Trends In Website Design

Is your website overdue for an overhaul?

It used to be cool to have a white website with a light gray font. It was even cooler if the font required a magnifying glass to read it.
This was the rage, oh, about 12 years ago. Then we realized how hard it is to read tiny pale fonts.
Artists also latched on to black backgrounds for their sites thinking it made the work “pop,” when it actually did the opposite: weighed down and overpowered the art. Black backgrounds with light text, we have discovered, are also notoriously difficult to read.
Things change. Are you adapting?

The Art Biz Coach home page from January of 2005 looks dated with the small images, dense text, and out-of-control menu.
The Art Biz Coach home page from January of 2005 looks dated with the small images, dense text, and out-of-control menu.

The average age of Internet users has skyrocketed. Older eyes just don’t have the capabilities of younger eyes.
We understand that it’s not cool – no matter how good we think it looks – to have a website that people can’t read.

Have You Noticed?

If you spend any time at all surfing the Web and reading articles online, you’ve surely noticed that font sizes are on steroids these days. They’re bigger than ever – not just the headlines, but the paragraph text as well.
Ditto for images.
Thanks to Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram, images are finally getting the respect they deserve online. Good riddance to postage-stamp-sized images. Images that take up the entire width of a page make an impact.
You can take advantage of this trend because your gift to the world is visual.
We’re no longer afraid to scroll. We realize that it’s a delight to be wowed by large, beautiful images, and we’ll keep scrolling if our interest has been sufficiently piqued.
Remember that space is good. Claustrophobia takes hold when sites are cluttered. This isn’t a desired state for your viewers.
It’s not just aging eyes that have led to these new trends. It’s mobile marketing.
More than 50% of all email is opened first on a mobile device (this report says 65%!). Have you ever tried to read a newsletter or Web page with a bunch of dense text, multiple columns, and tiny images on your phone? Have you tried clicking on a small link nestled in between other links? You probably didn’t get very far.

I’m No Expert

The only research I conducted to write this article was to verify the email-viewing statistic for mobile. Everything else I’ve shared is based on observation.
I have noticed that when I visit most artists’ sites, they look dated compared to the other sites I am landing on. I’m not saying you have to do what everyone else is doing. I’m just saying you should pay attention.
If the trend is for more space, larger images, and bigger fonts, how will people feel when they land on your cramped site with tiny pictures?
Or your page with no images? What are they seeing when they view it on their mobile devices?

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74 thoughts on “Trends In Website Design”

    1. Dorothy, I like the first impression of your site, but I’d definitely make the links a darker yellow. The current bright yellow has too little contrast with the background.

    2. Thanks for the input, Nela. I can try to find a deeper tone, The contrast looks fine on my computer but colors can vary, for sure, so I really appreciate knowing that it’s too light for you!

    3. I think your website is beautiful, Dorothy, as are your paintings. The yellow links work for me, for what it’s worth. I would figure out how to get rid of the “powered by Website builder” in the footer. I had to do that on my site, as I didn’t want it to be an ad for the template I used.

    4. Dorothy, I really liked your website and your paintings. Just an FYI–when I clicked on the link for the garlic, it took me to the Red Cabbage and Vintage Stripes page. The links and more information about the pieces on a separate page is a really good idea.

    5. Yikes! Sherri, thanks so much for letting me know! I will fix that link ASAP. I am slowly adding descriptions of each work, as I had on my old website. It takes awhile but adds interest and people seem to enjoy learning something about the inspiration or challenges for each piece.

    6. Dorothy, thought I’d also add my two cents worth. I too like your site design. The yellowish links also were a bit hard on the eyes for me too. I liked the color for your social links. It picks up the color in the top book of your still life on your home page. What about using that color? I’m biased. I like green. One other thing. Are you able to go in and add title tags in the header of your html? The title tag is what tells search engines what your site is about. Yours says Home. OK home for what? This is important for search engines to find you as well as others who may search for your work. Think of yourself as someone who is searching for your type of work and doesn’t know your name. What search terms or key words would you try in order to find it? Do that for each page. So maybe think about using “realistic still life oil paintings by Dorothy Lorenz” using your most important key words at the front of the title. Typical title should be kept to 70 characters including spaces and don’t repeat title tags, make them different for each page of your site.

