The best web design trends of 2020

Stephanie Corrigan
In 2020, a number of both visual and practical web design trends took flight. In this post, we'll examine the top nine visual trends of 2020, along with three meaningful trends that are changing the web design world for the better.

Without a doubt, 2020 has been a trying year in many ways. But beneath the chaos, the world's top visual designers continued to innovate and bring new web design trends to life. Some of these trends are influenced in part by major societal shifts, whereas others are about usability and aesthetics. Keep reading to discover how new and emerging trends are altering the web design landscape in 2020.

Top 9 visual web design trends: 2020 edition

1. Dark mode

"Dark mode" has been trending all year across various popular apps and interfaces, including Chrome, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Apple operating systems. Thus, it's no surprise that the dark mode trend has infiltrated the world of web design as well.

At an aesthetic level, dark mode design looks inherently sleek and modern. When paired with white text, the contrast not only looks striking, but also adds emphasis, reducing the need for other eye-catching elements. In addition, dark mode is taken to new heights aesthetically when bright pops of color are thrown in. These colors can be used to effectively accentuate buttons and other important elements.

At a practical level, dark mode is a popular web design trend in 2020 because it conserves energy and causes less eyestrain than the standard light mode. Therefore, the trend could be seen as a direct response to two greater issues that have taken the spotlight in recent years: sustainability and the detrimental health effects of staring at screens all day.

There's no shortage of websites to feature that have adopted the dark mode trend. It's become pervasive across many different industries, from creative agencies to tech companies to a beer and music pairing brand called Brews & Grooves.

Brews & Grooves websites hero section
Raycast websites hero section

2. Oversized type

What better way to grab someone's attention than with big, bold text? Oversized type is popular web design trend in 2020; it's a foolproof way to get a message across as soon as someone lands on a webpage. When oversized type takes up the width of the screen, there's no space left for other distracting elements.

Although this trend looks simple, the right choice of words and typeface are essential and could make or break the design. For instance, if the message isn't clear, there are no other elements to rely on for clarification. And if the type is illegible, the effect is ruined.

Ripeplanet uses oversized type in a few different ways across their homepage in order to call out important phrases and headings, including their motto: Healthier planet, healthier people. It only takes a few seconds to scroll through the homepage and figure out what the brand is all about. And with today's short attention spans, communicating your brand message quickly and efficiently is crucial.

Ripeplanet website hero section

3. 3D graphics

The web design trend of 3D graphic rendering took the world by storm in 2020. For an example of this trend in action, look no further than our own Flux Academy website, which received an honorable mention from the highly prestigious Awwwards website awards.

3D graphics, especially when paired with animation, add a realistic and almost futuristic feel to a website. Since this trend is relatively difficult to pull off, it's uncommon enough that when you encounter a website with 3D visuals, the effect is striking.

Your World Your Way uses 3D graphics in a playful, interactive way to help users navigate to different pages on their site. This creates a fun and unique user experience that encourages users to stick around and explore, which could lower the website's bounce rate and boost its SEO (search engine optimization) score.

Your World Your Way website hero section
Flux Academy website hero section

P.S. Our award-winning Flux Academy website was built on Webflow--click here to learn about our Webflow Masterclass, which teaches web designers how to build pixel-perfect websites without learning how to code.

4. Abundant whitespace

Every visual designer knows that whitespace is always "in." Whitespace is negative space, and although it's usually white, it can actually be any color. It's used to surround and divide elements, creating ample breathing room in order to avoid overwhelming the eye.

Although whitespace isn't new in web design, in 2020 we've seen an emerging trend of exaggerated amounts of whitespace, especially in white. In a way, it's the antithesis of the dark mode trend. Abundant whitespace creates a clean, fresh, and tidy aesthetic. This trend pairs well with the overarching trend of minimalist design, which is still going strong in 2020 and likely sticking around for a while.

M&C Saatschi Group uses a combination of whitespace and oversized type to help convey their belief in the power of simplicity. With a black and white color palette, the website seamlessly calls attention to the words and images on the screen. This website is also a great example of interactive animation and movement, which is another popular web design trend in 2020.

M&C Saatschi Group website hero section

5. Hand-drawn illustrations

Illustrations offer a fun and creative way to liven up a website. Although illustrative web design is nothing new, in 2020 we're seeing a surge of hand-drawn illustrations on the web. The hand-drawn style adds a human-centric touch, which is an overarching trend in itself that has taken hold in recent years.

Hand-drawn illustrations are great for websites that aim to emulate positivity, authenticity, and playfulness. More subtle hand-drawn elements, like icons and text, can contribute to this effect as well. In a trying year like 2020, hand-drawn illustrations add a much-needed dose of positivity and humanity to the online world.

