The Website Design Principles You May Not Be Aware Of

Design inspiration, trends and more as we near the end of 2020.

Website design principles are a constant yet ever changing part of the wonderful illustrations, images and experiences we have online. Where at one time gradients were widely used by web designers, soon enough minimal colours became the norm. 

Keeping track of principles of design
Keeping track of the design world can start looking a little like this.

With all the change and evolution that occurs in the landscape of website design, it can be hard to keep up with everything new going on. We sat down with our wonderful in-house designers Richy and Sher Rill to get their thoughts on the current landscape of web design and where they see design going in the rest of 2020 and beyond.


NEW TRENDS, THOUGHTS & ADVICE FOR DESIGNERS

GO TO DESIGN PRINCIPLES:

So, when it comes to design principles oftentimes designers will have their favourites that they’ll use. What would you say are your go to design principles lately, and why?

Richy:

Throw away the first design. There’s always more room for improvement.

When it comes to the work that I do in design, there are always new ways that you can take a concept and evolve it beyond what you originally had in mind after reading the brief. Usually, I’ll make sure that I go wide with a bunch of design concepts and then refine from there.

If you’re ever feeling stuck with a design, you’re better off exploring a new way to go about finding a solution than simply sticking with what you’ve got. This is where having multiple design concepts and refining them comes in handy.

Sher Rill:

Finding a balance between simple but appealing designs.

In terms of design for the web, there is a certain page layout that audiences have become accustomed to and also expect. Changing this to something new and unexpected can negatively affect their experience with our product, so the goal is to work within these restrictions without producing a boring experience.

If you focus on using the design foundations that work, yet iterate on them to create new, fun and exciting experiences for viewers – that’s where the magic happens. 


2020 DESIGN PRINCIPLES TAKING US BY SURPRISE:

‘Each year we often see new trends take over the world of web design, with many of the world’s largest SaaS providers bringing their own unique spin to the trend. Looking back on 2020 so far, what has been a design trend that’s taken you by surprise you weren’t aware of?

Richy:

The neumorphic style seems to be en vogue in the past year.

It seems that it started out in the dribbble design circuit, but I’m seeing it more and more now in commercial work. A new take on skeumorphism has been really refreshing to see in 2020 so far. 

Another trend that I have seen popping up has been the adoption of the ‘dark mode’ in many web designs, applications and user interfaces. It seems that lately people want the option to toggle how they see their content. One benefit I certainly see from this new trend is the way that content becomes more prominent on the darker background. Definitely something to keep in mind.

Example of neumorphism
An example of the neumorphic style of design. Source.

Sher Rill:

The use of illustrations for Saas products, has been a very pleasant surprise over the last few years.

Especially in the last year or so, seeing artists producing libraries of easily accessible artwork has been fantastic to see. Although there are some drawbacks to using stock images, such as the never ending conversation about ‘free art’ and audiences seeing the same illustration style on different products, this trend is also pushing illustrators to find more unique styles. 

One of the most surprising is the move into 3D illustrations, which also coincides with the move away from the flat design styles from a couple of years ago.

Example of 3D illustration
An example of 3D illustrations. Source.

THE DESIGN PRINCIPLES THAT CAN SOMETIMES GET MISSED:

When designing for a website, are there any particular website design principles that become more important that sometimes get missed?

Richy:

The thing I find often gets missed is getting feedback early in the design process. 

A good designer should be able to articulate their thinking, without having to rely on fully fleshed out design mockups. In the early stages it is all about helping the team get a rough idea of what is being designed. 

It’s also a matter of overcoming that anxiety of sharing your work in a semi-resolved state – getting other people’s feedback on your designs early will help you move sooner to a polished outcome and save time in later stages of design.

Sher Rill:

‘Less is more’ & ‘Be consistent’.

Not so much missed but harder to maintain the further you get into the design process. Initially, the designers have full control of everything, i.e. spacing, colour, number of pages etc. When we start adding content (e.g. copy, images) over time, it starts to stray from the initial layouts as we begin to make compromises to the designs to make way for this.