  1. Hi Dorothy,
    I like the look and feel of your site but my 50 year old eyes are having a problem reading the gold links on the light gray of your about page. I see why you’re using that color, it keeps it consistent with the menu bar at the top of the page but I find it difficult to read.
    I did really enjoy looking at your portfolio page, just beautiful work.
    All the Best,

    1. Thanks Lori,
      I appreciate you taking the time to look and let me know. (and especially thanks for the compliment 😉 !) I’m just now realizing that the color is not showing up for others as well as I see it on my computer, so this is really good input.
      And…Thank you Alyson, for providing the article and a chance to get feedback!!!
      all best,

  2. I think my website is pretty good, bigger font size, large size images, and it’s clean and simple.
    I’d love to link paintings in my gallery to another page, so I can show close-ups and interior display images of the same painting, and then add e-commerce.
    And I need to re-write my artist statement and change the slogan, too.
    So much to do, so little time, Alyson!

  3. Huge sliders of photos or art seem to be trendy now, but I found that it just doesn’t work for my art. Most of my art is portrait oriented, so when I crop it to a horizontal strip, the images don’t look compelling at all.
    So I guess I’m going to remain looking “dated” until I figure out a better way to feature images on my homepage! 🙂

    1. Hey Nela — What if you used your image on the left (fitted to the height) with a solid background behind fitted to the slider size – and used some type in the negative space on the right to write the name of the piece or something like that? Then you won’t have to crop if, but still have the option to use sliders 🙂

    2. Thanks for the suggestion, Julie!
      I experimented with that option as well, but since most of my images are vertical or square that leaves *a lot* of whitespace. Basically the header would consist of 70% whitespace and 30% image – not the best solution 🙂
      I used to have intro text alongside of the image, but I changed my mind about that.
      I’m still looking for the best solution.

    3. Hey Jan,
      I know the technical side 🙂 but I’m talking about optimizing for landscape format. Vertical images leave a lot of whitespace around them.

    4. Actually, the latest trend for displaying images are showing images in grid form in a square format, and to click on the image to see the full image in a larger size. is a prime example. Key is allowing the images to be big enough to be seen in the grid. Sliders not the top trend, but they are still commonly used.
      Ultimately, it’s finding a format that shows off your work best!

    5. Hi Jillian,
      I didn’t mean gallery display, I meant on the homepage – as you can see on the 500px homepage, there is a huuuuge photo in the background, and there is a “cover photo” on all profiles.
      Sometimes the homepage images change (like a slider), sometimes they don’t. But huge horizontal images in headers are the trend now.
      Regarding square thumbs in a gallery display, it’s been like that for a long time, perhaps people are only making them bigger now than before.
      I have square thumbs in my gallery too, I prefer that to having variable sized images that look messy 🙂

    1. I would not advise people to use a highly saturated color on their background, but in your case it really goes well with your paintings! 🙂
      I’ve found that I use the burgundy color of my background in my art often as well.

  4. I have to laugh! I have really noticed there is a trend online with the top sites to be white again. That is what I am doing with my site right now. Difference now is that it is all about creating a clean graphic approach. And as artists, we should make sure it is our work that stands out front and center. I do like what I am seeing now with design… It’s getting a lot more pleasant visually.

  5. I’ve noticed this as well, that artists (and everyone else) is going to larger images. I’ve been experimenting with two different website templates which provide for larger images. I’ve made the first of the new templates “live” this morning. In a day or two I’ll make the other template “live”. Would love any feedback!

