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If one thing is for sure, the most visited websites in the world know a thing or two about site design. The teams behind these vastly popular domains all understand the importance of providing a high-quality user experience by prioritizing functionality, accessibility, navigation, intuitiveness, and aesthetics.

When implemented correctly, these “usability” features bring more value to users, which keeps them coming back time and time again. In fact, this is one of the primary reasons why these websites manage to become (and remain) so popular in the first place.

On the other hand, user preferences are continually changing. If a website publisher wants to maintain its position on the top charts, it must be ready to evolve with these new demands or risk getting left behind. For this reason, most of the top websites in the world change the look and feel of their pages fairly frequently. In extreme cases, some websites may be completely unrecognizable from how they looked just a few short years ago.

For those interested, you can use the Internet Archive Wayback Machine to view a historical snapshot of practically any website in the world. This gives us the ability to derive interesting insights into how the top websites have changed their design in order to meet shifting demands while capitalizing on new technology.

With all that said, let’s look at four upcoming web design trends that we can expect to see across all top websites in 2022.

Nostalgic Design Elements

For the last few years, the prevailing web design trend has emphasized polished minimalism, to which the vast majority of brands appear to have adhered. However, with large parts of the world experiencing a tumultuous two years due to the global pandemic, many people are seeking more comfortable experiences and forms of escape.

It is likely that some of the top-rated sites will begin to abandon their overly polished appearance by incorporating some retro design aspects. Many of today’s web designers are advocating for an alternative approach that pays homage to the retro world of Web 1.0. This includes using retro fonts and typography, blurriness, grain, pastel colors, and classic image filters to intentionally cultivate an analog feel across the website.

These are only a few examples of approaches used by designers to build relatable experiences.

Gender-neutral Designs

In recent years, gender inclusion has been a big topic. Companies are more aware than ever of their diversity, equity, and inclusion practices, and this trend is projected to continue in the web design sector.

This design trend is all about creating an inclusive vision that offers playful diversity rather than inadvertently excluding and ostracizing specific members of the population. After all, gender is a crucial element of our identities; therefore, it affects us all, whether we are aware of it or not.

It’s evident that many of the biggest websites have been aware of this for quite some time since Amazon (ranked 12th on the most trafficked websites list) began to remove gender labels from its websites back in 2015. As the contentious conversation over social justice and gender equality continues, it’s expected that many of the other websites on the list will follow suit in 2022.

Dark Mode and Low Light UX

As consumer screen time continues to trend upwards, it’s important that designers look for ways to make the experience more enjoyable and comfortable. One of the ways that companies have been doing this is by offering a dark mode and a low light UX.

This helps reduce eye fatigue and eye strain, especially in low light conditions – which many of us have become accustomed to, especially as remote work has become the norm. At the time of writing, Google (1st), YouTube (2nd), Facebook (3rd), and Twitter (4th) all offer some form of built-in dark mode functionality, yet it is far from a common offering from the rest of the names on the list.

For example, Instagram (5th), Wikipedia (7th), and Yahoo (9th) all clearly state that they do not offer a dark mode for their users at the time of writing, instead suggesting that desktop users must download third-party browser extensions to serve up dark versions of their designs. It seems likely that this stance will begin to change at some point in the future.

Interactive Web Elements

In recent times, interactive, moving website features have grown in popularity, and this user experience animation trend will continue to be at the center of responsive web designs in 2022. One of the primary reasons businesses use interactive components in their web design is to help with the storytelling experience.

Any marketer will tell you that one of the simplest and most reliable ways to build relationships and develop a shared understanding between a consumer and a brand (or even a particular product or service) is storytelling. As it turns out, web animation elements appear to be one of the finest ways to accomplish this. In fact, web animation, according to Viget, improves a consumer’s understanding of a product or service by 74%, with features like video, GIFs, SVGs, and CSS transitions all being excellent ways to instantly engage a user and create excitement around the subject of the content.

Samsung, currently ranked 41st on the list of top websites, is a great example of this. On their homepage, Samsung has a variety of eye-catching interactive web elements, most of which are designed to showcase their products and demonstrate their value to potential buyers. When you visit their site, one of the first things you will see is a video reel, which means that almost every person who visits the site will gain an impression of the products that Samsung is trying to promote.

Breaking the Mold

As we touched upon earlier, the overarching web design trend in recent times has emphasized simplicity and minimalism. While these sleek designs may look the part, they offer little personality and originality. Looking towards the rest of 2022, there’s a strong chance that we will witness a reversion to some of the more retro styles that we experienced in the early 2000s and a renewed focus on the user experience and topics such as gender equality and inclusivity.

About the Author

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Mirko Humbert

Mirko Humbert is the editor-in-chief and main author of Designer Daily and Typography Daily. He is also a graphic designer and the founder of WP Expert.