Having a clearer vision of the designs in the beginning will help to define all the additional pages that are to come.


GETTING DESIGN INSPIRATION:

Any tips for designers when it comes to integrating design principles with design inspiration?

Richy:

I try not to be overly dependent on design inspiration. 

I think a good principle to have is to first think about what your potential design(s) could be, before looking to design inspiration. Rather than allowing others’ ideation process warp your own from the start, I’ve found that your best work can happen when you take your unique vision and sketch it out first. 

That way I have found that the design inspiration I look for aids in realising the vision that I had for the project, rather than moulding the very foundations of the design and final project.

Designer thinking about new ideas
It can be a great practice to let your ideas take flight, before getting any inspiration.

Sher Rill:

I have a preference for going all out with a first design (if you have the time to do so), and then paring it back to the necessities.

Design the page you want to see and then you can start asking yourself a few key questions: 

  • Is it easy for the audience to use? 
  • Does it convey the right message(s)? 
  • Can we actually build it? 

You will slowly be chipping away at the design – which is always a little heartbreaking to do – but it’s a good learning experience. We learn from our mistakes, and I find this method helps to push the site designs a little further instead of churning out the same pages for every project.


DESIGN TRENDS GOING INTO NEXT YEAR

‘In your opinion, what are some website design principles and trends that are likely to make an impact going into next year?

Richy:

I think we may have hit the peak when it comes to using illustrations on digital products. 

I wouldn’t be surprised to see leading companies slowly move away from this, in order to distinguish themselves from the pack.

Sher Rill:

Ease of use and a clear message will always be the defining principles, but I also think our audiences will have even higher expectations of a website’s visual and user experience going into next year.

With many people being confined to their homes during the pandemic, they may be spending more time on their computers and exposed to more and more websites. They may be more conscious of how your website compares to another, where only the remarkable get remembered and revisited against all other websites they’ve visited that week.

Although I believe functionality is the core of a successful product, it’s the small details that make a user’s experience special. Whether it’s a nice bit of artwork, a hidden easter egg, or a really fun design. And I think we all need a little bit of that these days.


FINAL THOUGHTS:

Any final words or tips for designers reading this?

Richy:

Designers often have two boxes to tick.

When it comes to designing websites/apps: 

  • Make it usable 
  • Make it stand out for your brand. 

My advice would be to try and understand which parts your website/app value one criteria more than the other and make that design the best it can be at fulfilling that purpose. 

For example, a standout brand experience may be more valuable to the hero introduction on your home page. But if you’re running an ecommerce store, the checkout flow needs to be straightforward and usable, so perhaps it’s not the best area to be going against the grain.  

Sher Rill:

From my experience as an illustrator, I love seeing an artist’s personal touch. It’s no fun seeing 5, 10 or 100 artists doing the same thing. 

We all have our personal taste and adding that to your designs can be what makes it special. The design principles are there to help us get started and also to help us finalise a website design. They are our guiding hands but we should always allow ourselves to fully embrace our creative sides and push those boundaries as far as we can.

We don’t always need to create something new and innovative with every website, but the reason why we became designers in the first place was because we wanted to create something in our own style. I think we all have that little voice inside us saying, “I can do better than that.” So my advice is to embrace that voice, create new things, and see how far you can take design in your own way.


When it comes to keeping up with new trends in the design world, we’ve found that getting feedback from your team helps you keep on top of things.

Having a visual feedback tool can be a massive strength in your teams back-pocket, helping everyone provide their input on how a website can improve with new design styles.

BugHerd provides you with a powerful & easy to use extension to do just that. Simply point, click & annotate feedback directly on websites to make comments (rather than messy spreadsheets).


Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this conversation about the future of design, we’d love to hear from you over on our Twitter! Look forward to seeing you there.

About Merrin - As Product Marketer here at BugHerd, Merrin loves talking about product, more precisely talking to customers about how to get the most out of BugHerd. With a background in writing and communications, you can bet she enjoys a good blog post with her coffee.

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