In the world of web design, it’s a sure bet that someone’s doing something fresh and innovative at any given moment. Whether their efforts are actually worthwhile? That’s another matter entirely – but of course, there’s always room for opinion. Below, in no particular order, we’ve put together a list of some of the best (and worst) of web design in 2014. Take a look, and let us know whether or not you agree.

The Hits

One common element of the design hits of 2014: Simplicity. They took some of the year’s top trends – flat aesthetics, moving backgrounds, negative space, and infinite scrolling – and implemented them in subtle, simple ways that don’t overpower the user experience.


Web Design Hits - Paypal

Paypal underwent a major site redesign in 2014, and while many longtime users felt less than enthusiastic, we love the slick new UI and flat aesthetic. By eliminating hard controls and a rigid frame layout in favor of rounded edges, moving image backgrounds and the ever-popular scrolling homepage, the payment processor made its web portal a lot easier on the eyes – and infinitely more stylish.

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The Paypal redesign also carried over to internal webpages: user balances and other important information are now displayed using larger fonts and bolder colors. While the traditional ledger style is still accessible, the simplified new arrangement helps better distinguish between different kinds of information. Designers with content-heavy projects may want to take note of these typographic cues.


Web Design Hits - Gawker

In 2014, Gawker Media and its affiliates took the tabloid format favored by websites like The Sun and TMZ and made it less harmful to the eyes (and mental health). Although the site remains driven by bold images and clickbait headlines, its design is extremely respectful of negative space. The fact that you can shift your focus from one news item to the next without running into a hundred ads along the way is an indisputable lesson in effective minimalism for modern blog designers.

One of the most successful aspects of the Gawker design? It remains recognizable, from one Gawker-owned brand to the next. Combined with the implementation of a universal commenting system, a consistent underlying page template lets users transition from one publication or conversation to another, without ever leaving the overarching Gawker Media network. The fact that the article format blurs the distinction between original authors and commenters also does a great deal to make the media feel more accessible.


Web Design Hits - Vine

This video sharing site experienced a boost in popularity in 2014, but we’re not just jumping on the bandwagon. The flat design principles that sites like Vine popularized are crucial to their success. And by promoting a standard video format that triggers on mouse rollover, Vine also changed a lot about how people interact with web media.

Seeking to bridge the gap between mobile and desktop browsers, this content-on-demand design incorporates a near-infinite scrolling pane where images reign. Titles, descriptions and other content-heavy details can be opened at will, but unlike on video sites like YouTube and Vimeo, text doesn’t retain a dedicated position on the page layout. This lets Vine display more video thumbnails from a wider range of sources, and it helps keep the site relevant for content-hungry visitors.

The Misses

You’ve probably heard the phrase “too much of a good thing.” That certainly applies to this year’s design misses. If 2014’s biggest design misses had one thing in common, it was this too many elements (and not enough connection between them).


Web Design Hits and Misses - CNN

Is traditional media on its way out? From the way CNN’s website looks and functions, it’s clear that the old paradigms aren’t doing so well. Before you can even reach the news content you came for, you have to navigate through an aggressive red banner that follows you to let you know about recent updates and news sections. Worst of all, because CNN uses the popular “main headline” format, its designers were forced to fill the page with multiple menus, lists and buttons. The end result is a disharmonious jumble.

While sticking to the traditional newspaper style does lend CNN a certain gravitas, it’s unlikely to help them hold the attention of web consumers. Because people have to scroll around, hunt through menus or use a Google search to find what actually came for, the site is increasingly frustrating to use, especially compared with more modern alternatives.

Wells Fargo

Web Design Hits and Misses - Wells Fargo

While Wells Fargo was among the many brands that got a web redesign in 2014, it somehow missed the mark. In its attempt to tone things down with slimmer widgets and a more subtle UI, it created something notable mainly for how uninteresting it is. Although the bank tried to make the most of available real estate with a slider, this technique is somewhat ineffective, since it clashes with the bright login box on the left side.

If aspiring designers learn anything from this example, it’s that simply mashing different trendy concepts together isn’t going to work. Though the components used on the Wells Fargo portal have their merits, the overall design lacks unity and direction. True, most users will figure out how to navigate the site and access their accounts. But they certainly won’t feel enthusiastic about the prospect with this design staring them in the face.

What web designs or UX trends did you think hit the mark this year? Which ones missed it entirely? Let us know in the comments.