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We’ve reached the half-way point in the year, and more than a couple web design websites have started sharing their lists of trends for the year. But, most of these lists seem oddly familiar. Anyone keeping up with the blogs and news has already seen more articles on the popularity of minimalism, flat design, responsive design, and typography.

None of those articles are wrong, but surprisingly not much has changed in web design trends over the past six months. The trends gaining traction at the beginning of the year have just ingrained themselves even further into web design, but there are a couple things that have managed to start gaining traction that are worth noting.

Creative Overflow recently shared one of these lists of “new” trends in web design, but surprisingly not a single entry on the list is the least bit new. Minimalism goes hand in hand with responsive design which is quickly becoming a standard. Minimalistic sites also rely strongly on typography because they forsake all the other common embellishments. Elsewhere, the rise of high definition screens on everything from our phones to our computers has led many designers to begin using lush background photography rather than simple colors, because there is now a high enough resolution to differentiate the text from more complex images.

At this point, there is little doubt you’ve heard about all of these issues, but there are a couple more trends slowly spreading that have been less discussed, though they’re far from new.
Detailed illustrations have been a popular part of the internet for quite a while now, but on sites that want to appear light-hearted or nostalgic these illustrations have almost become prerequisite. The illustrations tend to give a sort of hand-crafted charm to sites as well as shying away from the edgy or dramatic moods prevalent on more “serious” minded sites.

An even more popular trend that has been steadily growing for the past couple years is the use of circles. We tend not to think about it, but the internet has been largely rectangular for much of its history, but with the advent of smartphones and touch screens, the use of circles has become shorthand for interactive features. If you want someone to touch something on the screen, make it a circle. Of course, it has outgrown the touch-focused usage, and circles are now just a hugely popular motif in design. Once touch interfaces turned to circles instead of squares, it opened up the floodgates for designers of all kinds to step outside the box based designs.

Everyone hopes their next website design work is going to be a big project. Steady income for months and a full website redesign are much more attractive than improving some small aspects for a company before looking for another client. But, sometimes pitching a full redesign could lose you a client rather than win you long-term work.

Companies today have tight budgets and fierce competition so many businesses in the current economic climate are much more interested in revamping what they have rather than building from the ground up. Sure, there are sometimes a full redesign is necessary, but often it isn’t the best choice for your prospective client.

Henry Waterfall-Allen suggests 9 reasons you may not want to pitch a full redesign when you are sitting down with a client you are hoping to work with. It may not be as fun to work with a previously existing design, but it may win you a long term client if you can spot their needs.

The most alluring aspect of not going with a redesign is the lowered development and promotion costs. Obviously tight budgets are a large reason companies are looking for the most bang for their buck, and it is entirely possible to increase conversions and revenue through a website without tearing out the existing page.

With lower costs comes less risk, but the opportunity for similar rewards. Instead of trying to revamp everything, you are just trying to achieve immediate results. Designing a page or tweaking elements of an existing design see results much faster than taking the time for a full redesign.

The smaller scale also allows you to target demographics more with a single page. You don’t have the weight of trying to draw in an entire audience. Instead, you are refining and targeting what already exists to create an instant boost to revenue.

More than anything, having the honesty to tell a possible client that they don’t need all of the work many other designers are trying to sell them on will go a long ways and make you stand out from the crowd. Showing clients a more focused way of spending their money and showing them the possibility for much sooner revenue increases will win over many, while being willing to lose the big redesign in favor of being the best fit for the job will keep clients coming back to you.

Of course, there will always be times when a redesign is the only option. You can’t tweak a bad website and hope to come out with a good page. Being able to spot the times when a redesign is needed and when a smaller project will benefit everyone will make you a valuable asset to clients, and will win you longer term jobs.

Pretty much anything connected to the internet is in a constant state of flux and evolution. Web design is certainly not exempt from this. That’s why it is important for every working designer to stay in touch with what is current, but for someone who may have graduated from school five, ten, or even more years ago, it is easy to not realize how out of touch you really have become by sticking to what you know.

Brian Morris, writing on Creative Overflow, realizes how easy it is to get disconnected from current web design if you aren’t making a point to stay up to date. But he also points out seven easy ways to make yourself a good current designer again.

Getting back in touch with what is happening is as easy as taking a class at a community college. I’m sure you don’t need a design 101 class, but just looking at a class catalog  you can identify areas where they may be teaching programs, skills, or ideas that weren’t en vogue or even created when you were in school.

The largest reason there isn’t an excuse for being behind the times is the community of web designers just spewing out tutorials, resources, and helpful articles available for free. Just browse design blogs until you find something you don’t know how to do, then follow the tutorial while you watch it. Just viewing a movie of someone telling you how to do something won’t help you learn it very well.

Honestly, most of Morris’ suggestions are things any good designer should be doing to start with. Constantly viewing colleagues and peers’ work helps jump start the creative process, and you can see ideas and skills you might not know, just like entering contests keeps you pushing to make the best design possible. What the suggestions do show though is the one thing you can’t do in web design: become complacent.