Clean, minimalist design has come to be the standard for many websites. Recently, however, textures, patterns and more dynamic web design elements have come back in a big way.
Textures are complex and random design elements that add visual interest to a website — essentially, patterns with a little bit of variance and unpredictability. The right one can communicate things about your brand that flat, less complex design elements just can’t handle.
Maybe texture is essential to a business — your client sells fabric, flooring or items you can hold with your hands — and being able to communicate how a product will look and feel is essential. Perhaps clean, collected and professional isn’t quite the right fit for a brand, and you need something with more energy and movement.
Picking the right texture and applying it correctly is essential in cases like these.
Here are eight tips that businesses and web designers can use to incorporate texture into their design.
1. Subtle Textures Can Add Character
Textures don’t need to be big and bold — subtle applications can also add a lot of character. For example, look at the homepage for Almanac, a branding and web design company.
Screen tones and subtle textures that emulate traditional material like paper and ink give the page a more handcrafted, authentic and artisanal feel.
The use of texture isn’t bold, but it still leaves a big impression. The result isn’t complex — the shapes and color scheme are pretty restrained — but it has a lot more personality than it would have had with clean, controlled shapes and backgrounds.
2. Image Quality Is Important
You may be tempted to compress your textures to save a little loading time. However, if they’re going to be highly visible, you’ll want to avoid artifacting and unintentional noise.
You don’t necessarily need to keep your textures as high quality as you would big, attention-drawing photos. You should, however, keep image quality in mind when selecting and adding them to your sites.
3. Texture Can Make Illustrations Stand Out
You can also use textures to add a little personality to illustrations. Koox, a London-based catering company that provides takeaway from Michelin chefs, is a good example.
Subtle textures on this page’s illustrations help it feel a little more rustic and personable. Like with Almanac’s site, the texture here makes the design feel a bit more handcrafted.
4. Texture Can Emphasize Services
Sometimes, you may work with a client whose products are big on texture. These goods may be fabric, furniture or objects made from unique materials. To really sell this brand, you’ll need to show off product texture.
Check out this website from 50 Floor and notice how the icons stand out from the design elements used by the rest of the site. This is a good strategy to use if you want to help a client’s products stand out.
5. Less Is More
Textures will draw the eye and make a page more complex. If you overuse them, though, you run the risk of overwhelming visitors, emphasizing the site’s design at the cost of navigability and content.
Only use as many textures as you need to. When you do use it, you should also be sure that you’re applying it to an end. Visual interest that doesn’t reinforce something about your client’s brand or website isn’t really useful.
6. Legibility Is Still Key
Many brands gravitate toward simpler, cleaner designs because they’re a little bit safer. Content is critical in selling a brand, and white text on an untextured black background will always be legible. Unless you’re confident that your copy will still be readable against a textured background — big, bold fonts and logos will work better than others — you should avoid mixing text and texture.
Texture needs to underscore your message. It can’t do this if the noise of your background makes the page impossible to read.
7. A Little Chaos Can Be Invaluable
The website for Drip Pop, a South American ice pop brand, is a pretty incredible example of how you can use texture to create interest and build exciting web design.
The homepage uses a set of rapidly rotating images, each with distinct color palettes and texture combinations, to reinforce the flavors and textures of the products the brand offers. You can’t provide a flavor sampler over the internet, but you can use visual appeal to help sell a product. These textures are energetic, highly unique and even a little bit chaotic.
They are bold, and are a great example of how you can push textures to the extreme to create a website that’s really exciting and visually compelling.
8. Always Have a Purpose
Textures work best when they’re applied to achieve a specific purpose. Demonstrating energy, adding character or simply showing off a customer’s products can all be effective goals. In any case, however, you will need to pick a purpose and keep it in mind when choosing and adding textures to your design.
Otherwise, you may end up with a site that’s full of interesting and varied textures that don’t really help tell the story of your client’s brand.
The Many Uses of Texture in Web Design
Texture is a valuable tool you can use to improve your web design. In the right contexts, a little bit of it can be used to add some playfulness and make a website seem more handcrafted. Subtle texture can also be used to emphasize available products and services. It helps give customers an idea of what experiencing that product in person may be like.
While most designers opt to use just a little texture, big and bold uses can also be highly effective. Just be sure you’re considering other elements — like site design and function. Texture can lend a lot of visual interest — but sometimes it makes websites a little overwhelming or illegible. The key is to strike a perfect balance