13 Trends Impacting Every Web Designer

Fraser McCulloch - Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Sometimes you cannot see the woods from the trees or you need to look down at the ground from 10,000 feet in the air to gain a real perspective on your marketplace, competition or situation.

That’s what I’ve attempted to do for myself and share a 10,000 feet view by analysing and interpreting trends that Google and SEMRUSH data provides.

On purpose, I have omitted any references to the brand I am partnered with, Adobe Business Catalyst, in order that I can analyse and interpret these trends as objectively as I possibly can.

Quick links to each trend impacting web designers

Research Methodology

First, I searched terms using Google Trends.

Then I used SEMRUSH to get search traffic estimates from the USA plus 2 other search phrases related to the main search phrase.

Data Source

All the data is sourced from the Google Trends website which measures the interest over time for web searches. The data was exported from Google Trends in CSV format to Excel where I used exponential smoothing to smooth out the trends lines and then I imported the data into PiktoChart to create graphs similar to Google Trends.


I used SEMRUSH.com to check search volumes and to ensure I used the most popular, relevant and related search phrases.

Search Location

Even though I am based in the UK I used the United State of America as the search location.

How to read the graphs

As Google explain “The numbers that appear show total searches for a term relative to the total number of searches done on Google over time. A line trending downward means that a search term's relative popularity is decreasing. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the total number of searches for that term is decreasing. It just means its popularity is decreasing compared to other searches.

Trends and Interpretation

The following is my interpretation of these trends based on my knowledge and experience.

You may draw other conclusions or you may quite simply disagree with me and that’s perfectly fine.

If you do wish to comment, please leave a comment in the box at the foot of the page so everyone else can learn from our different views and perspectives.

Wordpress v Wix v Squarespace v Shopify Trend

Wordpress v Wix v Shopify Trends

I have selected and analysed what I believe to be the top 4 content management systems that are used for websites.

Wordpress dominates the content management system market with Wix, SquareSpace and Shopify making some small dents in what is a very fragmented market.

I had to double check my research when I thought I’d forgotten to include Drupal, Magento and Joomla but these systems have only a tenth or twentieth of the interest that Wix, Shopify and Squarespace have.

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Web Design and Web Designers Trend

Web Design and Web Designers Trend

Perhaps the most worrying trend amongst all these graphs is the significant decline in interest in the search terms ‘web design’ and ‘web designer’.

As the market has matured and alternatives have emerged over the past 10 years, businesses and individuals are seeking alternatives to web designers.

This insight can be crossed referenced with the first chart that shows Wordpress and other CMS solutions continuing to grow in interest.

Any web savvy individual can now buy or download a Wordpress template or theme and have a fairly basic web site design without the need for a web designer.

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Web Development Trend

Web Development Trends

Whilst there are not as many searches for ‘web developer’ related search terms in comparison to web design search terms, the decline in interest for both over time is fairly consistent.

Again this could be the market maturing and do it yourself alternatives, website templates and Wordpress themes that are changing the way businesses and individuals search, specify and buy.

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Website Builder Trend

Website Builder Trends

What is strikingly obvious is the yellow line for the search term ‘free website’ showing a decline in those interested in a free website.

That’s a good trend for web designers and developers and my insight about this trend would be that people and businesses are starting to realise that there is less value in a free website.

Nevertheless, there are still 146,000 searches for free website, free website builder, how to make a website and website builder.

These types of searches may originate from beginners or novices who must have some kind of pre-conceived notion that websites can be free.

Educating a new user and shifting their perception from free to paid website needs to be at the core of a web designer’s marketing approach.

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Responsive Web Design and Frameworks Trend

Responsive Web Design and Frameworks Trends

You can see that from 2011 responsive web design emerged and started growing steadily as web designers and web developers had to create websites that worked in all browsers; especially since mobile phone usage started to explode.

Bootstrap is by far the dominant responsive framework and still growing in interest over the alternatives.

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Responsive Web Design versus Photoshop Trend

Responsive Web Design versus Photoshop Trends

Photoshop has been on a downward trend since 2010 and that could be as a result of the shift towards responsive frameworks and in the browser web and design tools such as Webflow and Canva or their shift to a SAAS business model.

