Some website trends come and go (like animated cursors and splash pages), but many current trends are quickly becoming staples in the industry.
Here’s a list of today’s top 20 web development trends broken down into subcategories.
Top 6 design trends
1. High contrast design
You may have noticed that Facebook and Twitter now offer a dark, high contrast user interface that looks similar to Discord’s default high-contrast interface.
High-contrast design has become extremely popular in the last year and you can find it almost everywhere: on social media sites, blogs, and even e-commerce sites.
High-contrast design is in such high demand that developers have been creating pre-made web templates that offer users the ability to switch between a light and dark theme with a single click.
People have always loved high-contrast websites, but the actual structure and designs of the past didn’t complement this design style very well. For example, when layouts were cluttered with left and right sidebars or randomly placed content, high-contrast design was a bit of an eyesore.
When the high-contrast trend was attempted in the early 2000s, people used jet black backgrounds with white, purple, and yellow text, which was hard on the eyes. Today, designers use more refined color combinations that consist of off-black backgrounds with off-white text, using bright colors sparingly and intentionally.
Today’s seamless designs work better with high-contrast. The proliferation of white space combined with generous margins and padding along with rounded edges make high-contrast websites an aesthetically-pleasing experience.
Why is high-contrast design so appealing?
People are innately drawn to visual stimulation, and colors play a significant role in visual appeal. Specifically, high-contrast designs increase focus and stimulate the brain stronger than lighter colors like pastels.
There is a science to nailing the right high-contrast color scheme that involves concepts like luminance, color contrast, dynamic range, and optical glare. You can’t just put together any color combination and expect it to work.
Contrary to what many people believe, high-contrast UX/UI is also great for accessibility. Using white text on a darker colored background can be far more readable than using black text on a colored background, even when the color is light. The misconception that high-contrast isn’t accessible comes from the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which generally don’t support high-contrast color combinations.
However, the WCAG guidelines don’t apply to the brightness of white colored text. UXMovement.com provides several examples of contrast ratios that fail the WCAG guidelines, yet are more readable by everyone, including colorblind users.
Although high-contrast color schemes are great for everyone, some people prefer to read black text on a white background. Still, if your site utilizes proper design principles, even those people will read your high-contrast content.
2. Single-page website layouts
Modern web design has made it possible to create single-page websites that don’t need to be reloaded when each link is clicked. These sites can usually be scrolled through or navigated via a menu with links.
It’s a clean design that makes managing a website extremely easy, and if you’re not using a content management system (CMS), there’s only one file to edit. However, it’s a website style best suited only for certain types of sites.
Single-page websites are great for the following types of websites:
- Landing pages
- Lead capturing (MLM companies routinely use one-page sites to collect email addresses)
Single-page sites offer the following benefits:
- Higher page authority. When you only have one page to generate backlinks to, you’ll naturally earn a higher page authority. Page authority is determined based on the ratio of links to pages, so when all you have is a home page, your ratio will always be 1:1.
- Single-page websites are great for mobile users. Although it’s gotten easier to click links on mobile devices, it’s still easier to scroll. Single-page websites are designed to scroll through all the content, one page at a time, which makes them ideal for mobile users.
- You can steer users in a specific direction. When users can’t click around and get lost on your site, you can control their experience to a higher degree. You can choose what they see as they scroll through your site in the order you want them to see your content.
The downside of single-page websites:
- Limited content. The biggest downside of having a single-page site is the inability to publish a large quantity of content. Users will only scroll so far down the page before giving up. You can’t put a blog on this type of site, which means it’s going to be harder to perform in-depth search engine optimization (SEO).
- Fewer opportunities to rank in Google. If you depend on Google and other search engines to generate clients or customers, it’s going to be harder with a one-page site. When you have a blog or at least a site with multiple pages, you can target various groups of people with your content, incorporating a wide range of keywords, and attracting a wider audience.
If you’re looking for ways to improve your site’s user experience, you can likely accomplish that with a one-page site. When you improve your site’s user experience, you’ll also see conversions rise.
One-page sites nearly eliminate the distractions and options that can cause your leads to wander away from your site due to too many links, slow-loading pages, or confusion about where to click. Single-page sites can be a wonderful asset as long as it’s a style that supports your goals.
3. Responsive design
In a mobile-centered world, responsive website design will never get old. This is one trend that’s here to stay.
A responsive design adapts elements to the size of each visitor’s screen while maintaining a proper presentation.
For example, on smaller screens, content boundaries narrow, images shrink, and elements often become centered above the content. Also, sometimes main menus turn into hamburger menus.
