Everywhere you look, you’ll find articles and news claiming to have the top trends of web design today. These are shown as some kind of one-size-fits-all solution to design that will transform your website into a raging success overnight. While knowing what’s “hot” and what’s “not” certainly has its time and place, there’s something to be said for a timeless, lasting design.
In the online world, things move fast. You’ve probably seen lots of trends come and go in the time you’ve spent online. Some trends we’re happy to see die while others feel like they’re gone too soon. From the flashy designs of the early 2000s to the trendy script fonts, it’s hard to find a style that truly lasts.
As a website owner or web designer, you need to take into account not only the latest trends but also the classic styles that are built to last. Trendy styles might look great for a few months or even a few years, but they’ll soon run their course.
Choosing a timeless web design comes with its own power. Namely, you can count on it to make your website feel professional, polished, and on-trend no matter the season. In this guide, we’ll break down the science behind timeless web design as well as explore some of the top elements that make websites look and feel timeless.
What is Timeless Design?
First, let’s define what timeless design actually is. While this definition will vary depending on the industry, we can fall back on the Merriam-Webster definition of timeless as “not restricted to a particular time or date.” A timeless design is based on both function and creativity, and it never becomes obsolete.
You’ve already experienced the results of trendy design online. If you’ve ever stumbled upon a website that was functional but still felt “stale,” this was a trendy design. When websites are rooted in a passing trend, users can tell. Even if that website has no functional problems, it’s hard to take it seriously.
Now for the big question. Is timeless design possible on the internet? As we mentioned earlier, trends move quickly online. Things that are hip and cool now are old news tomorrow. Is it possible to keep up with a single, unchanging design in a landscape that’s always searching for something new?
In short, no. You can’t rely on a single design to carry you through years or even months online. However, if you build the foundation of your design in functionality and you achieve a contemporary look, you won’t need to worry about undergoing any huge design changes every time a trend falls out of fashion.
A startling 48% of people cited a website’s design as the number 1 factor in determining if a business is credible. That means the timeless design isn’t optional. You have to admit that while being “timeless” might not sound as glamorous as the cutting-edge of design, it has a charm of its own. Now, let’s breakdown the elements of classic design.
1. Readability and Content
Content is key, and this is true even with web design. If your users can’t easily read or understand your content, it’s not a good design. Readability comes down to 3 main things: legibility, readability, and comprehension.
Legibility refers to the clarity of visual design and typography. Legibility is always in fashion. Basically, you want your users to be able to easily read your text on the page. Sometimes, the design focuses so much on the aesthetic that it’s no longer easy to read what the page says.
Next, readability refers to the complexity of words. Once again, you want things to be in terms that are easy for user users to understand. Finally, comprehension is talking about the ease of understanding with your text. Ultimately, it’s about writing in a way your audience can understand and ensuring the text itself is easy to read.
2. Skip the Gimmicks
Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. This is what’s commonly known as shiny object syndrome. It’s tempting to use something innovative and new simply because it’s exciting. That’s a normal temptation, but force yourself to take a step back.
All of these new design elements, plug-ins, and so on don’t necessarily add anything of value. If you’re using a popular design tool or design style for your creation, odds are your competition is as well. Do you want to blend in with the crowd or stand out? Skip the gimmicks and do your own thing.
3. Keep It Simple
It sounds too basic to be important, but it’s really the most powerful element of all. Sometimes, in web design, it feels like we need to add elements for the sake of adding them. Once again, go back to that same question, “Is this necessary?”
If the design isn’t adding anything to the website, the answer will always be no. Keeping it simple helps your users focus on the task at hand. You don’t want your users not to know where to look or what to do next. Confusion is a first-class ticket to page abandonment. The primary reason for being on your page needs to be abundantly clear immediately or it’s not simple enough.
The best way to understand what “simplicity” means in web design is to see it for yourself. Browse some WordPress themes with simple design to see how they come across as “timeless.” Compare them to other trendy web pages like those found at the CSS Zen Garden to see what the difference is for yourself.
4. Intuitive Navigation
Simplicity and intuitiveness are two peas in a pod. What this means is that you, as a designer or website owner, can anticipate how your users will actually use your website. Think about your ideal user. These users will have different skill and comfort levels. They might not all realize you have to scroll to get to the navigation, or that different pages aren’t all linked from the homepage. You need to anticipate these things.
It’s up to you to put function first. Your navigation should serve a clear purpose: help your users find exactly what they’re looking for. In addition, make sure this navigation is consistent across your whole website and that it’s mobile-friendly. Almost 60% of all internet access is done via a smartphone, so your website design should be ready for this.
5. Utilize Visuals
Last but not least, humans are visual creatures. We are hard-wired to look for visual cues and respond to them. Learning how to include visuals in your web design is a must-have element of timeless design.
Nothing dates a website more than low-quality visuals. We’ve all seen boring stock photos, out-of-focus images, and bad graphics on websites before, and they affected our perception of their professionalism. The term visuals aren’t only referring to product images. If you use any photography or graphics, make sure they’re easy to see and that they’re high-quality.
Don’t Be a Passing Trend
Your website is a testament to your business, so you want to make sure it’s built to last. Most design trends are short-lived, and you don’t want to create a website built on a house of cards. If you focus on these design elements above, you’ll create something that not only looks amazing today, but that’s also going to last into the future.
While timeless web design might not be 100% possible on the internet, you can create a website that has a much longer shelf-life than its trendy counterparts. Having a timeless website ensure you’re always seen as “on trend,” professional, and relevant. You have nothing to lose and so much to gain, so start your design process today.