DesignCarrie Cousins • January 14, 2020 • 8 minutes READ
New year, new web design trends.
We are already starting to see some design elements that will be hot in 2020 (and maybe beyond). Most of these trending web design themes are continuations of things that have been building in design projects – more gradients, rule-breaking typography, and plenty of minimalism.
But there are trends that are emerging as well, such designs that feature “dark modes,” more interfaces with audio elements, and a big push for 3D images and elements.
Read more about previous trends:
Also, we recommend reading the Email Design Trends for 2020.
Here’s a look at web design and user interface trends for 2020. (Make sure to click through and explore each website to get the best feel for these trends in action.)
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Web Design and UI Trends to Follow in 2020
Minimalism + White Space
Minimalism is one of those classic design trends that just keeps going. (You could call it the Energizer Bunny of design trends.)
The best thing about this design trend is that while it stays strong, it continues to evolve. Minimalism in 2020 is marked by large swaths of white space. And not always in the place you would expect.
While Whiteboard has a more classic minimalist style – maybe even uber-minimalist – Soldo uses new minimalism beautifully. The simple photo is almost white and rests on a white background with asymmetrical white space to help draw users down through content.
Both examples show why minimalism works: They are elegant, beautiful, and easy to understand (making them highly usable).
“Dark Mode” Design
With so many users opting for “dark mode” on apps and for things such as email, it’s no surprise that more websites are also creating designs with a dark aesthetic. (Users have said they want and use it, so designers are delivering.)
What makes these dark mode designs to nice – and probably why they are trending – is that dark interfaces are complemented with bright accent elements and easy to read typography to ensure that the design is readable.
CanneSeries does it with almost-neon accent colors and animation with bold lettering, while Davenport uses white block letters and an elegant gold color for calls to action and other clickable elements.
Breaking Typography Rules
This is the year when designers are trying to break all the traditional rules of typography. (Why not be a little rebellious?)
The key to making this design trend work is that even when breaking type rules – odd spacing, sizing, or even line spacing or breaks – the user still needs to understand what you want to say. Most commonly, typography in this style is more of an art element and less of an informational one.
J Powers Events breaks type rules in a way that doesn’t hurt readability with a main headline that crosses into the space of the background and a foreground image. What’s especially interesting here is that the type changes color with placement, creating a layer effect. The design also uses a round text element between background elements to connect the spaces.
Makers & Dreamers flips, turs, and twists typography in ways that you would not think of trying. Thanks to simple work choices and a clean overall design, the words are still somehow readable and the design comes together.
Artistic Illustrations – particularly elements with line-style drawing and hints of animation – are continuing to grow in popularity. This website design trend seems to have gained tractions because it looks and feels authentic, unforced, and a bit whimsical.
Absurd Design exemplifies this with a collection of artistic elements that are imaginative, creative, and a bit spunky. Each illustration is made to look like it was sketched out on the screen.
Heschung uses simple, line-style illustrations to tell a story with animation. The illustrations are equally whimsical, and the simplicity of the design helps keep the focus on the story at hand.
Mixing Illustration and Realism
What style should you use? An illustration or photos?
This web design trend of 2020 combines both for a tweener aesthetic that’s got cool illos and photos. (It’s another one of those rule-breaking trends that are dominating design this year.)
Constance Burke’s website might showcase it most clearly with images that wear illustrated clothing pieces. It’s funky and cool. Bubka’s design is just as cool with illustrations, bold geo shapes, animations, and photos that all move and flow together in the design. (Take note of how seamless everything moves together when you scroll.)
Almost every website you land on seems to include some form of animation. What’s really trending is liquid-style animation with movement that seems water-like.
Liquid animation can work for entire scenes as a way to transition video elements, as a hover state to entice clicks, or as a general animation the helps draw users into the design. The trick to making this trend work is in the speed of movement. It has to be smooth, fluid, and perfectly timed for the most realistic feel.
Toonami uses liquid animation as a hover state to bring extra motion to elements on the screen. The background video “liquifies” as does the block of text.
Ilya Kulbachny uses liquid animation for the headline of his portfolio website. (This might be one of the best uses of this design trend out there.) The words float on the screen and have an additional hover state that moves his image and the words even more.
Adding depth creates a greater sense of realism for a design. Three-dimensional imagery is an extension of that idea. It’s a trend we started to see a lot of near the end of the decade, and expect to see a lot more of into 2020.
The best 3D designs give users something a little unexpected, such as the mask that breaks apart on the Metaconf Meetup site or the sideways scroll for tiny shoes on the Toke site.
Audio User Experiences
While you can expect to read a lot more about designing for voice in the coming year, one part of that trend is already here – designing with sound.
I’ve never been a fan of auto-play sound on a website. (I find it pretty offensive and jarring most of the time.) But there is no denying that audio user experiences are trending. (Just remember to ask the user before blasting out theme music!)
La Ofrenda Mas Grande de Mexico and IFly Magazine both honor that rule and use sound to enhance the quality of the user journey in their designs. The best use of audio user experience might be in designs where there is a language barrier, because music can be a great unifier when it comes to web-based storytelling.
Layers that Overlap
Layers, layers, and more layers. Overlapping layers and elements don’t quite create a 3D effect, but they do add a sense of depth and dimension to projects.
While overlapping layers can come in the form of a single element, this trend often includes multiple overlapping elements. The best part is that it works with almost any type of design scheme.
You can overlap boxes and backgrounds, images or video, text or user interface elements and icons. The trickiest part might be ensuring that the overlapping look flows through the scroll of the design.
Craft Kitchen uses multiple overlapping elements – photo in nav, text in photo, and photo frame in photo frame. Elements continue to stack and overlap on the scroll to maintain the visual theme.
Curt Thompson MD’s site does it with rectangular cards with rounded corners. You can almost expect any design element with rounded edges will overlap something else to create depth of field. It’s a nice way to organize a lot of different element and content types in a unified manner.
There was a brief period during the height of flat design that designers shied away from gradients. But they came roaring back and will be even bigger in 2020.
From bold backgrounds with multi-color gradients to subtle gradients for texture, this trend is everywhere. What we are seeing now, is gradients that combines multiple colors with quite a bit of contrast, rather than more subtle-monotone gradients that were popular as of late.
Bariskuran uses bold gradient for a portfolio design…