On larger screens, navigation menus are displayed normally, images and other elements are displayed at full size, and content is wider.
Responsive website design has been around for a while, but it didn’t become a universally accepted feature until cellphones were upgraded to smartphones. Once cellphones became indistinguishable from pocket-sized computers, and surfing the web was just a smaller version of a desktop experience, responsive design became mandatory.
Although some developers don’t use responsive design, it’s highly recommended. Mobile traffic is huge; in fact, it’s so huge, Google has moved to a mobile-first indexing protocol and suggests using responsive design to get all the benefits.
Responsive design is now required for strong SEO
Google’s mobile-first indexing indexes the mobile version of your website first and that becomes the foundation for how your site will rank. It’s no longer advised to have a separate version of your website just for mobile users. Instead, websites should provide the same content for mobile and desktop users, but use a responsive design to make it easier for mobile users to navigate.
4. Charts, graphs, and infographics branded to be shareable
Infographics have been trending for some time, however, today’s infographics are branded and provided with the intention that they’ll be linked and embedded all over the web. It’s a smart marketing and SEO move. People love sharing infographics, so it’s a perfect opportunity to get brand visibility and promote links to your site.
This trend is also occurring with charts and graphs. Organizations either create charts displaying their own data, or they aggregate data from other sources and turn those charts into branded images people will share.
This strategy works well, and every organization should take note. All the well-known websites use this strategy. For instance, HubSpot routinely turns their data into visual graphs and charts to display among statistics cited from other sources.
Since most content marketers cite data and statistics to strengthen their articles, branding charts a digital strategy on par with branding infographics. In other words, it works!
5. Sticky navigation menus
A sticky navigation menu literally sticks to the top of the page as a user scrolls, making the entire menu visible and available the entire time they’re scrolling.
Sticky navigation menus have always been around, but currently, more people are enabling this function. This is a feature that every website should have, since users can get lazy and decide not to scroll back up to the top of the page to explore more pages on your site.
When you make your main menu available to users at all times, you increase the usability of your site and make the user experience better. Of course, it’s important to make sure the menu you stick to the top of the page isn’t too big. It should be just tall enough to display your main links and perhaps a small logo on the far left.
According to data published by Smashing Magazine, users navigate sticky menus 22% faster than when they have to scroll back up to the top of the page. In the same study, users reported a preference for sites with sticky menus without knowing the sticky menu was what made the site easier to use.
Speed is king when it comes to navigation. An increase in navigation speed can help users find and buy products faster, which is great news for businesses.
6. The disappearance of parallax headers
Like it or not, the parallax effect is on its way out of the design world. Even Apple got rid of the Parallax effect in iOS13. Some people still use parallax scrolling on their homepages, but this feature is quickly disappearing.
Parallax scrolling looks cool at first, but it causes pages to load slowly and, according to Fast Company, it creates “nonsensical interactions.” That’s actually pretty accurate. When multiple elements are scrolling at different speeds on the page, it can be distracting, hard to control, and hard to read.
The Nielsen Norman Group discovered that the parallax effect actually degrades the user experience. Technically, the parallax effect is an animation, and in website design, animation should always be used sparingly.
As for parallax, it’s okay to let it go and allow this effect to fade completely out of existence.
Top 3 Content trends
1. Outsourced content creation
Outsourced content has quickly become the optimal solution for small businesses who want to grow their organization, rank their website higher and faster, and drive massive traffic to their site.
Outsourcing content creation allows businesses to leverage their time by hiring writers to create content instead of trying to write it themselves. By outsourcing, a business can generate massive amounts of content and will only be limited by their website development budget.
The advantage to creating massive amounts of content is being able to get more content to rank in the search engines. However, that content needs to be high-quality and provide value to the reader.
Outsourced content is surprisingly affordable. There are countless freelance writers and professional marketing agencies that offer content creation services at different rates.
As of 2021, the trend of outsourced content creation has officially reached a peak, especially since the world is moving toward a mostly work-from-home business model. Now that more businesses are operating online, it’s impossible to achieve success without having a blog full of high-quality, well-researched content. Smart businesses are outsourcing this content.
2. A table of contents for long blog posts
You may have noticed blogs adding a table of contents toward the beginning of long posts. This concept has been around for a while, but it only recently gained momentum.
Whoever popularized this blog element is a genius. Adding a table of contents to long posts gives readers a heads up about what they can expect to read in a post without having to scroll and skim headlines. Even better, when a table of contents is clickable, users can navigate to the headlines that catch their attention.
