Remember when we thought automatically playing music was a great way to welcome visitors to our website? Or when flash intros were cutting-edge? Or when a rotating homepage slider seemed essential?

It’s easy to laugh at web design trends that have gone the way of dial-up, but most of us are guilty of adopting trends that don’t serve our brands. We latch on to trends because they’re fun or novel, or we’re afraid of looking outdated. However, design elements should support your site’s content and goals, and fit your brand. Just because a design feature is trendy doesn’t mean it works for your brand in the long run. Video backgrounds are popular right now, but they don’t make a lot of sense for an accounting firm’s website.

So how can you tell when a design trend truly works for your brand? Here are some examples of how brands are incorporating latest web design trends authentically.

Trend #1: Parallax Scrolling


This design trend creates a long-scrolling effect with a background image that moves more slowly than the foreground image. Parallax scrolling is often used to create visually stunning effects or interactive experiences.

The trend feels authentic for Seattle’s Space Needle website because it gives the user a sense of the landmark’s height, creating a similar experience to what a visitor might feel while ascending to the top of Space Needle.

Parallax scrolling also works well for brands that want to invoke a sense of playfulness, like this site celebrating the 25th anniversary of Game Boy, which uses parallax design to make Tetris pieces drop as the user scrolls down.

If you want to depict height or depth on your site, or create a game-like interactive experience, parallax scrolling might work for your brand.

The downside of this trend is that pages that use parallax design can have slower load times. Also, visitors who want to find information immediately may not have the patience to keep scrolling. If you want to direct visitors to a certain point quickly, give parallax a pass.

Trend #2: Large photo background headers


More websites are featuring large photo backgrounds for site headers, like this header photo showing ingredients on the Lush cosmetics brand’s site.

Large photo headers can create a sense of atmosphere, which may work well for restaurants or brands associated with travel. The large photo header is also authentic for Shutterstock, since the brand’s product is stock photography.

This trend is worth trying if your brand has a product or service with a strong visual element, like food, real estate or travel. If your brand is information-oriented, you may have to stretch to find a big, appealing photo that works for your website.

Trend #3: Video Backgrounds

Go Pro

Similar to large photo headers, some brands are featuring background videos on their sites.

Videos backgrounds can captivate users, creating a sense of movement or emotion. This design trend is perfect for GoPro, a brand that’s all about using video to capture adventure.

If you’re thinking about using video background, consider if you have or can create entertaining video that’s relevant to your brand. Also, think about how your customers use your website. If you’ve got a service-oriented site aimed at helping visitors get information quickly and leave, a video background may be distracting and detract from your brand.

Trend #4: Flat Design


This trend uses “flat” fonts and graphics, rather than multidimensional or realistic elements. The minimalism of this design trend has made it popular with technology brands, including Microsoft, which used flat design in the Windows 8 operating system.

The flat design of the cards in Google now feels authentic for the brand that’s always been known for it’s simple web design.

However, your brand doesn’t have to be high-tech to take advantage of this trend. A wide range of brands, from Hershey to Southwest Airlines, have recently incorporated flat design into their logos. If your brand wants to reflect simplicity or modernity, flat design may be the way to go.

Don’t Disregard Trends

Even if the latest web design trend doesn’t work for your brand, staying aware of what’s happening in website design can help your brand stay relevant. If a trend can elevate your brand’s site (or at least doesn’t detract from it), it might be worth incorporating into your next redesign. Just make sure to stay true to your brand’s tone when deciding which trends to use.

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