Trends are a complicated subject when it comes to critiquing designers work, many designers see trends as a great thing to base their work upon, whereas some designers see trends as a lack of invention and intuitive thinking.
I personally see trends be of major importance, not because it allows for inspiration for the designer but because it gives a sense of familiarisation to users.
If a website follows a similar design trend to other website but also has its own design personality added to it, then it can be much more effective than a designer trying to re-invent the wheel.
When a user loads up a web page they sub-consciously have an expectation of what they will be presented with. Where the navigation will be, what elements of the web page are anchor links, overall how they can interact with the web page and how the page interacts with them.
By following trends the designer is helping the user pick up on how to use the website from the up and go.
I am not saying that everyone should just follow the same design process and reproduce what’s is already out there. They should look at the trends that are currently popular, what they can do to meet in the middle with those trends, whilst bringing their own style in their designs.