Ideally, users would read all posts in a linear fashion from start to finish, but that’s not always how web visitors read. People tend to skim and scan content, even when it’s something they’re interested in.
3. LSI-optimized content
Have you noticed that when you search Google for “back doctor,” the words “physician” and “physicians” are also bolded in the search results, indicating they’re a match to your search?
That’s Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) at work. LSI is basically a method search engines use to index and serve search results based on conceptually related terms. Google’s algorithm has spent decades learning what terms are related and provides users with search results consisting of a variety of relevant pages.
When you search for “back doctor” using Google, you may not even see first page results that use that term. Unless you select the option to search verbatim, Google’s algorithm is going to give you the results it thinks are most relevant to your search.
Now that Google and other search engines are returning personalized results that favor LSI over exact phrase matching, LSI-optimized content is huge. There’s simply no way to create enormously successful web content without covering LSI keywords.
Sometimes LSI keywords are naturally integrated into the article, but it’s always a good idea to lightly sprinkle them in when they’re missing.
Top 2 CMS trends
1. Custom WordPress themes
In the world of content management systems, WordPress dominates as the most popular CMS in the world. It’s easy, free, open source, SEO-friendly, and has plugins for just about anything extra you could ever need. If you can’t find an existing plugin, it’s easy to hire a WordPress developer to create a custom project.
With WordPress continually rising in popularity, custom WordPress themes are also trending. While there are thousands of low-priced professionally-crafted themes on sites like ThemeForest and TemplateMonster, not all businesses want to use a cookie-cutter theme.
WordPress themes are cheaper on sites that sell templates en masse because they can sell the same theme an infinite number of times and generate income virtually forever. However, when you hire a developer to create a custom WordPress theme, you can expect to pay more – and it’s worth every penny.
Businesses are starting to see the value in custom design and are hiring developers to create themes from scratch. Sometimes, they hire developers to heavily customize an existing theme created by another developer, which is still a great way to get a good website design.
2. Shopify e-commerce stores
As of 2019 Shopify had 20% of the market share for e-commerce platforms. Shopify comes in second only to WooCommerce, and is even more popular than competitors like Magento and BigCommerce.
Shopify is popular for good reasons. It’s extremely easy to use and it has one of the best backend admin panels you’ll ever use.
When it comes to customization, people love Shopify because it’s easy to customize. Whatever can’t be customized without knowing code can easily be hired out to a team of professional Shopify developers.
Top 4 functionality trends
1. Schema Markup to support voice search
Digital voice assistants are expected to have 8 billion users by 2023. This doesn’t just include smart speakers like Alexa and Google Assistant. Digital voice assistants include other devices like smart TVs, cellphones, and wearables.
With IoT smart home technology becoming more prevalent, people will soon be using every smart device they can to perform searches. This technology is already starting to impact the way users interact with search engines. For example, people don’t speak the same way they type. They may only use a few words to describe what they’re looking for.
Traditional SEO focuses on keywords and phrases that are found in natural speech. However, not every user will speak in complete sentences. Technically, many users don’t type in complete sentences, either. However, businesses are focusing on Schema Markup to support search engines in providing the right results to users.
Schema Markup is additional information you place in your webpage code that gives search engines more information about your content. When search engines have access to this additional information, it’s easier for your webpages to come up in search results when someone performs a voice search.
People generally ask questions using voice search
Since people using voice search tend to ask questions, it’s important to structure your keywords around questions and answers related to your industry. Ideally, you should also use LSI to include interchangeable terms. For example, if you’re running a taqueria, you should also use words like ‘restaurant’ and ‘diner’ in case people use those words in a voice search. People may not ask, “where’s the nearest taqueria” and instead might ask, “where’s the closest restaurant that makes tacos.”
2. Chatbots powered by artificial intelligence (AI)
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is now being integrated into experiences on the web. AI and machine learning software power a variety of web applications hosted locally and in the cloud.
The most popular AI-powered applications are chat bots. Everyone knows about chat bots – they’re nothing new. However, today’s chat bots aren’t anywhere near the dry, boring bots of the past. Today’s chat bots have a name and a face, are quick to respond, and can really make users feel like they’re talking to a live person. Some chat bots are programmed to have a great sense of humor.
Why are more businesses using chat bots? Aside from the trend, they’re actually quite useful. Chat bots reduce your customer service expenses and improve the customer experience by fielding simple questions that don’t require a live person. However, not all chat bot software is purely robotic. Some chat bots will connect a user to a live person (if available) once they interact with the bot.
