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You know the old saying: First impressions last. Well, it holds true for web design. By making the design of your website unique, fresh and relevant, you make a first impression that compels potential customers to stick around long enough to convert.

In fact, a study found 94% of users’ first impressions about a website were related to its design. In turn, a consumer’s opinion of a website heavily influences their early opinion of a brand.

The public’s web design expectations have evolved over the years. To make your website look appealing to a modern audience, implementing the latest website design trends is a must. This guide explains outdated web design trends to avoid — and what to implement instead.

Is your website outdated?

Your website is outdated if it lacks mobile responsiveness, fast load speeds, visual appeal, high-quality content, diverse browser compatibility and robust security features. Based on these warning signs, have multiple people test relevant parts of your website and offer feedback on its effectiveness.

As a starting point, check for signs that your website is outdated by contemplating the following questions:

  • Does your homepage feature appealing visuals? People are hard-wired to crave visual content. By incorporating visuals that appeal to your visitors, you can create an engaging experience that keeps them browsing.
  • Is your website mobile-friendly? With mobile users worldwide amounting to 6.92 billion, it’s crucial to use responsive design so your mobile audience can navigate your website with ease.
  • Is your website loading fast enough? Websites that load within a second also convert 2.5 times more than websites that load in five seconds — proof that optimizing your website for speed should be a priority.
  • Is your website compatible with different devices and browsers? People have multiple internet-enabled devices and expect smooth navigation on all of them. Enhance your website’s compatibility to accommodate the diverse preferences of your audience.
  • Is your website protected from security threats? Cyber threats aren’t going anywhere. Prioritize robust security features to safeguard your users’ data and foster trust.
  • Does your website produce high-quality content? If you want your visitors to stick around, publish content that’s entertaining, relevant and useful to them.
Six criteria for evaluating whether your website is outdated.

Outdated website designs to avoid

  • Adobe Flash.
  • Overuse of stock photos.
  • Auto-playing carousels.
  • Aggressive popups.
  • Auto-playing videos.
  • Keeping content above the fold.
  • Hamburger menus on desktop websites.
Seven outdated website trends you need to ditch.

Let’s get to the heart of the matter. Here are the outdated website design trends you should ditch.

1. Adobe Flash

There was a time, namely the 90s and the early 2000s, when Flash websites were all the rage. Visiting any blog, game or portfolio website would inevitably involve an animation looping on your screen, powered by Flash. Even YouTube hopped on the Flash bandwagon back in 2005.

But as the years rolled on, the issues piled up. Flash’s cybersecurity became a battleground in 2007 as hackers relentlessly exploited vulnerabilities; Adobe constantly played catch-up with updates.

Then, Apple decided to completely drop Flash support for the iPhone. YouTube followed suit, opting for the more reliable HTML5. Google Chrome jumped on the HTML5 train in 2017. And by the end of 2020, Adobe pulled the plug on Flash for good.

Why the shift to HTML5? Well:

  • It doesn’t require a plugin to use.
  • It’s open source.
  • It needs less processing power.
  • It’s more mobile-friendly.

The final nail in the coffin: Flash elements are uncrawlable. Nowadays, most brands highly prioritize SEO to get better rankings on Google. If you’re competing for that organic traffic, it’s preferable to avoid Flash.

Currently, website owners are gravitating towards open web technologies, which are faster, more secure and more power efficient.

2. Overuse of stock photos

Using images in your web design works wonders for metrics like time on page and click-through rate — but only if you make good image choices.

Conspicuous stock photos are seen as bland and low-effort, which puts a damper on your visitors’ enthusiasm.

If you want your target audience to sit up and take notice, use custom images that are relevant, on-brand and unique.

Consider hiring a graphic designer with a knack for visual storytelling. They will effectively infuse your brand identity into your custom images. An affordable alternative is to use a graphic delivery service like DesignPickle.

Otherwise, you can try creating visual assets yourself. Use a content creation tool like Canva, PicMonkey or Adobe Creative Cloud.

3. Auto-play carousels

Setting a carousel to auto-play seems like an efficient and attractive way to showcase your offerings. However, the initial appeal comes with some downsides.

Rotating sliders aren’t the best for user experience and navigation. First of all, since the slides constantly change, distracted or scrolling users will fail to see some items they could have liked.

Secondly, viewers sometimes try to take long looks at a slide, only for it to shift away. Users feel like the sliders are moving too fast or too slow, and personal preferences vary.

Lastly, if a visitor decides to check out one of the slides, they may be forced to flip through a slideshow with no clear organization.

There’s also something website owners should be aware of: Auto-rotating carousels contribute to slower page load times.

For a more effective way to showcase your offerings, consider these alternatives:

  • A static hero image with a strong call to action: Opt for a single, impactful image coupled with short, clear directions for the reader.
  • Content buckets: Organize your content into distinct sections for easy navigation and cleaner presentation.
  • A grid layout: Present your content in a structured grid format to give your visitors a more comprehensive view of your offerings.

