We have seen a tremendous growth of Internet startups in just a few short years. The trends of website designs have morphed and picked up some traits from various niches in digital artwork. I have been following this movement since early 2009 and the startup scene has dramatically changed my outlook on building websites.
For this article I would like to go over some startup trends I have noticed over 2012. Notably these design trends are not brand new, however they have picked up steam and display a true sense of modernism. Newer startup designs cater towards the user and bridging them into the product. This could be software, web services, physical products, or anything in-between.
Homepage Demo Video
The original demo video has been a selling point for decades. Web video has evolved only recently to be a common medium of communication. It is now possible for startups to upload a demo video onto community websites such as YouTube or Vimeo and gain a viral following. This is the case we saw with Dropbox and many other companies as well.
I like the example on the homepage of Frostbox which offers digital cloud backups. The cartoon video is cute and also informative, which are both key points for drawing somebody’s attention. A boring lecture-style video just listing off features may not go over so well with impatient users.
Sink a bit of time into your video and come up with a solid demo. If you plan to go this route just understand that it can be difficult gaining traction! But don’t give up on the technique, instead be ready to change course and perform updates on your past mistakes.
Although this design trend wasn’t originally formed by startups, it has made it’s way into the layout of many new companies. Pricing column designs are the best setup when offering multiple account types for potential customers. You can quickly list off a set of properties and explain the differences for each one. It is helpful for visitors to quickly and easily look over their options and pick a solution which fits them best.
Thinkific has online courses and studies by professors in their catalog. Scrolling a big down on the homepage will display some pricing columns related to different course levels. The “Learn More” button will offer a more detailed page with structured & helpful information. Also on their courses page you can see how a grid-style pricing setup may look.
Now another brilliant example can be found on MediaFire which isn’t exactly a new startup. The company has been running for years, but their design was recently updated to reflect a modern theme. I feel their pricing columns exude brilliant UX techniques and design rapport. Everything just fits together very nicely and the elements fall perfectly into place.
Live Interface Preview
If you have the capability to mirror your app on the homepage, this can be an excellent technique for drawing a crowd. People may submit your website into social media link aggregators just to give others something to check out. These miniapps can be fun to play with, and they demonstrate a larger picture of what your products can do.
The new startup Bucketlistly is a social network style game where you put together a bucket list and check off tasks as you do them. These can be shared with other members of the community, and you also earn badges along the way. Glancing at their homepage you will notice a fun sliding interface with all the most recently completed tasks. This is just one example of live previews which do not require an account to access.
Fixed Nav Bars
I am sure everybody in the startup scene has run across a few websites utilizing this technique. But I have to admit that I still really like it. The fixed navigation bars allow quick access to pages on your site without needing to scroll back towards the top.
Betacave uses a simple example with one static navigation placed at the very top of the page. As you begin to scroll it will follow you down and stay fixed in the window. When first loading the page you don’t notice because everything looks natural, which is a very nice approach. Subtlety can play in your favor and come off like a pleasant surprise to visitors.
One other cool startup Sendy has a similar effect. They allow you to manage newsletters and subscription lists without all the complications. I have found their prices much cheaper than some competitors in the market. Fixing the top navbar onto their layout is a great choice because of the small height. You do not lose much screen real estate and it is still very useful for switching between pages quickly.
Branding & Illustrations
Custom branding will be your best marketing tool when launching a new startup. I still remember certain brands and companies years later after having seen them on AngelList or StartupsList. A personal favorite is Bfore which allows for customized greeting cards over the web.
Right now the startup is in private beta, but you may request an invitation. I simply love their homepage layout which matches in so many aspects of the original design. Many of the illustrations all blend into key areas on the template. And down towards the footer you will notice further links and banners designed in the same cartoonish style.
One other great branding job can be seen on Huntsy, which is an online organization tool. This digital to-do list is open for signups and sports a very nifty website interface. Many of the login and registration links use lightbox effects and feature custom button styles. Also the logo header includes a large owl illustration which is very recognizable in website branding.
I do hope this article may provide an inspirational resource for web designers interested in launching their own startup. Before closing I’ve also put together a small gallery of newly hatched startup websites. Lots of these are focused on mobile apps or webapps, but the list features startups from many different areas of business. Also be sure to post links for any startups we may have missed coming out during 2012.