I’ve recently done a survey of some of the larger players in the rakeback industry and I’m a bit disgusted with the lack of creativity on display. It’s very natural for there to be pervasive trends in web design, and that’s OK. Trends can indicate progress and may be a sign of competition catching up to a surge of rapid development.Trends can also be harbingers of staleness and monotony. Some design concepts have ended up grossly over-saturating the market (that Web 2.0 look, or shiny… everything) and become the latest and most sought after fashions. Such surges of pop design tend to produce consistently mediocre products. Sure many, even most, of these designs look OK, but very few stand out or dare to try a novel and aggressive approach.It seems that this problem is especially piquant in our industry, where a persistent game of follow-the-leader seems to be taking place. Not all the currently hot trends are bad, and many simply reflect the larger environment in which design changes and advancements take place. They do, however, chime a particular note that should catch your ear. When the competition all starts to look the same, it is quite likely that no one is innovating. When this happens, cracks appear, allowing small, agile players to shoot through.There is always room in a crowded industry for new comers, especially when the establishment seems to have become really good at doing all the same things all the same way. There is plenty of new ground to be broken in the affiliate industry and now may be a better time then ever to start digging.Some of 2009’s Biggest TrendsThe Sidebar The Trend – Having a sidebar with offers on it is nothing new, but the current trend is to have US and/or EU flags on it and to organize by network.How Played Out? – This is getting pretty common, it’s a popular solution to a common problem – organizing growing lists of rooms in ways that are meaningful to users. At some point this takes up a lot of space and new strategies will be needed. It certainly adds to the feeling that a given site has basically the same product as any other competing site.Bonus Trend – There seems to be an industry wide competition to see who can cram the most stuff in their sidebars. Half a dozen categories each with half a dozen or so links seem to be the norm.The Rotating BannerThe Trend– Placing a flash or jQuery powered rotating banner on the front page. These are almost always links to on-site promotions.How Played Out? – A Year ago just a few sites were doing this, now it’s everywhere. Too many slides can really slow down load times, and most viewers are only likely to look at the first slide. This technique probably isn’t very affective unless you have a captive audience and really well done designs for your banners. In addition to relatively talented developers, these take time to maintain. Use with caution.Explanatory GraphicsThe Trend – Some sort of info graphic to demonstrate what rakeback is and how it works.How Played Out – I saw more of these pop up in 2009, they are picking up steam but arent as hot as some of the other trends. This is another one that needs some design talent applied to it, if not really done well these just add to the confusion.Comprehensive Front Page Offers ListingsThe Trend – 2008 saw more sites using a “Featured Offers” model than 2009. Sites seem to be going back to large tables that included promotions, sign up bonuses, countries of eligibility and oodles of other fine print.How Played Out – It’s defiantly catching, but isn’t nearly universal. Those sites that are trending this way seem to all have nearly identical presentations.