When it comes to web design, it’s true that texture is the way forward. Gone are the days when you can palm off minimalism — we want that sweet touch of grunge, and we want it now!

Texture is an easy and effective way to bring some further depth to a website. You can control the user’s journey throughout your website with texture use, and who doesn’t enjoy some casual manipulation once in a while? Your website will look better, more efficiently articulate its message and make some money through point of sales accentuation.

But with great power comes great responsibility, so for the love of Adam, please don’t go overboard with it. Texture has been a controversial point for us ever since the web designers of yesteryear — you know who you are — went all 90s and dirty texture on us.

First of all, we need to understand what texture is. Textures in web design are large, unrepeated images that give the illusion of having physical surface you could touch. Their use can generate specific emotions through association and thereby convey helpful messages.

Textures serve as a sensory experience. Usually confused with patterns, textures tend to be better for grabbing attention and separating one area of content from another. Plus they can look super cool!

Conversions, Anyone?

You have a job to do, and it goes further than skin deep. As a web designer, you may ask yourself “does this look good?” but don’t forget to follow that question with “will this add to its conversion potential?” There is no better feeling than converting a browser into a buyer, so texture use should lead someone to do exactly what you want them to do, which is spend some dollars.

Textures can highlight your website components such as titles, heading, icons and buttons. It can also attract the user to calls to action.

Let’s take a look at some websites that do texture well.

1. I Like My Page How I Like My Teeth

White space is not a mortal offense, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It’s not wasted space, and no, it’s not a waste of money. If your client is dead against it, they may be suffering from some sort of hoarding syndrome — that’s their monkey, not yours, so get back to work and make sure there are some white gaps!

Texture is beautiful in small or subtle amounts. However, to lead the user around the page, there needs to be some differentiation between the content areas. As well known designer, Ellen Lupton says, “Design is as much an act of spacing as an act of marking.” As an example, check out We Ain’t Plastic. Their website is filled with strategically placed white and blank space.

2. Brand It Good

Textured logos against clean backgrounds or vice-versa are fail-proof ways to accentuate the company’s name and grab attention. The textured logo can also reiterate exactly what the company does with no further messy text. It can also bring some punch to the website’s introduction, making the site more memorable and setting it apart from the competition.

Custom Shingles is an excellent example of good use of texture. Take a look at the articulation of their branding through texture use on their logo. The wooden effect texture behind the bold company name not only resonates with their product, but it also portrays a sense of professionalism and restraint — as well as a bit of fun! The concrete and wood combination works especially well for construction/trade companies.

3. Always Consider Typography

Keep it legible, people. One big thing to remember with texture is that it can affect the legibility of your text. As the text is one of the main ways you’re conveying a message or making a sale, this is pretty important.

If you’re using textures, choose your font, color and size wisely. Safe fonts include Arial, Verdana, Times New Roman, Georgia, Tahoma, Lucida and Impact. Please, never go down the Comic Sans route. Your website will thank you.

KBS Agency’s website highlights the impact of typography executed correctly. Don’t lose your cool over the typography.

4. Quality Overpowers Time

Good quality textures win over slow loading times. If you opt for a low res texture, it will look outdated, and the user will lose faith and interest very quickly. If you must, repeat texture patterns to reduce loading times as backgrounds. If it’s not too obvious, you might just get away with it.

Take a look at Cladinox’s website which uses simple yet high-resolution textured backgrounds.

To reiterate, don’t lose control of yourself. Textures are great fun, but exercise some self-restraint. If you’re not quite sure what your site needs but you know adding in yet another contrasting texture, hold up and check out the Noise filter in Photoshop. Play around with the levels, and you can get some pretty sound but subtle textures, as seen below.

Yes, textures are the way forward, but to paraphrase the great Dylan Thomas, do indeed go gentle! Experiment and have fun, but, most importantly, remember that why you’re doing it is ultimately to get conversions.

*Cover image by Nathan Riley.