Please Stop. Design Trends We’d Like to See Go Away. Forever.

We’ve witnessed (and made fun of) some really bad choices when it comes to design. Some are really outdated. Some are attempting to be cool and instead are inciting customer drop-off. And some are just plain bad—and causing much bigger problems for the companies that choose them.

Are you making one or more of these missteps? Don’t worry. Along with some open mockery, we’re offering up better alternatives.

Top design trends that make us cringe

1. Bad stock photos

The Issue: We’ve all seen it…the awful stock photography featuring overly-posed people with impossibly perfect smiles, incredibly enthusiastic about mundane activities like laundry. Say no. Bad stock photography isn’t a matter of opinion. It just is bad. It doesn’t connect with your demographic, it doesn’t offer any sort of authenticity, and it makes your design suffer.

The Alternative: Invest in good stock photography (yes, it exists!). Better yet, invest in a professional photographer that can shoot exactly what you are looking for. If your budget is an issue, consider thinking outside of the the typical group shots, and go for abstract design with texture, or use more organic subjects like nature.

Tip: Photographs relevant to your direct demographic or product, abstract designs for a background with visual interest, general photography that isn’t literal but still adds aesthetic appeal.


2. Pop-Up Anything

The Issue: Like the obsessive ex that keeps showing up everywhere you go, pop-ups are an annoying inconvenience. Unfortunately, we can’t request restraining orders for them, but we can suggest that they stop being used. Whether it’s a module that follows your scroll, a pop-up subscription form or—the worst—a pop-up ad, this is an invasive and off-putting way to get attention.

The Alternative: Get them to ask for it. If what you’re offering (a deal, a free something, the latest blog post) is of genuine value, they will. If you have to push it on your customer with an annoying visual that is blocking their eye path, chances are you need to up your game. Better design, strategic copy (answer “what’s in it for me?”) and placement that gets noticed are the way to go.

Tip: Well-placed, beautiful modules that compel click-through, in-line links that offer additional ways to click, information that entices the customer to ask more.


3. Font Faux Pas

The Issue: Don’t use Papyrus. Ever.

We get it. Papyrus looks like ancient writing from one of DaVinci’s notebooks. It is otherworldly and reminds you of Game of Thrones. Don’t do it. That font is used on every yoga sign, meditation CD and spa storefront. Overused fonts have no visual power; if everyone else is using them, they just dilute your brand. While you’re at it, don’t ever use Curlz MT. Or any font that looks like a child’s handwriting.

The Issue: Overuse of free fonts

Free fonts are so tempting. You’re looking for something different and eye-catching. The trouble is, so is everyone else. So while you might think that Bleeding Cowboys is a super cool choice for your website, just say no. There are a lot of other companies choosing the “unique” display font, too. Plus, a lot of these fonts cause issues in the design and coding processes.

The Issue: Too many fonts in one place

Having multiple fonts on any design is a bad idea. It takes away from the readability, the brand and the visual attraction. It looks amateurish and can take away brand credibility. And please, please, do NOT use your logo’s font all over your site. Your logo needs to stand on its own as a symbol of your brand, not get lost among all the web copy that looks exactly the same.

The Alternative: Don’t choose your own fonts. Collaborate with a team of design professionals that can help you pick the right ones. Look at sites you admire and share those with your in-house team or hired agency.


4. Homepage Sliders & Carousels

The Issue: You’re already dealing with a very short attention span online. Why add to potential bounce behavior by offering up multiple choices? Carousels are rarely about being helpful; more often they each feature their own CTA and selling purpose. They don’t get read, they don’t get clicked and they come off a bit dated.

The Alternative: Use one powerful header and one powerful CTA. Your homepage shouldn’t have multiple CTAs screaming for attention. You need one main metric to measure. Any other clickable CTAs should be secondary and/or tertiary, and should be displayed as inline links or subtle modules.

Tip: Identify the main action you want the customer to take, and choose the most compelling message to get them interested. And then select the most powerful imagery to support it. That’s it.

5. QR Codes

The Issue: Offering up a QR Code to your customers might seem like a cool, high-tech way to encourage engagement, but it’s not. It’s actually over. Most people don’t have the necessary QR Code readers on their phones, or they want immediate action to take place. You’re risking customer abandonment rather than click-through.

The Alternative: Why were you offering a QR Code? Is it for a big reveal? Is it to capture information from your potential customers? Instead, think about what they really want. Give them something with no strings attached, when they ask for it. Whether it’s a price point, more information or a free download, making your customer jump through inconvenient hoops is not a good approach.

Tip: Clear CTAs, simple forms, benefit-driven messaging that answers all the big questions.


Some Honorable Mentions of Design Don’ts

  • Using “www” in your URL. We know it’s a web address. No one says “World Wide Web” out loud unless they’re your grandparents’ age.
  • Clickbait slideshows. No. It’s sleazy and causes a lack of trust and credibility.
  • Bad clip art and generic stock logos. This is not the 90s. Enough said.  
  • Parallax. It was a once-interesting trend that was over-embraced, and now the hug has gone on too long.
  • Auto-play anything. Music, videos, or slideshows. Auto-play usually results in auto-dropoff.
  • Full-width videos. Overstimulating and overdone. Also, if your video isn’t amazing, don’t expect us to be amazed.
  • Bells and whistles. Gone is the need for Flash animation and super-cool site add-ons. Throw out the glitter and mine some UX gold with clean, navigable design, strategic eye paths and direct messaging.


Need a bright light in your design darkness?

Looking to make your brand more bodacious? Get in touch with the Think Baseline team. We can set up a no-obligation phone call to talk about what isn’t working, and how we can collaborate to make it all better.

About Think Baseline

Think Baseline delivers branding solutions that get your business noticed—and remembered. We deliver stunning graphics and persuasive messaging to give your brand a bigger voice and a bigger bottom line. We’re a combination of talented designers, writers, developers and strategists driven by a passion for impactful design that creates momentum for your brand. We are an award-winning agency who is proud to work with a wide variety of clients in the Maryland, D.C. and Virginia areas, and beyond.

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