4. Aggressive popups

Popups are an effective sales tool. But when used aggressively, they interrupt and compromise user experience.

Imagine going to a physical store and dealing with a pushy salesperson asking you to buy something at every aisle. The likely result is obvious.

The same goes for your website. Bombard visitors with intrusive popups, and they will leave your website faster than you can say “checkout.”

That’s not to say popups are bad. In fact, the average pop-up conversion rate is 11.09% — genuinely great odds for a website element. So use popups; just make sure they enhance user experience via considerate strategies.

Try the following:

  • On-click popups: When in doubt, go with a popup that triggers when users click a favorable button. According to Wisepop research, popups that trigger on click perform best by an enormous margin.
  • Avoiding popups on smartphones: Users report that popups are more annoying when browsing on a mobile device. It’s not worth upsetting mobile users.
  • Exit-intent popups: You can set popups that trigger as the user’s mouse moves toward the exit or back button. That’s your moment to make them an offer they can’t refuse, hyperbolically speaking.
  • Make popups easy to close: Speaking of refusing, it’s crucial you implement popups that users can easily exit or minimize. It’s better that people simply decline than get frustrated and still decline.
  • Scroll-triggered popups: You can set popups that activate when users scroll down a certain percentage of the page. Scrolling indicates a level of interest, which is a good sign to offer relevant content or deals.

As a general rule, your popups should provide visitors with a path to something rewarding and valuable.

5. Auto-play videos

Should you set videos to auto-play? It sounds like a good idea to remove a step the user would have to take. However, what it actually removes is the viewer’s agency. A website visitor may not have the time or interest to watch the video immediately.

Autoplay videos can also be invasive, especially when users are browsing in a quiet environment, trying to concentrate on written content or listening to something else.

More fundamentally, consumers are now accustomed to independently controlling what they watch and when they watch it. So, for the most part, let your website visitors decide when they’re interested and available enough to watch your video.

If you’re going to use autoplay videos, give them an enticing and clear visual cue that indicates content will soon start playing.

6. Keeping content above the fold

In a web design context, “above the fold” refers to every part of your website displayed without scrolling down. Back when websites took forever to load, it was smart to keep everything important within this area; some users wouldn’t stick around for the parts below to render.

Now that the average web page loads in 2,5 seconds on desktops, users are more willing to explore further down a homepage or landing page.

Instead of cramming website design elements at the top and overwhelming your audience, use the vertical scroll experience to your advantage by gradually telling a compelling brand story.

Specifically, use the top of the page to communicate your value proposition and lead users to dig further by scrolling down. The more you keep people engaged, the more likely they are to convert below the fold.

How to use below-the-fold content effectively.

7. Hamburger menus on desktop websites

Hamburger menus are typically indicated by a three-bar symbol in the corner of a website or mobile app.

When used on mobile devices, they’re an excellent way to save screen real estate. On smaller screens with limited space, hamburger menus conveniently break down website content into digestible categories.

In 2012, hamburger icons started appearing on many desktop websites. What was the general consensus? TechCrunch reported on the phenomenon by calling hamburger icons “the devil.”

Given how hamburger menus cut discoverability in half, it’s hard to disagree. To make navigation smoother for your desktop users, create and customize navigation menus at the top of your webpages.

If you want your brand to stay competitive in an overcrowded market, adapt your web design to new standards.

Ditching outdated web design trends is a great start. Implement website design best practices for good measure and you’ll have a great-looking website that drives conversions and differentiates your brand from the competition.

For the best result, choose Bluehost’s custom website design services. You’ll enjoy our team of professional WordPress website devs and digital marketing experts building your website, allowing you to focus on elevating your brand.

FAQs about outdated website design

How does outdated web design impact user experience?

An outdated website design hampers user experience by causing slow loading times, poor navigation, compromised functionality and unappealing visuals.

Why is it important for websites to stay current with design trends?

Staying current with design trends enhances your credibility, engages users and fosters a positive brand impression — all key factors in attracting and retaining an audience as technology and customer expectations evolve.

What are some effective strategies for updating an outdated website design?

As an overall strategy, focus on improving user experience. Make navigation easy for visitors by implementing a clean and intuitive design. Embrace visual storytelling via relevant images with clear branding. Avoid using website elements that take away the viewer’s agency and focus, such as flash animations and aggressive pop-ups.

  • Tiffani Anderson

    Tiffani is a Content and SEO Manager for the Bluehost brand. With over 10 years experience across all facets of content and brand marketing, she strives to combine concepts from brand marketing with engaging content through the lens of SEO.

    University of North Texas
    Previous Experience
    Content Marketing, SEO, Social Media
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