  6. Great comments so far and what a great subject, Alyson!
    Big images are happening partly because we have faster computers and faster servers than ever before. When I built my first website in the early 90’s, most (if not all home users) of the world used dial-up! For the young among us, it was just using the normal phone line fax modem and a page like this would have taken 3 or 4 mins to load up. Remember thumbnails? LOL.
    I looked at several (maybe all?) of the websites from the posters so far and… While most are lovely (because you are selling art, not hammers and saws), many are probably close to impossible to navigate on a phone. Some will even be hard to use on a tablet. I hope I never have to strain to read white text on a dark background again. Well… actually, I never will have to strain – I click away every time. “places to go… people to see….!”
    Keep links large and high contrast. Keep background colors as pale as possible and use white as the BEST practice. Consider using buttons like the ones that are used for the JOIN NOW! at the top right hand column. A big link with strong bold easy to read CTA will be an important tool as the screens get smaller: Think wrist watch sized! OMG! I am sure there are web designers working on that now!
    And as for the BLACK backgrounds (or anything dark) making pics pop: I never understood why that was hip when no one has black walls and rarely even dark colors. So the average viewer was not getting the “right picture” or the emotional connection that lighter backgrounds help to foster on subconscious levels.

  7. Very useful feedback McKenna. I’m going to try a different template for my website – I’ll have live tomorrow. You’ve got a point, that even if a website is responsive, there are still issues such as ease of navigation on a tablet/phone, whether the button/link text is easily readable on a tablet/phone, etc.

  8. I have been working on restructuring my site this Spring. I am compacting navigation and simplifying the art contents of my site. I earlier had made a header change. My banner is my logo which consists of my name (as I use it in art) in some calligraphic fonts. It was too hard to read and did not contrast enough with my page background color. I darkened the font and as soon as I did, I was asked if I’d lightened the background, too. I hadn’t, so it shows how a single change can seem like more.
    Ultimately I will be increasing my thumbnail sizes to 300 pix wide but for now will use 200 pix wide as that’s what the images are. For non-thumbnails I’m using 600 pix wide or greater.
    I can’t wait til I go live with these changes.

  9. Great topic. My blog is due for an overhaul, not in a serious design change
    way, but I need to add content (a shopping page). I just checked my blog on my phone and it is readable. Coming from the world of print, I am used to working with designers. The main question always is,”can the viewer read it?”
    I really want a blog or website to feel like a virtual magazine. If it’s beautiful, and straightforward, without too much going on all in one place,
    I am attracted. I like strong large pictures, and not a mosaic of little pictures to choose from. I guess the point is I look at blogs and websites for pleasure — so they need to please, like French decor, or Swedish decor blogs do. They are visually a complete treat.
    Add art to the equation and it matters whether or not the viewer can see it.
    My goal has been to keep the look of my blog simple. When the designer I’m working with has time we will amp it. This is a provocative topic, and now I know I’m going to dream about it, and think about what to change.

    1. Barbara: The great thing about using Blogger or WordPress is that they both have built-in plugins that convert to mobile. But it doesn’t mean that the links are always responsive (as Mckenna says above).

  10. I’ve been noticing more white backgrounds with clean, bold design. Much easier to read than the gray (and yes, I totally jumped on that bandwagon way back when).
    One thing I have noticed is that when reading on my phone, my feed reader (Bloglovin) automatically puts everything on a white background with a default font size. It’s definitely easier than zooming in on a non-responsive site design, but you start to think all blogs have exactly the same layout!

  11. Well mentioned pointers, also to put in more details I would like to share more about Website trends in 2014. Check the link below:

  12. Fascinating looking at everyone’s blogs and websites 🙂 We need to always be thinking about our online prescence as a work in progress.
    I’m reasonably happy with my blog – although I admit I’ve shied away from very large images because when I put them I feel like I’m shouting – but I’d like to tweak my front page some more.
    Having watched website design trends since the 90’s, it’s true that trends certainly come and go…I feel it’s a question of balance: not feeling you have to jump on every bandwagon – because unless you are a professional website designer or frequently spend a lot of money on design, the wagon will already be leaving town by the time you get on it – but keeping your design as fresh and clean as possible. As Alyson constantly reminds us, it’s the art that is important and should lead the whole design and not the other way round. What do you want people to remember when they think of your site: The design or your art?

