Web Trends: Wood in Web Design

Though I’ve observed the trend of wood in web design for years, somehow I never grow tired of it. (Both of my Web Designer’s Idea Books feature sections on the topic.) But why is that? What is it about this approach that draws me in? I think the answer is simple: We connect with wood in an organic, tangible way that takes us outside the digital world.

Using wood in a web design sometimes has obvious topical or thematic reasons, but that’s not always the case. Here I’ve collected a number of examples that use wood for varying reasons and to varying effect.

This is a perfect example of the style: It combines a boring topic with a style that keeps the site from feeling stodgy and too business-y. The end result is a design that feels fresh and unique—it changes my expectations and opens me up to their product.

In this case the theme is obvious: The site is for a wood veneer manufacturer. Having a wood element built into their site isn’t a huge surprise. But you have to love the way it’s worked into the site—it oozes style and feels incredibly polished. Going with an obvious theme can work out really well.

This site also uses wood in a way that clearly connects to the subject. Going to an apple orchard, picking apples and going on a hay ride is quite far from the technology world (assuming you’re not tweeting and posting photos to Facebook while you’re there). In this design, the organic style of the site clearly connects the visitor with the orchard experience. It’s a very wise choice that results in an effective site.

Several things about this design stood out to me. For starters, the wood isn’t used for the entire background. It can be really tempting to stick a repeating wood background in and just run with it. But this site shows wise restraint. Secondly, I absolutely love that it’s a wood illustration instead of a real life photograph. It manages to give the site a distinct feel from a common design element.

Here the use of wood is pretty much there for aesthetics—it doesn’t connect to the topic of the site nor an overall theme. It’s totally fine to use an element like this just for its good looks. But if you do that, it’s wise to subdue the element to keep it from taking visual priority. That’s exactly what this design does.

Some examples of wood styles