What’s the most crucial part of building a website? Of course, you have to ensure that it’s secure and capable of handling sudden traffic spikes. Also, you need to optimize the content using the right keywords to improve your website’s search engine ranking. You even have to ensure that your website loads at lightning-fast speed.
From registering the domain name to finding the right web hosting provider – creating a website involves various complex steps. But all your efforts would be futile if you don’t focus on making the website visually appealing. In other words, web design is just as crucial for your website’s success as its speed and performance.
Web Design: The Real Picture
It’s worth mentioning at the onset that designing an awesome-looking website isn’t just about adding a few high-quality images and videos. Nor is it as simple as including strategic calls-to-action (CTAs) to boost leads and conversions.
Instead, you need to understand the likes and preferences of your target users and provide them with a seamless and immersive experience. You must use the right design elements to facilitate navigation and boost user engagement. Additionally, you need to stay abreast of the latest trends in web design.
Certain trends, such as responsive design and user-friendly layout, are timeless and mandatory for all new-age websites. But there are several other trends that rise to the forefront every few years. Whether you’re revamping your existing website or building one from scratch, you must stay abreast of the important trends in web design.
But if you run a Google search for “2021 web design trends”, the abundance of options will leave you spoilt for choice. In this blog, we’ve handpicked the top trends to help you understand what’s vogue and what’s just a fad. But before delving deeper, let’s first understand why it’s important for web designers to keep an eye on trends.
Why Web Design Trends Matter
The ultimate goal of web designers and developers is to deliver an outstanding user experience. This is even more crucial considering that there are more than 1.8 billion websites on the internet right now. Unless your website stands out from the crowd, it’ll fail to engage and retain users.
This is where the latest web design trends step into the picture. Following the right trends prevents your website from looking old-fashioned. In today’s day and age, no one has the patience for a website that’s failed to upgrade with the changing times. There’s no point in fixing speed, performance, and security issues when your website is visually outdated.
Moreover, following the right trends helps you engage users and direct their attention to the right design elements. This, in turn, can go a long way to boost conversion and revenue. With most people turning to the internet for all their needs, web design trends for 2021 are becoming even more important.
So, what are the latest web design trends that you should follow? How do you decide which trends are worth following? What happens when these trends turn into fads in the future? In the following sections, we’ll explore the answers to these questions and more. Let’s get started.
Top Web Design Trends for 2021
From accessibility inclusive design to increased use of motion and multimedia – 2021 has seen the emergence of various new trends in web design. Instead of blindly following every trend, you must identify the ones that are relevant to your audience. Your end goal should be to enhance the user experience with various design elements instead of hindering it.
Here are our top picks for 2021 web design trends that deserve your attention:
1. Codeless Design
Codeless web design isn’t a new concept. But it has garnered traction in the previous year and will continue to rule the roost in 2021. This is because 2020 was the year that compelled businesses of all sizes to prioritize digital transformation.
With consumers retreating indoors to keep the novel coronavirus at bay, building an outstanding website is the top priority for today’s business. Otherwise, even the most well-planned digital marketing campaigns will fail to yield any conversion and revenue.
While global corporations and established brands can afford to hire full-time web designers and developers, the same isn’t true for small businesses. The ongoing pandemic has further compelled bootstrapped startups and small businesses to cut costs from all corners without compromising their online presence.
This, in turn, has emphasized the importance of codeless web design. With drag-and-drop page builders, such as Elementor and Gutenberg, it’s possible for people to create stunning websites without prior coding experience. All you have to do is choose the right design elements and add them to your website. You can even customize each element to align with the overall theme, layout, and branding.
Image via Elementor
This means content creators, entrepreneurs, freelancers, and even marketers can build their own websites instead of hiring trained developers. It can significantly reduce the cost of creating a website and provide business owners with more creative freedom.
Likewise, it’s helping blur the lines between different departments involved in web development. This, in turn, fosters a sense of collaboration and opens more avenues for designers, as well as business owners.
It’s worth noting that the purpose of codeless design isn’t to replace developers altogether. Instead, it focuses on making the field of web development more democratic and affordable.
