Web Design Trends for 2021

In an unprecedented year, 2020 saw more and more companies move online and up their game to face business challenges and seize opportunities. The result is that there is more competition than ever, and the design landscape has changed accordingly. With everyone trying to stand out, web design could look pretty different over the next year. Expect to see original and unexpected solutions as we live through the repercussions of the past year. So, while the future may seem uncertain in many ways, there is a lot to look forward to where it comes to design trends. Read on for some of the top trends that we expect to be big in 2021:

Personalisation

In a year when we have been apart more than ever before, we have needed everything possible to make us feel connected. Personalised experiences have been key to this, and 2021 will see designers take personalisation to the next level. The next layer of customisation will see interfaces adjusting more significantly based on user preferences. We will see the continued use of personalised colours, themes, and text spacing. But interfaces may also change based on connectivity, device memory and personal interests. 

New design practices and algorithms make the internet less of a passive user experience and more user-centred. As we move through the coming year, we’ll see more focus on designers meeting the needs, wants and tastes of their users. 

Design Activism

Brands that speak out and support causes close to their customers’ hearts, quickly build trust and brand advocacy. In design, this often relates to bold, iconic visuals that clearly depict the issue at hand. Whether in support of environmental campaigns or political justice, we can expect to see more brands declare what they stand for. The result, more unique and bespoke design assets, custom-made typefaces, illustrations and icon sets. These design assets will enable brands to react quickly to current events, sending a message of solidarity when it is needed most.

 

Retro Styling

While the last year has pushed forward digital transformation like never before, that doesn’t mean that we can’t include a few touches from simpler times. Flat aesthetic has reigned the design world for some time, but many designers are now looking at ways to add depth to online experiences. Expect to see quirky layouts, textures and patterns and themed designs using retro touches such as floppy disks and vintage stamps. The return to retro may see many old things become temporarily cool again. Retro fonts and vintage typography will undoubtedly see a bit of a resurgence. But instead of the tired fonts from days gone by, we’ll see a creative re-imagining of what retro fonts can be. 

Dark Mode

This one is no newbie to the list as a trend that was already popular in 2020. However, we will see more designers embracing dark mode in 2021. It offers the ability to look on-trend and in-keeping with the big names like Facebook, Apple and Instagram, it allows other design elements to stand out, and it reduces eye strain in low-light conditions. By incorporating this design element, brands can deliver an improved experience to customers who are using their website might day. And black provides the perfect backdrop to make design elements pop from the screen. 

3D Elements

Again, no newbie to an upcoming design trends list is the use of 3D design elements. However, as web technology has evolved, 3D elements have become more commonly used, especially in combination with virtual and augmented reality. With higher resolution screens, designers are able to incorporate 3D visuals more widely into web design. 3D elements can bring designs to life and add a sense of uniqueness and dimensionality to any webpage. However, it’s vital that they are used to add to the user experience rather than distracting from it. What’s more, the trend will only provide a seamless user experience on high-performing, fast-loading, well-optimised websites. 

Visual Storytelling

Over the last few years, we’ve seen a growing trend in designers telling stories through website experiences. Visual storytelling enables designers to heighten a story and hook readers into a narrative. To be used effectively, motion should be kept within a small area, interactions should be controllable by the user, and visual elements should be used to emphasise the story rather than distracting from important content. 

Low-Code Development

With low-code and no-code development, designers get to become front-end developers, and writers get to become web designers. It gives small businesses the chance to push their online ventures forward, launching into the world of e-commerce, for example. Ultimately, low code development empowers people to achieve more and facilitates collaboration between teams. With such success last year, the low code movement looks set to make big waves again this year. 

Unusual Colour Combinations and Layouts

2021 will also see changes in colourways, moving away from minimalist designs of previous years. Muted and subdued colours will be used to convey a natural feel and unusual bright colour combinations used to make a statement. Expect to see glowing shades, intense colours and unusual colour pairings in a bid to stand out. However, these colours will strangely harmonise, catching our eyes and sticking in our memory. Used alongside dark mode, this trend has the opportunity to really pop. Meanwhile, in a move away from the grid layout we are used to, asymmetric design will become more popular too. It allows brands to ignore traditions and explore something new. However, there still needs to be balanced for it to work. 

Voice User Interface

The way we access information is constantly changing. We are becoming more accustomed to asking questions and making demands instead of typing in our search queries. Web design will adjust this year to incorporate more voice chatbots and virtual assistants. Additional options to traditional text search will be incorporated in more and more websites. In addition, audio will be offered as an integral part of design to improve accessibility and enable people to listen instead of reading. 

While 2021 may not have got off to the best of starts for many of us and the challenging times look set to continue for a while yet, it is exciting to look forward. Design certainly looks to have some treats in store for us. New possibilities will be opened up by low code development and designers with a braver outlook will break free of minimalist design and start to incorporate bold colours and ideas. Hopefully, the new web design trends will bring us some much-needed positivity. 

To summarise, the key design trends we expect to see in 2021 include:

  • Personalisation – a focus on designers meeting the needs of their users.
  • Design activism – bold statements in support of current causes.
  • Retro styling – a re-imagining of retro fonts and vintage typography
  • Dark mode – improved accessibility and the chance to make elements pop.
  • 3D elements – bringing designs to life and adding dimensionality.
  • Visual storytelling – small areas of motion to hook readers into a narrative.
  • Low-code – designers becoming developers and collaborating.
  • Unusual colours – bright, unusual combinations to make a statement.
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About the author

Michael Ridland is the Co-CEO and Founder of Xam Consulting.

Design-led problem solving delivering digital solutions.

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