The next phase of the internet has arrived in the 2023 web design trends. As ever, these digital trends are a reflection of emergent technology and its impact on society, and the past year gave designers plenty of material to work with.
There have been major advancements in AI—to the point that it can make its own art—and the Metaverse has pushed VR further into the mainstream. Web design trends that showcase immersion, simulation and cinematic techniques have followed. At the same time, a global recession has inspired both a retreat from opulence and push towards joyful, escapist experiences. And all of this has occurred under the backdrop of the Big Flat Now, where the internet and mobile phones have reached a zenith in worldwide availability. The result is web design trends that are less constrained to the immediate and the local, as aesthetic innovation becomes a fast-paced, global effort.
With all of these factors at play, the following web design trends for 2023 are poised to rattle the very foundations of the World Wide Web.
The top 10 web designs for 2023 are:
- Animated product reveals
- Immersive 3D worlds
- Parallax zoom scrolling
- ’90s navigation
- Scrapbook aesthetic
- Overlapping text
- Typographic layouts
- Rehabilitating the 404
Hover animations have always been useful for subtle micro-interactions, keeping the visitor passively engaged. But in 2023, web designers are going even bigger with hover animations, transforming ordinary page elements into dazzling product reveals.
This trend accomplishes several goals at once. It supports speed browsing, as the visitor can quickly review a product without clicking into another page. It animates the product, providing a teaser of how it might be used. It bolsters a minimal interface, showing photos one at a time and keeping the page free of image clutter. It can introduce a new foreground dimension to the site, animating product photos on top of the existing page.
And finally, like most surprise interactions, these hover animations create a feeling of discovery, making the visitor want to keep exploring to find even more reveals.
Last year, many websites favored immersive scrolling experiences that pulled viewers into the page. Partially thanks to a continued interest in VR tech, this trend has now evolved into completely immersive websites—fully rendered 3D worlds.
Immersion gimmicks are nothing new, but rarely do they go so far as to take the user on a journey through digital space with the smooth tracking of a crane camera. And while audio techniques used to be considered a tacky relic of the early internet, subtle music is making a comeback in order to add a cinematic touch. Because audio does still come with accessibility challenges, most websites will ask for permission to play music before loading the page.
This trend takes a great deal of effort to pull off—sometimes necessitating 3D modeling and sound mixing—so it is most useful for one-off campaigns, as seen in the Coach x Tom Wesselman product line. While these website worlds tend to be more stylistic than realistic, that is exactly what makes them appealing—they are imaginative, escapist spaces that users will want to lose themselves in. At their best, they challenge the many stale layouts that orient the page around a CTA button. These websites trust the visual experience to leave a lasting mark on visitors instead.
“Less is more” has been digital law for decades now, mandating that websites should be intuitive to the point that users don’t have to think. In the recent past, many designers have rebelled against these constraints through anti-design and the reinvention to the gaudy interfaces of Web 1.0. But for 2023, rebellion against UX minimalism is digital maximalism—designs aiming for complete overstimulation.
Design via Les Mecs Au Camion
This trend declares all-out war on white space, customizing nearly every page element. A single web page may have animated backgrounds, animated foregrounds, oversized typography, hover and click effects, flashing images and splashes of color all at once. The effect is to create websites that are not only rebellious but expressive, novel and unashamedly weird. It takes engagement and entertainment to impressive new heights, prioritizing experience over intuitive navigation to incentivize exploration.
The parallax effect is an animation technique wherein the foreground elements move faster than the background elements, creating a sense of realism and depth. It has been a popular web design aesthetic for a few years now, but 2023’s websites are specifically favoring parallax zoom scrolling.
Instead of scrolling horizontally or vertically, this parallax scroll takes the visitor inward or outward from the horizon line, creating a sudden three-dimensional movement. As a zoom effect, it mirrors the ease of zooming that apps like TikTok have given video creators. It also has clear ties to the immersive worlds and overstimulation trends: one simple scroll makes visitors feel as though they are being taken on a ride into the unknown.
’90s retro became a big theme in the web design trends of last year—an expression of the collective longing for the innocence of the early internet. In 2023, that trend shows no signs of abating. Designers are now ramping up their creative interpretation of nostalgia, with a particular emphasis on navigation.
Nostalgic navigation can manifest in very literal ’90s design techniques, such as pixelated desktop icons or bright menu color blocks. It can also incorporate bygone artifacts from the ’90s, as seen in SIRUP’s clever CD tower navigation menu. Both of these styles rely on sense memory, that of sorting through stacked cases by hand or clicking through an outmoded, yet familiar, interface.
