many font faces, styles and colors to name a few.

Oy! When I first got into website design (2001) the web was absolutely littered with this stuff. Why? Basically "because we could" - we were like kids in a candy shop and so easily impressed back then. Today, these elements are sure to send a message that your website was built in the internet stone age.

02. Crowded content

If your content looks cluttered and unorganized it's because you are trying to present too much information on one page and/or not using whitespace correctly. Whitespace is the empty or negative space between website elements that allow them to breathe and direct the flow of your visitors' eyes. A modern website with just the right amount of whitespace is a pleasure to navigate, it feels fresh, roomy and inviting unlike its manic counterpart.

03. Large wall of text

Today's users scan read, and want to be spoon-fed bite-sized portions of information. To do this, we break it down and serve it up in chunks using relevant photos and graphics, titles, subtitles, bullets and paragraphs that consist of no more than 3 or 4 sentences.

04. Heavy skeuomorphic design

Apple made skeuomorphism (graphics designed to look like the real world item) a trend with the release of the iPhone, however today's trends lean towards minimalistic and flat design. You may still see some skeuomorphism in design such as subtle drop shadows and gradients but used very sparingly and typically on small elements such as buttons. Other than that, say buh-bye (for now) to beveled and embossed text, glossy buttons, and images with water-like reflections.

05. Small everything

Today we need to be able to view a website easily on a smart phone. Titles, subtitles, content text and images need to be larger in order to decrease eye strain and improve readability.

06. Rainbow color scheme

If your website's color theme includes all the color of the rainbow, and is NOT a kid's site, it's very likely your website needs an overhaul. Today's websites have very simple color schemes, meaning only 1 or 2 colors with a possible third accent color.

07. Short website pages

When the internet was being served via dial-up, we tried to keep page size to a minimum by using small and grossly over-optimized images, and less text and script files so it would download quicker. Today with hi-speed internet, users would prefer to load longer pages. This trend is highly influenced by the long scrolling pages of Facebook, Twitter and other social media sharing sites. Visitors no longer want to waste time waiting for each page to load, but would rather click less and scroll down vertically to see more content.

08. Fixed page width

Getting back to the good old days, and in order to have ultimate control over how content was positioned on a page, we'd use tables and fix the website's page width - 600px early on, then up to 800px, 960px and so on. Today's websites need to accommodate large PC monitors and smart phone screen sizes, they need to be 'responsive'. A responsive website's layout and content will adjust to the different screen widths on a wide range of devices so that no horizontal scrolling is required.


A mega-menu can feel like a mega link overload.Today however it is being replaced with a simpler menu that is far more suitable for smart phones. Carefully organized content and selected trigger words as menu items can guide your visitors intuitively to the content they are looking for.

10. Pop-ups

While not so much a design issue as is a user-experience issue, pop-ups are worth mentioning.

Personally, I've always considered pop-ups an intrusion and am amazed at how many websites still use them for newsletter sign-up forms, surveys and contest entries for example. I know... I could face severe criticism from marketing gurus for this, but I strongly believe most people still view pop-ups as annoying self-centered, self-serving promotion. Nothing says "I want something from you" louder than a pop-up.

It is my philosophy that if we wish to gain our visitors' respect and trust we need to respect them first. I typically recommend strategically placing these marketing elements where visitors are permitted to discover and respond to them at their own leisure. 'nuff said.

Posted in Website Development


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