2. Return of the Retro
Here’s the thing about fashion – it repeats itself in cycles. It isn’t unusual for vintage hairstyles and jewelry to make a raging comeback. Web design isn’t an exception to this rule. In 2021, you can expect to see a resurgence of retro typography and layouts.
But instead of using the same old retro fonts, web designers are putting their own spin with various stylizations. Here’s an example of how Spotify’s Carnival page adds a modern artistic touch to vintage typography. The use of striking colors and strategically placed stylized letters prevents the website from appearing outdated.
Image via Spotify
Likewise, The Pen Tool uses a quirky layout, odd geometric shapes, bright colors, and an animated cursor to compliment the vintage bold typography.
Image via The Pen Tool
This propensity for a throwback isn’t restricted to font styles. Many web designers are also making clever use of print-like layouts to simulate the tangibility and familiarity of publishing. You can expect this trend to grow as more people crave a semblance of tactile experience in an increasingly virtual world.
Take a look at how the Home Run Studio uses a traditional font, layout, and other graphic design elements for a magazine-inspired website:
Image via Home Run Studio
This trend would work particularly well for e-magazines and news portals. However, you can use a print-style layout to showcase your portfolio or products as well.
The use of grainy textures is another retro design element that’s had a resurgence. Grains in the background of a web page can go a long way to break the monotony of solid colors and grids. Also, they enhance the tactile appearance of your website.
Here’s an example of how Richard’s Photo Lab utilizes a grainy background to enhance their website:
Image via Richard’s Photo Lab
3. Clever Use of Color
Flashing neon colors have become popular in web and graphic design. They can help you direct a user’s attention to important CTAs and forms. But considering that people are spending most of their time staring at digital screens, you can’t build an entire website using neon colors.
Instead, web designers are developing a growing propensity for muted colors and pastel shades that are easy on the eyes. Using a lighter color palette for the background and juxtaposing it with brighter or bolder elements is a great idea. Pastel pink, light green, blue, light brown, gray – soft and soothing colors are ruling the roost in web design at the moment.
Take a look at how Anton & Irene, a Brooklyn-based design studio, utilizes a muted color palette to create an impression:
Image via Anton & Irene
It’s worth noting how the combination of pastel hues and primary colors creates contrast without screaming for the visitor’s attention.
On the other end of the spectrum, the dark mode has also been rising to the forefront. Pioneered by iconic brands, such as Apple and Hublot, the dark mode minimizes the impact of blue light from electronic screens. It’s more comfortable for the eyes, especially in low-light conditions. Also, it can make your website look more elegant and premium.
The Hublot website is a great example of how you can utilize a simple black and white color palette to make an impact. Take a look:
Image via Hublot
Likewise, many web designers are choosing to eliminate color from their layout altogether. When effectively used, this tactic can help you emphasize certain elements. It’s a great way to create a minimalist layout with more white space.
Here’s an example:
Image via Latinxs Who Design
In the above example, it’s important to note how each photograph transforms from black and white to color when the mouse hovers over it. Using such micro-interactions and animations helps make the minimalist layout more eye-catching and engaging.
4. Increased Dependence on Multimedia
The use of images, videos, animations, audio clips, and music isn’t a new web design trend. However, the way designers are utilizing these elements has evolved. The key is to use a combination of different elements to make a website more user-friendly and accessible.
For instance, you can use videos and animations to add motion to your website and make it more dynamic. Here’s an example of how Nicolas Errera uses a background video on the homepage to grab the audience’s attention:
Image via Nicolas Errera
Likewise, you can use background music and audio to create a more immersive user experience. It even goes a long way to make your website accessibility inclusive and compatible with screen readers.
For instance, the New York Times provides users with audio recordings of selected articles to boost engagement.
Image via New York Times
Apart from mainstream multimedia, you’ll also notice the prominent use of quirky illustrations on many websites. This is a great way to skip the usual stock images and make your website stand out. Also, it adds a human touch to your website, thus making it more inviting and appealing.