But even in the absence of sense memory, the trend can still entice younger users, creating a digital facsimile of a world they did not get to experience. In general, nostalgia is always useful for giving audiences the warm fuzzies, especially when faced with trying times. But its inclusion in navigation might also suggest that we are moving forward by taking cues from the past.
This past year saw massive technological advances, culminating in the highly anticipated launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. But with futurism often comes a desire to reclaim the natural world. In 2023’s websites, this impulse is manifesting through scrapbook and DIY elements.
These web pages often include doodle drawings, handwritten lettering, sticker graphics, and cut-and-paste collages. Not only do these handmade elements recreate the tactile experience of scrolling through an old-school zine, they instill a sense of intimacy and imperfection in place of automated precision. But while the handmade aesthetic does oppose the gimmickry of more hi-tech trends, it is not living in denial of our technological reality. These designs are simply embracing both sides, the physical and the digital coexisting as one.
Web design has long been held hostage to the grid, where layouts are arranged in neat, even spaces and everything is in its right place. Web designers have been chafing against this imposed structure through rule-breaking techniques like last year’s Neo-brutalism, which softened the more avant garde qualities of traditional brutalism. These efforts seem to have paid off, as one of brutalism’s more common characteristics—that of overlapping and crowded text—is showing up consistently on the websites of 2023.
Even mainstream websites are now overlapping their page elements, putting typography over imagery to the point of near illegibility. Often, the website will maintain a polished aesthetic overall, and only certain headline text will overlap, creating a slight butalist effect. This is what gives the trend its mainstream appeal: it breaks up uniformity without allowing the entire page to descend into experimental chaos.
Even if the trend does sacrifice some immediate readability, the sheer scale of the headline renders the effect temporary at best. Instead, this trend catches the eye with a stylized headline reminiscent of magazine cover lettering. Overall, this trend is a sign that rule-breaking is becoming more broadly acceptable as just about everyone seems bored to death of the same, neatly ordered layouts.
One of the best advantages to digital design is its capacity for multimedia, where text, images, video, animation and interactive elements can exist in the same composition. In spite of this, many of 2023’s web designers are foregoing multimedia altogether in favor of largely textual layouts.
Many of our current clients prefer strong typographic layouts in web design. The idea is that when bold fonts are used as primary elements in designs, they capture the viewer’s attention quickly to make them stay on the page.
The result is a throwback print magazine aesthetic, and it may be a byproduct of the fact that many publications are going digital to avoid rising printing costs and the environmental toll. Whatever the case, typographic layouts support efficient minimalism: these websites have something to say, and they don’t waste the visitor’s time in saying it. They also give their visitors some intellectual credit, understanding that impactful words and creative text arrangements can be just as engaging as attention-hungry visuals.
The 404 error page is the dreaded destination of any website, the place to which you are sent when you can’t find what you were looking for. While web designers have long seen the page as an opportunity for a funny graphic or some light-hearted copy, the 404 pages of 2023 are going all in on entertainment. Through engaging animations and interactive mini-games, these 404 pages actively encourage visitors to stick around.
The old 404 page should not be an afterthought. It can be used as a way to show your brand’s personality. Easter eggs and quirky 404s are popping up more and more. It is what can spin a bad experience into something to remember.
Like the overstimulation trend, this aesthetic makes sure that even undesirable but necessary pages are geared towards amusement. But it accomplishes so much more than that. It is part of a wider impulse to create positivity in moments of frustration. When there are so many depressing events happening in the world everyday, web designers naturally want to do their part. A fun 404 page design might not change the world, but it can be a small, good thing—digital joy taking the place of human error.
Ready for the 2023 web design trends?
The 2023 web design trends are a diverse group, reflecting many simultaneous impulses at once. Parallax zooms, overstimulation and immersive worlds are pushing the boundaries of digital tech and what constitutes a website. Scrapbook elements, 90s navigation and typographic layouts are grounding the internet in the tactile memory of the past. And interactive 404 pages are serving up entertainment and surprise moments of positivity.
Like the real world, the web can sometimes be a dark place, where information is warped and outrage fuels attention. Design alone cannot solve this, but it can offer users a tool to make their lives a little bit easier. And these web design trends aspire for much more, giving visitors artful experiences and memorable interactions.