5 October 2009 | Team Tamar

Web design trends 2009

I have written a previous post on common web design trends last year, as it is important to keep in touch with what is happening in the web design industry – to remain cutting edge in the designs that you produce. So it would be interesting to see what is popular for 2009.


One popular design trend that doesn’t seem to be losing any steam is the increased use of large background images, that sit behind the main page content. Thereby filling the usually unused areas to the left and right of the website content borders.

Not so long ago, designs such as these would have been highly frowned upon. Particularly since using large and highly detailed – therefore memory intensive – images, fly directly in the face of recommended good design practice. Web designers have always been taught to keep image file sizes down to minimum, to reduce page loading times. This is a clear reflection in changing designer attitudes, primarily due to the ever-increasing uptake in the number of households worldwide, who have broadband internet connections. Perhaps, also due to an increase in the use of both larger and higher resolution monitors or screens that provide increased viewing space.

The use of a surrounding background image can really enhance a website’s design. Particlularly when these background images are cleverly and seemlessly intergrated into the overall website design.


An increased use of PNG transparency, has coincided with the increase use of background imagery. So that textual content can sit on top, without obscurring the view of the background image.

Another trend is the use of embossed text, in particular for main headings. This gives the effect that the text has been carved out of – much in the same way that you would engrave wording into a say a trophy – or stamped into the web page.

One trend I identified in my previous 2008 web design trends post, was the increase use of over-sized RSS logos. This trend looks set to continue, in addition to the widespread use of social media bookmarking icons. Recently, it is not uncommon to find ‘follow me on Twitter’ links being displayed prominently at the top of websites – a direct result of the increasing popularity of Twitter.

The love affair with grungy/urban looking sites, which utilise collage style designs, looks set to continue too. As does the use of oversized typography.

Light boxes are a common sight nowadays, and are a visually appealing alternative to the mundane popup box. Light boxes are good, because they focus the users attention away from any surrounding content, by fading out the background. Popular uses are for forms, which require some sort of user feedback, and image galleries. There has been a general increase in the drive to offer a richer user experience. Whereby websites are becoming more like desktop applications, in terms of appearance and features, the use of Ajax and Javascript Libraries.

Quite interesting is the ongoing desire shown by designers to push outside the standard ‘box model’ structure that was popular in the 1990s (mainly due to the fact that many of the standard design methods used today were not thought of at the time). For example there is an increase in the use of negative left margins through CSS, to position headers, so that they overlap the left content border.

Another interesting trend is in the use of water-colour effect designs… whether they be created using visual design software or whether they are scanned in hand-created artwork. These designs offer a breath of fresh and innovative approach and provide much needed invigoration to the web design community.

The widespread use of blog template software, in particular WordPress, has increased the popularity of author avatars – even when the website has not been created via WordPress. Showing author avatars, gives a website a more personal feel and highly reflects the explosion in the social media scene on the web.

Of course there are always those who choose to go ‘against the tide’ and not follow any current design trends. As odd as this may seem to some – the fact that they willingly choose to do their own thing. Sometimes it is these designers, who end up setting the design trends of the future.

Team Tamar

  • http://www.fiverdesign.co.uk Jamie Giberti

    Really nice sum up of what’s going on at the moment around the design part of the web, good job.