If you combine the 3 highest and most recent ‘Photoshop’ search phrases you’ll see that 13% or 90,500 searches of the total 675500 ’Photoshop’ searches are those looking for a free options.

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Canva and DIY Design Trend

Canva and DIY Design Trends

Around 2014 a free 'in the browser design tool' was introduced called Canva.com and the interest in their solution has expanded to around 90,000 searches per month.

With their low monthly payment plan, Canva is the leading do it yourself in the browser design tool with users not only designing website and social media graphics but also flyers and brochures; previously the domain of the graphic and web designer.

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Webflow v Macaw v Froont v Adobe Muse Trend

Webflow v Macaw v Froont v Adobe Muse Trends

Next I wanted to analyse those interested in ‘in-browser web design’ tools from emerging brands such as Webflow, Macaw, Front and Adobe Muse.

Adobe Muse made the first impact in the market in 2011 with the introduction of a page layout styled web design solution aimed at traditional graphic designers.

The initial spike in interest would have been aided by Adobe leveraging all their brand might and, after the initial boost, Muse retains a consistent level of interest, presumably from graphic designers offering clients basic websites and hosting; courtesy of big brother Adobe Business Catalyst.

I am rather surprised Webflow has not generated more interest and impact amongst web designers as it is a very powerful front-end designer tool.

Perhaps Photoshop is still the designer’s weapon of choice (like the old days when you couldn't get fired for buying an IBM) or because Webflow is still in its infancy and has only reached the early adopters.

I am sure a huge web brand will snap them up in the near future (just like InVision recently purchased Macaw) now that Webflow have introduced a content management system to complement their design tool.

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Mailchimp and Email Marketing Solutions Trend

Mailchimp and Email Marketing Solutions Trends

Email is the leading currency of all digital communication.

I referred to email marketing in my blog post, The Red Bus Rule, which explained that email hasn’t really changed in 30 years and remains the main tool for digital marketing.

Whilst Constant Contact was the leading provider in email marketing solutions in the early part of the 21st century, around 2010 Mailchimp began to grow and it has emerged in 2016 as the email solution with the greatest interest.

I can’t speak for Constant Contact as I used Adobe’s own built in email marketing module but MailChimp does do email marketing well.

The novice can use Mailchimp, it integrates with most leading content management systems and it has an enterprise level offering for large companies.

The entry level features within Mailchimp ensures an individual or business owner does not need a web designer or web developer to send an email marketing campaign.

Simply use one of their pre-built email design templates, add content, preview, test and send.

However at the other, enterprise, end of the solution, that is where web designers and developers can really shine.

MailChimp have integration options that allow email to be connected with 3rd party CMS databases and website for synchronising email campaigns, managing users, tracking campaign performances, open rates and purchase rates.

Yet again the ‘do it yourself’ trend is eating into the web designers territory.

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SEO v Adwords Trend

SEO and adword trends

SEO or search engine optimization is the art and skill of ranking web pages near the top of the search engines.

I wanted to compare the interest in SEO/Search Engine Optimization with the interest in Pay Per Click and Adwords - Google’s system for operating online advertising on a pay per click basis.

I like to tell clients that they have 2 options to generate website traffic; the slow option is SEO and the fast option is pay per click advertising.

SEO in blue and search engine optimization in red grew in interest between 2004 and 2010 but the interest levels have remained static since 2010 to date.

Interest in Adwords and Google Adwords exactly mirrors the interest in SEO whilst the term PPC has lost considerable interest over the time frame.

I believe this is a result of Google branding PPC as Adwords.

For the web designer, who has a large hand in SEO, this trend pinpoints that web designers, if they can, need to leverage Adwords for their clients.

Whilst Adwords may not always be in their basket of tools or natural skill set, this graph does outline the importance to business owners in running both SEO and Adwords campaigns; when budgets allow.

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Facebook v Twitter v Adwords Trend

Facebook v Twitter v Adwords Trend

Taking SEO out of my analysis and comparing Adwords with other forms of digital advertising, such as the interest in Facebook Advertising and Twitter Advertising, the chart shows the interest in the latter two advertising solutions doesn’t hold the same interest level; at the moment.

