As I’m sure you’ve noticed, Web design trends are changing fast. One week, a design technique is creative and cutting-edge. The next, it’s pathetically passé.

Why? Because the thing about trends is, once everybody catches on, they don’t seem all that cool anymore. (That doesn’t apply just to web design. Think of how quickly the Harlem Shake went from clever to ohmygod-make-it-stop overdone.)

I’m not saying you should pooh-pooh Web trends altogether. After all, ideas usually become popular for a reason: because they enhance user experience or offer new ways to present information. But if you’re a designer, try to understand why trends are useful before you imitate them blindly. Then, take those great ideas—and add your own twist.

Here are three trends I’ve noticed all over the Web lately. If you ask me, these are approaching Harlem Shake status. They’re all the rage now, but before long, they could make sites look out of date. Here’s how to use them without being just another hanger-on.

1. Continuous scrolling. As I wrote in a previous post, scrolling can be awesome for small sites, like product launches. Sites like this and this create a natural user experience where readers can passively scroll as they take in the “story” you have to tell.

On the other hand, one-page sites can be bad for SEO, because there’s less for Google to index. They can also be frustrating for users unfamiliar with the format or looking for specific info. If you must use a scrolling site, try anchor tags and “you are here” states to let the user know where they are on the page.

2. jQuery animations. JQuery is a great way to add a little something extra to your site. It can be used in so many ways, from animating drop-down menus to bringing background photos and other site elements to life.

The problem is that designers tend to go overboard. Too much animation can be overwhelming—and can lead to longer loading times, especially on mobile sites.

Here are examples from Apple and Tapmates of jQuery at its best. My advice: use animation in moderation.

3. Flat web design. Flat design—meaning sites without 3-D attributes like shadows, bevels, and gradients—has been huge this year. It’s great for responsive sites, since lack of texture means site elements can change format and load more easily. And flat design simplifies a site’s appearance, making users focus more on content. (It’s also part of a growing trend away from skeuomorphism.)

But I’ll be honest. I think flat design is often just an excuse for lazy designers to work less. The design possibilities in Photoshop are endless. And we should be creating sites that match our clients’ branding—not just ones that are easy.

If sites like this make sense for your brand, fine. But we shouldn’t be building them by default.

There’s no telling what trends 2014 will bring. My advice: don’t get too attached. Because if you think a trend is totally cool, chances are tons of others do, too. And if you want to stand out, you can’t just follow the crowd. To stay ahead of worn-out trends, you have to be ready to abandon convention and try something new.

Want a website unlike any other? Atomic’s designers can help create a site as unique as you are.

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