Top Web Design Trends and Strategies for 2020

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With 2019 winding down, we at dovetail solutions are celebrating our busiest year yet in providing digital marketing services to our clients. Through social media campaigns, email campaigns, PPC (pay-per-click)/SEO (search engine optimization), and website design and development, dovetail continues to support our clients’ ability to tell their stories through a variety of digital platforms that result in significant customer engagement.

We view our clients’ website as their home base for all communication to the constituency that they serve — the primary resource amongst other branded outlets such as blogs and social media. Our digital marketing team stays on top of the latest trends to ensure that — when and where it makes sense — our client sites are adopting fresh technology that furthers the connection they have with their audience.

Recently we researched forthcoming web design trends that will affect the work we do in the online space for our clients. As we head into 2020, we were reminded just how different our approach to web strategies is today than even just two or three years ago.

Read on for highlights of our research into today’s web trends. If you are ready to update your online presence in 2020, be sure dovetail solutions is your first call: Communications and storytelling are our chief areas of expertise! 

Mobile-first Design

While it goes without saying that responsive design (i.e., design that adapts to the size of the visitor’s screen) has been a necessity for many years, the reality is that all websites are initially designed with a desktop or laptop screen in mind. That is to say, the full-width website that appears on a large monitor is where design begins, and mobile device screens are secondary in terms of design considerations.

No longer. Our own statistics from the many websites we host match industry statistics to show that the dominant type of browser that visits websites is now that of a small mobile device, and that it has crested the crucial 50% mark. Now, more visitors are using mobile screens to view websites than are those with laptops or desktops. This change necessitates that design work begin with mobile screen sizes in mind, bumping design for laptop and desktop monitors into a secondary position when it comes to considerations around the look, feel and general layout of the website. This is a major shift for designers to get used to, but it is an obvious requirement going forward now that the majority of web visits are on mobile screens.

Dynamic Content/Micro-interactions/Animations

The best web experiences involve moments where the visitor is surprised and delighted by an unexpected interaction. This is not necessarily a video, or any motion on a larger scale. Rather, micro-animations are tiny design elements placed sporadically around a website, and create a more “human” experience. GIFs, live photos, micro-interactions, mouse-overs — anything that works to better engage a visitor are more important than ever.

If you have ever been on a website and noticed single elements on the page that move or animate in a fashion that you weren’t expecting, then you know what we are referring to. These little movements and dynamic interactions might seem silly and unnecessary at first, but the extra design effort helps keep visitors engaged on the site.

On dovetail’s own site, our “about” page uses an animated photo style called “cinemagraphs” in place of typical headshots of our team. We could have used a static photo, but instead we invoke a bit of Harry Potter wizardry to allow for a portion of the photo to be in motion. Simple, effective — and we get more comments on that portion of our site than you could imagine! Check it out if you haven’t already seen it.

Bold Colors and Simple Layouts

Another element that we employ on dovetail’s site is that of a bold color palette. Trends in the last few years have swung toward extreme minimalism, and that typically meant lots of white, with very little use of color.

We are now seeing the pendulum swing toward what can only be described as a rebellious reaction to the bland color palettes currently scattered throughout the web. Bold colors, including large swaths of solid color to bring focus to specific content, are going to be back in a big way in 2020.

But being bold with color use does not mean we should also be loud in our layouts. The opposite is in fact true: Using bold color to provide energy to the design allows us to focus on even simpler layouts. This approach is an advantage for audiences who encounter complex ideas on a website, as a simple presentation always helps unclutter such complexities.

No More Flat Design

For the last eight-plus years, designers have adhered to the “flat design” style — that is to say, a web layout that was made up of minimalist, blocky, single-color elements without any depth.