Nabla uses hand-drawn illustrations to create a friendly and personable look and feel that ties in well with their positive messaging and use of colors and fonts. Their homepage illustrations feature two smiling characters that represent two of their user personas: medical professionals and consumers. These characters liven up the website and help make healthcare look more relatable and accessible.

Nabla website hero section

6. Animation and movement

As technology evolves, it's become easier to add engaging, interactive elements to a website. And since the eye is naturally drawn to moving elements, animation is a great way to grab and hold a user's attention on a website.

There are many ways to add movement to a website, ranging from more subtle text hover effects to full-screen videos and animations. In order for this web design trend to be effective in 2020, it's best to use movement intentionally and sparingly. Because they're so engaging, videos and animations may backfire and distract from the primary goal of a website. Plus, they could severely slow down the site if not rendered efficiently.

Wonderland uses a combination of complex and subtle animations to showcase their work in experience design. This creates an engaging and immersive user experience that effectively highlights their area of expertise.

7. Overlapping layers

Overlapping layers is a popular web design trend in 2020 that adds depth to a website without relying on box shadows and 3D graphics. In a way, it's a more minimalist approach to creating depth that's also easier to implement than 3D rendering.

When creating overlapping layers on a website, the design possibilities are seemingly endless. Overlapping elements could include images, colored blocks, text, buttons, icons, and decorative elements. This look is extremely versatile and can work well for almost any type of website.

Oui by Jean Dousset beautifully implemented overlapping layers of videos, still images, and text to welcome visitors to their site. This trend allows them to feature multiple products from different angles and contexts; for instance, we see still product shots overlapping moving frames of models wearing the product.

8. Neon color schemes

In 2020, we've seen a surge of bright and luminous color palettes in web design. Neon colors, particularly green, purple, and teal, are effective at drawing the eye and accentuating certain elements. This trend pairs particularly well with the dark mode trend, due to the stark contrast between dark and neon shades. Neon colors are also frequently seen this year on websites that incorporate 3D graphics.

Neon colors create a futuristic look, and unsurprisingly, are currently trending among startups and other future-forward companies.

Magic Spoon doesn't shy away from color on their website; their primary shade is a bright blue. They also feature neon gradients, another 2020 trend that has recently emerged in web design. The colorful and maximalist design aesthetic helps the brand stand out among their numerous cereal brand competitors and likely resonates with many modern, fun-loving consumers.

9. Exposed grids

Last but not least, our final visual web design trend of 2020 is the use of exposed grids. This effect takes shape in the form of simple lines and boxes that divide the content on a page in a grid-like layout.

The exposed grid trend is likely inspired by modern web-browsing technology. And on some websites, it's used to create a nostalgic, retro effect that recalls the web browsers of old.

SNUX is an e-commerce brand that uses exposed grids, paired with 3D rendering and bright, unexpected swashes of color, to create an ultra-modern website look. The modern web design is a nod to their innovate thermal garment technology that they use for their products.

3 practical web design trends in 2020

Each of the web design trends listed above concerns visuals. Yet while visual trends come and go, there are a few more meaningful web design trends that emerged in 2020 that are likely to stick around for the long run. Watch the video below to get Ran Segall's take on the real web design trends of 2020, or keep scrolling to read about three of the top practical trends of this year.

1. Accessibility

In 2020, accessibility is no longer an afterthought in the web design world. The website accessibility movement gained traction in late 2019 when a blind man successfully sued Domino's because he wasn't able to use their website. As a result, accessible web design transcended from a nice-to-have feature to a gold standard for usability.

Web accessibility is a trend that's long overdue and here to stay. Not only can it prevent lawsuits, it's essential for creating a better browsing experience for the one billion disabled individuals across the globe.

2. GDPR compliance

In 2018, the European Union enacted the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which dictates how websites may collect, use, and store personal data. Although the GDPR is an EU law, it affects websites worldwide--in other words, any website which potentially collects data from EU citizens must comply.

Throughout 2020, more and more websites have taken action to ensure GDPR compliance. Like accessibility, the GDPR compliance trend is here for the long haul and is now an essential component of web design and management.

3. Diversity and inclusion

Diversity and inclusion are hot topics in web and UX design in 2020. Not to be confused with accessibility, inclusivity in design refers to eliminating biases around age, gender, disability and cultural background. Implementation requires being mindful about inherent biases and how they influence the choice of images, phrases, and vocabulary used on a site.

Courtesy of Marta Dymek on Dribbble

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Feeling inspired by the innovative web design trends featured in this article? It's one thing to recognize a trend, it's another to actually implement it, and in a way that helps clients achieve their business goals. Ran Segall's course The $10k Website Process teaches everything you need to know in order to design stunning, strategic websites that command high prices.

Click here to learn more about the course and join a community of over 1,500 students who are committed to improving their web design process.

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