When you combine the top 3 search phrases PPC, Adwords and Google Adwords, there are around 500,000 searches a month in the USA compared to 27,000 for Facebook Advertising and 17,000 for Twitter Advertising.

However, those using Facebook or interested in Facebook advertising may not need to look outside the platform so this comparison could be skewed.

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Landing Page Software Trend

Landing Page Software Trends

A landing page is a web page that the user will land on after they click your advertisement.

As Google Adwords and pay per click has matured, smart technologists and advertisers figured out that if they could improve their web pages they could improve their advertising metrics; cost for enquiry, cost per lead, cost per sale and cost per customer.

If you want to know more about buying traffic and using landing pages I suggest you read Seth Godin’s free ebook called Knock Knock.

A whole new industry has emerged to cater for pre-built, proven, high converting landing pages.

Unbounce was probably the first solution I noticed 3/4 years ago but more recently Leadpages emerged as the most interesting brand.

I thought that the emergence of Facebook’s Lead Ads, that does not require 3rd party landing page software, would impact the growth of Leadpages.

Not the case.

Leadpages boasted 40,000 subscribers in their email newsletter of the 10th March when they introduced their page drag and drop builder.

A similar trend that I noticed was the introduction of Elegant Themes Divi Builder, a drop and drag page builder plugin for Wordpress.

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Copy Writing v Content Marketing v Infographics Trend

Copy Writing v Content Marketing v Infographics Trends

There is one thing that 100% of all websites require and that is content. Be it words, images or video content, every single website needs content in order to provide solutions to users and gain visibility and traffic in the search engines.

Copywriters were once the mainstay of written website content however, from 2010, the general term ‘content marketing’ has emerged and grown more in interest that copywriting.

One subset of content marketing that has grown in interest when ‘content marketing’ emerged is the term ‘infographics’.

Infographics are information in a graphical format.

These graphics tend to be longer image designs to communicate key facts or a message quicker and more succinctly that the written word.

Whilst we know from research today that long form content ranks higher in Google, infographics are quicker to read and share for the time poor consumer or individual.

Looking at the interest in ‘infographics’ and the earlier graph showing the growing interest in ‘Canva’, a solution to create infographics, yet again highlights the shift from professional designer to ‘do it yourself’.

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Embed the Infographic with this code

All the charts are combined on one ultra long infographic

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Implications For Web Designers

All 13 trends indicate a shift away from professional web design to the amateur ‘do it yourself’ mindset due to the emergence of various easy to use DIY web (hosted) tools.

Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis’s character in the movie There Will Be Blood) ranted “my straw reaches across the room and starts to drink your milkshake. I... drink... your... milkshake.

In other words, a new form of competition is taking business away from web designers and developers.

The impact of this do it yourself trend makes it harder for web designers to attract clients and impacts their income.

However there are still unlimited opportunities for web professionals; designers should see these trends as opportunities not threats.

1. Address the ‘do it yourself’ issue with paid for training courses or paid for help, support and advice.

2. Get into content marketing. This article and infographic personally took me 3 days to research, write and produce. That’s four figures if I billed a client for such work.

3. You can earn more from well needed ongoing SEO than a small cheap Wordpress website. Figure out what a client is willing to pay for 1, 10, 100 new customers. If I sell a website for £5k, I’d happily pay someone £500 for the client’s business.

4. Charge a monthly ‘conductor’ fee - think of each web tool I mentioned as instruments, alone they are just noisy, when used together they can attract an audience willing to pay and listen.

5. Don’t be a jack of all trades; pick 2 or 3 of the solutions I've discussed and leverage the customer bases these platforms have established.

For example, PiktoChart, I know the graphics on this page aren't the best and I probably needed some help yet I couldn't see any designers that specialised in PiktoChart.

Contrast that experience with Webflow.

I found an awesome front end web designer that showcased his work in the Webflow community and I paid him a good fee for great design work; and he got repeat business from me.

Want a copy or different coloured version of these trend charts ?

If you want the raw data or plain white version of these charts in PNG or JPEG format, simply get in touch or leave a comment below.

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