Flat design was itself a reaction to the skeuomorphic design tendencies of the early 2000s. Skeuomorphism refers to the design of digital elements that actually mimic their real-world counterparts. For instance, Apple’s digital notepad at one time had a yellow background, paper-like edging, rules, and even a three-hole punch on the left, all set inside a leather-looking border. Though it was on screen, it looked like it was sitting on a real desk in a real leather portfolio.

Flat design, on the other hand, revolted against this cutesy design trend and instead embraced extreme digital minimalism. The thinking was that a digital notepad should only contain a blank white background with a thin gray border to indicate the note-taking space. Nothing else.

In 2020, we’re going to see a shift to a hybrid design style, where contextual clues provided by skeuomorphic ideas help users interact with a site in a more natural way, while keeping the visual elegance through a balanced employment of minimalist design.

Custom Images and Illustrations

Nothing drives designers more bonkers than the use of cheesy stock photos. Unfortunately, the ease of attaining bad stock photos means that the web is rife with their overuse.

There is a real movement toward using only custom photos, images, and graphics. For those who have custom photography in their budget, all the better. But even using amateur photos taken with a phone is more acceptable than using obvious stock photos.

The same goes for icons and illustrations. A web page is meant to tell a compelling brand story. It should not use imagery to just break up text and add a random splash of color; it should use images and graphics to build the visual brand. Employing custom visuals with a branded color scheme is far more likely to make the right impression. In 2020 and beyond, web design that utilizes custom branded visuals will stand out. 

Chatbots

The ability to instantly connect with visitors in a more personalized manner is always the goal of a good website design. As artificial intelligence and machine learning continue to increase in capability, chatbots — those pop-up interfaces that prompt visitors to ask direct questions and get instant answers — not only offer a gratifying user experience, but they also can collect feedback and improve themselves and their interactions on the fly. They can even remember a visitor’s preferences and alter a site experience based on data gathered. Statistics show that a decent chatbot will be one of the visitor’s first interactions with a site, allowing you to offer your visitors a fast path to the information they are seeking. 

Background Video
Video is without question one of the most compelling pieces of content you can offer on your site. But even a video typically requires the visitor to engage by clicking “play.” In 2019 and 2020, the trend of using video as a background is taking off. On dovetail’s homepage, we are able to load a full 30-second video in the same time that a large banner image would otherwise take. This video has no sound and plays as a backdrop, showcasing the office and the team as it gives a glimpse into life at dovetail. Using video as a background (that automatically loops) instead of a static, single image helps bring your site to life. If an image tells a thousand words, a video can tell a vivid novel.

Large Type

Text on a web page loads very quickly (and a fast-loading web page will always be in fashion). What better way to create beautiful and intriguing design elements than with text? Oversized lettering is becoming a way to keep page designs both simple and fast. It is also a known way to convey simple concepts in a memorable manner. With the web dominantly visual, minimalist text on a plain background is a sure way to stand out.

Voice-User Interface (VUI)

Most people are beginning to be comfortable using Siri, Alexa and the like for attaining information. These intelligent assistants help users speak natural language and operate mobile devices, apps and the web. Crazy enough, digital marketers and web designers are now looking to ensure that website content is “voice search optimized.”

In 2020, it is necessary to begin considering designing your site with VUI. Not many companies are adopting this capability, but it is going to be normal in the months and years to come.

Accessible Design

It is becoming more important than ever to provide a welcoming web experience to everybody. Design that is inclusive of those with disabilities will help increase the usefulness of your site and also ward off potential lawsuits, since the ADA now requires that sites be accessible to people of all abilities. We at dovetail solutions strongly support accessible web design, which goes along with the corporate social responsibility that we espouse as a company. Accessibility is always a good message for companies to put forth, and while it isn’t necessarily a stylish trend, it is one to consider for these reasons and more.

Final Thoughts

Staying current with web design and digital marketing trends is extremely important for businesses and organizations. The team at dovetail solutions strives to help our clients stay on top of trends so they can continue to promote a compelling brand story and connect with their audience in meaningful ways for many years into the future.