From the moment we’re old enough to dress ourselves, we’re influenced by trends in every aspect of our lives: in the clothes we wear, in the food we eat, and in the spaces we inhabit.
Driven by a primal desire to belong, people are apt to follow trends even when they don’t serve a greater purpose.
Likewise, designers are often compelled to adopt trends because they make clients happy.
But what happens when design trends don’t properly reflect a brand?
The dilemma with design trends
Following design trends can be a slippery slope because trends are constantly changing. If you adopt trends too quickly, your brand can come across as inconsistent. If the trend is short-lived, your brand can go from lovable to lame in a matter of months.
“If you adopt trends too quickly, your brand can come across as inconsistent.”
Alternatively, you probably know your brand can suffer by not adapting to certain design trends.
So, what’s the difference between a trend that flops and one that lasts forever?
It all goes back to design fundamentals. Core elements like usability, brand values, and navigation are often disregarded in the face of following new trends.
“Great designers achieve a delicate balance between what’s fresh and what’s effective.”
Great designers achieve a delicate balance between what’s fresh and what’s effective. When faced with the decision to embrace a new design trend, here are 4 important fundamentals to remember.
1. Does it give visitors what they want?
People come to your site in search of something specific. If they can’t find what they need, they’ll leave in no time. Poor navigation invites your users to seek out competitors.
If it’s easier for someone to find what they need elsewhere, they’ll probably stay there, regardless of the visual aesthetic.
“Poor navigation invites your users to seek out competitors.”
When you have to choose between on-trend design and user satisfaction, always choose the latter.
2. Is it aligned with your brand?
There’s no doubt customers are delighted by the polished, elegant nature of today’s design trends. Yet, creating a consistent, on-brand experience is far more important than being visually in-style.
When power users and loyal brand advocates visit your new site, you want to ensure they’re greeted with an experience they expect.
Even when a design trend doesn’t seem to explicitly align with a brand, you shouldn’t leave it behind just yet. You simply have to ask yourself one important question:
can the trend be flexed to accurately represent your brand and to support a consistent user experience?
3. Is it outcome-oriented?
To weigh the effectiveness of a new design trend, you must evaluate its ability to accomplish goals.
Conversion-centered design (CCD) is about driving visitors towards one specific action. CCD outlines a set of key design principles for capturing audience attention and clearly communicating a single goal.
Your new design should lend itself well to these patterns. If it does, you’re on your way to a design that’s both relevant and functional.
“People are apt to follow trends even when they don’t serve a greater purpose.”
4. Does it have evergreen potential?
It’s difficult to gauge the potential longevity of any trend. However, the truth is usually revealed when you take a deeper look into where the trend came from.
First, you’ll want to think about which trends inspired this one. How long did those trends last? Were they used in impactful ways, by influential brands?
Next, think about about the current state of this trend. How long has it been in existence? How many people have adopted it so far?
These questions will help you determine if the trend will still be relevant in years to come.
Once you’ve considered all 4 of these design fundamentals, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about whether the latest trend is right for you.