Web design is a constantly evolving animal, and it should remain so. But every now and then we sit back and take notice of design techniques that show up more and more often in that evolution, and learn from their strengths and weaknesses. And trends are just that movements in web design that for one reason or another begin to pick up speed. Those who spend their lives on the web (like me) start seeing certain elements of these trends repeated over and over again, and sometimes we see those trends lose steam and bottom out. In any discussion of design trends, you’re bound to get a bit of backlash from web professionals who prefer either to push the envelope outside current trends or to lean on stripped-down techniques and a simple approach. Either way, here are the top five trends I’ve noticed as a casual web observer.

Eye-Catching Entry Pages with Moving Parts

5 Top Trends in Web Design
I started seeing this trend most often on the websites of photographers (see an everyday example here). Once I took notice of it, though, I started seeing it everywhere as a way of adding something splashy to an otherwise straightforward site. For instance, the design of the Westbury Library site in New York is straightforward throughout, yet still manages to draw you in through an eye-catching intro with elements moving across the screen. While splash pages have been called a no-no by Smashing Magazine, the mag did admit they served some purposes, particularly if you hybridize them and incorporate navigation functions so they don’t bomb in user-friendliness. No-no or not, splash pages and eye-catching intros with moving parts are a trend that’s not going away any time soon.

Sites Built Using HTML5

5 Top Trends in Web Design
HTML5 and other emerging technologies will continue to change the face of web design for those who are willing to set aside their old bag of tricks for a while and learn how to use them. Here’s one built using HTML5 I picked up off of a site dedicated to finding other sites using this technology. Of course, the site that popularized this technology is the ubiquitous Wilderness Downtown site.

Sites with a Huge Central Image

5 Top Trends in Web Design
No sooner do you go to a site, then BOOM. You have a huge, central image dominating the page, with all content/navigation tools placed along the fringes. For designers who hold with Smashing Magazine that splash pages and too many moving parts in an intro will take users too long to load or are otherwise not user-friendly, using this approach provides the same visual impact. South Bay Law Firm’s website provides an everyday example of this.

Horizontal Scrolling

5 Top Trends in Web Design
Smashing Mag picked up on this trend earlier this year, and I agree that I’ve been seeing a whole lot more of this. Instead of users scrolling down vertically like we’ve come to expect on the web, sites are now spreading out east to west, or horizontally, which allows for pretty cool visual effects. The site for The Horizontal Way showcases just how great this technique can be. My favorite pick from this site is the band Evanescence’s UK site.

Use of White Space

5 Top Trends in Web Design
Blame it on the minimalist movement, but more and more designers are using open and less boxy layouts that are uncluttered and simple. The difference between these sites and overly simplistic ones, though, is that these designers do it on purpose. Good examples are here and here.