  13. I just finished a website using Squarespace and was frustrated with how different my website looks on a phone as opposed to a laptop. Not much I can do as it’s a template but I’d appreciate the feedback if you all have any. I appreciate all the posters’ comments-so much great art out there!

  14. Hi folks…no matter what…make sure when a client clicks on the thumbnail to increase the image size; you automatically allow them to click the large image to return to your thumbnail page…..just saying!

  15. I too have been vexed with the transition from computer to phone with my “work in process” site.
    used pop up labels and they don’t work on IPHONE but do so on IPAD and computer… my web designer is looking at that. I see some sites that work so well on my phone with all the info about the art, that is my goal…
    and the ever important logo. Happy to be part of this discussion

  16. I have thought long & hard about this. My art website has continued as a work in progress from its inception back in 2006. It looks good to me and it is updated weekly. It works with an iPad and on my smartphone? just about!
    Its my website its how I want it and if it does not work on an iPhone I’m not worried.
    If you can’t read it use your screen magnification. It’s so simple!
    Grey print on white is the common default and you would think that black would be better for the visually impaired…It;s not! Too much contrast. If you want to see grey more bold tone down the brightness on your computer…don’t be lazy, it’s down to you the viewer.
    I would strongly recommend that you use the same simple plain font like Arial throughout as it’s easier to read for the visually impaired [as I am].
    As for advertising MrSite at the bottom of my screen..I’m pleased to be associated with them.

  17. Penny Overcash

    I do know that my website is completely in need of an overhaul – so glad you reminded me! I have been looking at new formats and providers and am pleased that I waited this long as I think I may have found what I need. I have a new computer and wish to integrate gallery pictures and video and have mobile images that are redly available on phones and pads as well. There are some GREAT places that make this happen – I am loving Sqaurespace and what they have to offer so I will be in building mode soon. I WILL put a notice on my existing website to let everyone know that I am in progress.
    There is nothing worse than having a hosting plan that is hard to use and even harder to get help from. As I am busy in the studio I need comprehensive and easy. I look so forward to a new look and to be able to write my thoughts and post pictures in a blog. Technology is amazing tool – I am trying to catch up!

  18. Great topic! I am curious about your point – “images that take up the entire width of a page make an impact”. I certainly agree. But is that an issue in regards to someone from copying them for personal use. I remember years ago being told to limit pixel size and dpi of images (e.g. 400-600px 72dpi,) so if anyone copied them they would be grainy if enlarged.
    Obviously on cell phones or laptop one can stretch the screen to enlarge or zoom in respectively, on an image. I try to have my images clear enough so when they are ‘enlarged’ the viewer can see detail in texture, color, etc. Presently I use about 800-900 px with 72dpi. This seems to allow for clear enlargement of detail when someone clicks on a gallery image to see it individually in its true size.
    To do away with the gallery format/enlargement to individual larges images is an interesting thought. Seems there could be an issue if one had lots of images!
    Alyson, are you thinking of any limitation when you encourage ‘bigger’ images?
    Was wondering what others consider to be ‘big’ and ‘safe’ in regards to pixels/dpi?

    1. Hi Nancy
      Lots of images?
      Break them up into collections:
      …buildings…doors…abstracts…miscellaneous…portraits…landscapes etc.
      Large images are fine but they are slow to load and take up a lot of broadband download space [fine if you are an an unlimited package]. This aspect is often forgotten!
      Perhaps offer to email them large specific images on request?

  19. Phil,
    Thanks for your input. Presently, having lots of images for my website is not an issue. I like the way you have put your work in various collections by subject matter. With an abstract style perhaps by color or size might be a good format for viewers’ interest.
    Great point about large images being slow to load for certain types of servers. I have found myself moving on if a website takes too long to load.
    If someone was interested in a piece, emailing them a larger image at their request, or my suggestion, might help make the sale. Even an image showing it “in sitsu” might be of benefit! In fact, I am in the process of developing an ‘in sitsu’ page for my website.