The best part is, chat bots are fully programmable and with the right developer, you can get a bot with a cool, funny, and helpful personality that will support your website visitors and make them feel good.
But AI that is built on Python can have some issues. Just be aware of them before you proceed.
3. No-code and low-code tools
Not long ago, professional website developers were slow to adopt WYSIWYG editors and other no-code and low-code development tools. Today, developers see the value in using these tools because it allows them to create a solid final product for their clients while reducing their workloads.
Drag-and-drop professional website development? It’s a thing
Drag-and-drop design interfaces are becoming popular with website developers – even those who went to school to learn HTML (or learned on their own). For some projects, it’s just easier and takes less time to create. That doesn’t mean all projects can be made with no-code tools, but when it works, why not?
No-code and low-code databases are popular
Sometimes SQL is perfect for a project, but sometimes there’s an easier solution. For instance, many professional developers use Airtable to store, manipulate, and process data in no-code databases. They can generate code to use on a webpage, but it’s all copy and paste. The possibilities for building databases and forms are virtually endless with Airtable and similar applications.
The downside is the recurring fee to use the product. However, you can always hire a professional developer to build a custom software application that meets your needs. When you own the software, you won’t have to pay a monthly fee.
There will always be professional developers who prefer writing their own code, HTML, CSS, and creating their own frameworks. However, over time, they’ll probably need to adopt at least one no-code tool to compete if they value their time.
4. Push notifications
Mobile applications have almost always used push notifications, but now they’re being used on websites and it’s about time. Push notifications are a great way to notify visitors when a site has been updated without requiring them to visit the site or check their email.
On a website, the initial request for activating push notifications comes up as a small pop-up asking the user if they’d like to enable push notifications. After that, the notifications will appear on the user’s computer screen regardless of where they are online.
For businesses, push notifications for the web can be extremely beneficial for marketing and for maintaining communication with clients. They can even assist a business in generating sales and further segmenting leads. The average click rate for push notifications is a whopping 10.3%, which is astronomical compared to the average 3% generated by email marketing.
If you haven’t considered using these notifications, it’s worth looking into. According to research, push notifications can increase app engagement by 88% and can get 66% of users to return to an app.
Whether you use push notifications for your mobile app or your website, it’s a great way to grow your business.
Top 5 backend trends
1. Cloud hosting
Website development has come a long way since the early 1990s when most people first became aware that websites existed. Back then, it was easy to put up a website with pure HTML and CSS and call it a day. Today’s websites demand high-level, sophisticated applications that can only be supported by cloud technology.
Today’s website developers must use cloud infrastructure for a large number of client projects. Sometimes clients host software applications in the cloud (SaaS – Software as a Service), and other times they rely on back-end server power to deliver a web-based experience to each user.
There are many trends within the general trend of cloud computing, including:
- Kubernetes and other containerization platforms
- Amazon Web Services
- Google Cloud Services
- Microsoft Azure Cloud Services
- SaaS is being infused with machine learning to deliver better insight through automation
- And more
While some website developers might be able to get away with using shared hosting accounts and standard dedicated servers, cloud hosting is trending for a reason. Soon, they’ll all need to make the switch for their clients.
2. Blockchain technology
3. A focus on cybersecurity
It only took a few decades of major data breaches for people to start taking cybersecurity for the web seriously. Website development can no longer exist without a focus on cybersecurity, including blockchain security.
Website developers are taking on the role of securing client websites as much as possible during the development process. For clients using content management systems like WordPress, securing an installation is fairly straightforward, although there are a multitude of technical tasks to perform.
Although developers can’t be responsible for what clients do once the project has been completed, they focus intensely on setting clients up for success from the start.
Some developers expand their contracts to include ongoing maintenance and sometimes even offer reseller hosting. This makes the developer directly responsible for cybersecurity, but when the developer has access to a professional cybersecurity team, it’s less risky and more convenient for the client.
5. Serverless architecture
Serverless computing, or serverless architecture, is a series of cloud-based applications designed to leverage backend server-side services that run exclusively in containers. Backend services include authentication, database access, and more. Sometimes the containers are ephemeral and are created by a pre-determined event, but only exist for one invocation.
Serverless architecture makes it possible to reduce operational costs, reduce server complexity, and eliminate the need to manage or maintain on premises servers.
Serverless architecture is trending, but it’s not always the right choice for everyone. Regardless of what you use, it’s always ideal to have your architecture professionally managed.
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