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July 29, 2015 | Melanie Chandler

5 Web Design Trends That Need to be Retired

web design trends that need to retire

Trends come and go, and unfortunately some stick around for a little too long before they move on.

How do trends get started? Someone will do something they think looks cool, and then BAM! Everyone's copying it. Think back to the '90s when people wore socks with sandals. If you saw someone walking around like that today, you'd probably think "Ugh, that looks so outdated!"

Fashion trends from the past have a tendency to come full circle, but luckily some just die off. Web design trends act the same way. For example, both animated GIFs and Comic Sans were big in the '90s. GIFs have made a comeback, but the trend of using Comic Sans as a web font has died—thankfully.

However, not all trends need to be left by the wayside because they're terrible; some have simply been overused, have become obsolete because of a technology change, or have simply been replaced by better solutions.

Check out these design trends that need to be avoided, just like Comic Sans or an ex-partner you just drunk emailed.

1. Stock Photos

I don't mean stock photos in general, just bad or clichéd ones. Actually, I love bad stock photos! But not in the "I love them so I'm going to use them" sense. I love them for their comedy value.

Often, stock photos are "bad" because they're unrealistic. Say you need photos for your site and don't have the budget to hire a photographer. Yes, I agree that your only option is to look to a stock photo site, but at least take the time to choose one that isn't cheese-ball city.

I'm not only talking about odd situations and weird graphics. A photo of Dr. McDreamy smiling at the camera with his arms crossed over his chest and a stethoscope draped around his neck isn't realistic either. I mean, I wish my doctors looked that yummy, but I haven't yet met a doctor who looks like Dr. Derek Shepherd. But kudos to you if you have, and please send me his contact information.

2. Mobile Menu on Desktop

This is a trend I don't understand at all. WARNING: Full on rant and rage mode ahead. The point of a mobile menu is to save much-needed real estate on your phone or tablet. Blame fat thumbs if you want, but normal linear navigation menus aren't functional on devices, so it makes sense to hide the menu until it's needed.

But when you have an entire header area--and we're talking about at least 1152 pixels wide of workable area--why would you hide the menu? That's bad user interface. You have the space for a normal menu, so why make people search for it? WHY? WHY? WHY? I seriously don't understand how this became a trend. Even if you hide the menu to "streamline the design of the site," it's going to look different every time they need to use the menu, so....

3. Non-Mobile Friendly Sites

I don't know about you, but I use my phone for just about everything. This includes browsing websites, searching for random information, and venturing down the rabbit hole. Even Google wants everyone to have a responsive site. Remember Mobilegeddon? Google will penalize your ranking if your site isn't mobile-friendly.

The percentage of mobile users varies for each individual site and industry, but one recent study found that people now spend 51% of their daily Internet time on mobile devices. Do you want to miss out on potential visitors? The answer should be no.

4. Sliders

It's not that sliders need to be retired exactly; it's more like you should take a moment to consider your choice before using one. These days, people land on your website looking for specific information. They're probably expecting to either scroll or use the navigation to find that information, and neither of those actions has them sitting and watching your slider.

Take this advice on a case-by-case basis, but keep in mind that web attention spans are shortening as the web gets more intuitive, so people aren't going to sit there and wait for your slider to rotate through. If it's important information, maybe it should be featured elsewhere on the page.

"But Melanie," you may say, "don't you have a slider on your website right now?" Yes, but we're in the middle of a redesign and we took it out of our new site. We're practicing what we preach, even if you can't tell just yet!

5. Pop-Ups

Pop-ups (insert incredibly long sigh here) are annoying, at least to me. I'm willing to bet that you feel the same way. Are we stuck in the '90s? Sure, I see a need for these on sites with age restrictions, but besides that it's just an irritating distraction.

Just think about it: you land on a website to read a certain blog post or watch a video, and you're interrupted by a pop-up box blocking the content. How annoying is that? Answer: very! Yes, they collect new subscribers or leads, which is important. I get that. But are pop-ups the best way to do it in the long run? I just say be smart about how you use them.

Will these 5 web design trends be back in style 10 or 20 years from now? (Pop-ups on our contact lens computers? Yikes.) Maybe. Curse our fascination with nostalgia! On that note, I'll leave you with this amazingly '90s GIF.

Bill Clinton Playing the Saxophone

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Melanie Chandler

Melanie Chandler

As design director, Melanie Chandler leads the design team and works with them to create consistently compelling and engaging website designs, images for digital marketing, and other visual content to communicate corporate identity and drive traffic on websites and social media.

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