    1. Hi Nancy,
      Thank you for your insight, a second pair of eyes are always useful. I had been struggling with the large ‘Abstract Collection’ and I could see the need to split it up somehow.
      By size? mostly of similar size..would not work.
      By theme?…not helpful.
      By colour? It will work…As the colour is what I say it is!

  20. Thank you Alyson for this interesting and educational topic. Malayka, I liked your website so much I was going to look at using the same template you did. I have just sat down clicked on your link and you now have another one! So rereading your email I see you are trying a few. I really loved the initial one it was WOW!
    I have all the don’t dos on my website My issues are that it is a Wix website which doesn’t work with Pinterest and I need to make a second basic template for mobile devices. I have been paying for a wordpress site for 2 years but am yet to find the time to actually make it!

  21. I’m so happy to find this article! I recently invested about a month redoing my website to make it responsive and to get a good balance of images and “back stories” about the images as well as adding ecommerce. Because I make poured paintings with some unconventional techniques, the photographed story of the art making process becomes part of the art.
    Updating a site can be overwhelming. Too much to learn. I chose to invest in strong hosting, a good pre-fab wordpress theme, and to learn how to do all of the basic site upkeep myself rather than trying to code from scratch.
    @Nella-Do a google search for “responsive slider”. Paid-for options are available where you can choose easily type in your own custom image height and width–so portrait images don’t have to be horizontal. You don’t need to know CSS to use these. Hope that helps. 🙂
    If anyone has suggestions for my site, please let me know. It looks nice, but is getting very few visitors. I have many paintings that are not yet in the portfolio–I’m trying to curate these–but, other than that, I’m not sure what to change to get better traffic.

    1. Hey Kirsten, thanks for the tip, however that’s not what I meant… 🙂
      (by the way, I am a web designer, so I know all the techy stuff)
      My point is vertical images *don’t look good* in the header. There’s a lot unused space around the image.
      The trend today is to have the image fill the entire width of the page, and since our monitors are horizontal, so are the images. If you just keep the original aspect ratio, it’s not going to look as fancy as the wide backgrounds we see on other websites designed today.
      Never mind! 🙂
      Regarding your website, I’m not sure why you have a copyright notice right at the top in the blue strip? I would suggest using that space for the main navigation. Copyright notices usually go to the very bottom.
      For this reason it took me a minute to find your main menu”. It’s not where I expected it to be.
      Also, I’m not sure if that Houzz badge should be at the very top. Your entire content gets pushed down. Perhaps you could place it in the white content area somewhere?

    2. I see what you mean about the verticals now.
      I need to learn how to move the houzz badge, but that’s definitely on the list of what to do next. I’m using synthesis for a host which takes the “editor” part out of the wordpress menu, so I need to learn how to edit via FTP instead.
      The copyright notice came after I had an interior designer taking my images and putting them in her etsy store. I think I panicked a bit after that happened. But, you’re right–it’d be better off further down.
      Thanks for the tips. 🙂

  22. Thanks Anna for the feedback, yes I am currently trying the “Wells” template on Squarespace, and using a slider on the home page. I think it is a cleaner presentation than the full screen images when I was using the “forte” template. I also like that with Wells, when you go into each gallery, the images are much larger, at least on a desktop, than they are in the galleries with the “Forte” template.
    That’s interesting that you found the full-bleed full-screen images on my home page (with the Forte template) to be more of a “wow” factor. I’m wondering if the “wow” factor reduces bounce rate on the website, but a cleaner template (Wells) makes it easier for clients to sort through the images and options.
    Any feedback is appreciate. I have been enjoying this group of people and their expertise, I am new to it.

  23. Yes, good timing on this topic, as I just moved to a different state, and… based on a previous topic months ago, used this opportunity to rename my business with my own name in it. Consequently, for those reasons and because my old website is waaaaaay outdated (doesn’t even show my new work because I wasn’t able to maintain it myself – it is static), I need to create a new website. Speaking of large images… my computers are now becoming outdated, too, as when I try to open some of the emails sent for blogs, my computer stops at every image until (I guess) the image uploads or something? I’m not a computer expert, but I would guess that there are other people using slow computers like mine these days… and I am not computer savvy enough, nor do I have time, to create my own website. If I have to upgrade my computer AND create a new website… yikes. I need more income!

  24. I haven’t stopped tweaking my website since you posted this, so thanks for the inspiration Alyson!
    There is still more I’d like to do – including rearranging the categories under which I group my art to theme-based instead of media-based as it is now but – as my other half reminded me – if I do this I will end up with a lot of broken links, so it’s going to take some thinking through.
    So just a reminder to everyone that as you overhaul your site, don’t forget to do redirects for pages and run the site through an online link checker or you could end up with some very frustrated visitors.

  25. parisbreakfast

    wonderful post and subject!!
    Thanks so much Alyson.
    I can not figure out how to make my images larger on Blogger.
    I’m sure it’s a template issue(I use the basic from the year one)
    I upload original size pics so the subscription emails get big picture but then I have to go in and adit and reduce to what Blogger calls ‘large’ but is ridiculously small.
    Very unhappy and feel very out of step in the blogging world 🙁

    1. Carol: So good to see you here! I don’t know anything about Blogger, but it seems that your main column is very narrow. Maybe try widening that column and see what happens. Right now, your images are taking up the entire width – couldn’t get them any larger. You do a fantastic job with your blog!

  26. Well this article kick-started me in the pants to revise my website (which I had been planning on doing but kept putting it off).
    I still am working on the archives section but the rest of it is up and running if people want to check it out and give me some feedback. The new site is I wanted to make the site as user friendly, and easy to navigate as possible since I get a lot of people who find me online initially.
    I thought my old site looked too dark so I lightened this one up and made the images and text larger. And made a separate page for each artwork to help with search engines finding the images (before you would click on a thumbnail and you’d have a pop up window that showed the artwork larger along with a description).
    Thanks again for your post!

    1. Lynnette,
      Nicely done on your updated website!
      I too am planning to redo my website with a separate page for each painting. These separate pages showcase each piece a lot better. I also like the link-backs (‘return to’) that you set up on your individual artwork pages. Clear and smooth navigation.
      Wondered about your “Archives” section. What will that include? Are these sold paintings, earlier work, surplus…?

  27. HI Nancy
    Thanks for looking.
    The Archives section (which I am working on now!) is basically work from 2011 and earlier. Some of them are sold (just like some of my current works are sold) but I just put sold in their description or if they are available I put the price. These works I generally do not show out anymore (I usually only show works that are no more than two years old, however I do make exceptions if I have a really strong piece from earlier that for whatever reason never got in front of the right audience, and I still want to see if I can sell it at a show. So the archives section is really for people who either are really interested in that sort of thing or maybe people looking for more of a bargain (if a work has not sold after two years, unless I just re-framed it with a nice new frame, the price is a little bit lower – NOT a lot lower, but I did raise my prices this year on works that are newer, but the older works are either priced at my old price point or are priced to move. Since I no longer show these works at my galleries and also they may not be representative of where I am at now with my work, I figured that’s OK. We’ll see I guess?!
    Hope this helps and good luck with your new website!

  28. I am a fan of white backgrounds and dark fonts. I even have white curtains in my booth! I find a lot of mobile apps hard to navigate, especially if I’m used to navigating on their full website. So, I usually choose the option of viewing the full website even on my phone or tablet. Partly for that reason I haven’t created a mobile version of my website. I worked on my website earlier in the year to include an online shop. Let me know what you think!

  29. I just reworked my website using a new template to highlight my montage paintings. It uses a “full bleed” so the images are huge, but somewhat cropped. You don’t see the entire painting until you click on the “info” icon.

    1. I really like these, Malayka. But I’m not crazy about the fact that I can’t see thumbnails. I like to be able to see a bunch of work and decide what’s of interest. Just my two cents.

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Get a transcript of episode 182 of The Art Biz (Rethinking Mailing Lists for Artists) followed by a 3-page worksheet to evaluate the overall health and usage of the 3 types of artist lists.

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