From hand-drawn product sketches and caricatures to abstract digital artwork – there are various ways to incorporate illustrations into web design. And you know this trend is worth following when established brands, including Gucci, are utilizing it.
Image via Gucci
In the above example, notice how Gucci combines a simple artwork, subtle animation, and custom cursor to create an interactive experience. It’s a witty way of boosting awareness about their sustainable product range.
Additionally, it’s worth mentioning here that today’s illustrators are breaking the age-old norms of graphic design. We’re hoping to see a better representation of different body types, skin colors, ethnicities, etc. to build diversity-inclusive websites.
Here’s how AHM, a health insurance provider, uses unconventional human illustrations on their website to instantly connect with visitors:
Image via AHM
Another way to enhance the user experience is to use three-dimensional illustrations and animation. It helps make your website more dynamic and engaging. Here’s an effective example:
Image via Yaya
5. Increased Focus on Web Accessibility
As more people turn to the internet to fulfill their daily needs, it’s become mandatory to design accessible websites. Otherwise, you’ll end up alienating a huge section of your target consumers. This is particularly crucial considering that working-age individuals with disabilities in the U.S. have a cumulative disposable income of roughly $500 billion.
Also, not making your website accessible could land your business at the receiving end of web accessibility lawsuits. It’s because federal laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), make it mandatory for brands to make their digital identity accessible.
This, in turn, has resulted in more than 3,500 ADA lawsuits being filed in federal and state courts across the U.S. in 2020. That’s a whopping 23% increase from 2019. Thus, accessibility is one web design trend you can’t afford to ignore in 2021.
Image via UsableNet
This has compelled designers and developers to follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 to build accessible websites. Start by implementing keyboard-friendly navigation and including closed captions for audio and video. Also, avoid using flashing elements, such as carousels and sliders.
If you’re using these elements on your website, provide users with simple controls to disable these features. Work on the background to text contrast ratio and provide descriptive alt texts for images. Also, make sure you include clear labels, instructions, and error messages with forms.
Image via Deque Systems
6. Delivering an Interactive Web Experience
In this era, you can’t expect your website visitors to remain passive. Instead, you need to captivate them with an interactive and immersive user experience. From quizzes and games to effective use of augmented reality (AR) – there are various ways to amplify audience interaction on your website.
The previously discussed Off The Grid campaign by Gucci is an excellent example of implementing a fun yet resourceful quiz on your website. Estee Lauder takes this a step further with The Anrcade. It’s an interactive game that utilizes futuristic visuals, movement, and theme music. It’s been designed to stir a buzz about the brand’s Advanced Night Repair cream.
Image via Estee Lauder
Likewise, e-commerce and retail websites are using AR to let users try on various products. From virtual trial rooms to 360° product videos – there are various ways to implement AR-based solutions on your website. It can go a long way to educate your potential customers and boost conversion rates.
For instance, Sephora Virtual Artist lets users try various makeup styles and even match your makeup with your outfit. All this happens without the user ever setting foot into an actual Sephora store.
Image via Sephora
7. Growing Use of Parallax Animation
Animation, in the form of micro-interactions and moving backgrounds, has become a staple in web design. However, parallax scrolling effects are grabbing the limelight in 2021. Simply put, the parallax effect refers to a technique of separating the background and foreground elements in a web page.
It happens when the foreground appears to move or change at a different pace than the background. This, in turn, creates an illusion of depth and movement on the screen. It can go a long way to make your website more immersive, memorable, and engaging. It can go a long way to distinguish your website amidst the endless ocean of lookalike layouts and templates.
Here’s an excellent example of parallax scrolling done right:
Image via DogStudio
It is, however, essential to remember that the use of parallax scrolling shouldn’t interfere with the user experience. Implement it with caution and make sure it doesn’t affect your website’s accessibility. Also, limit the use of this effect to specific sections of your website, such as the above-the-fold section of the homepage.
It’s also a good idea to provide users with controls to turn off the animation. This can go a long way to increase usability for people with cognitive and sensory perception disorders.
8. Experimenting with Horizontal Scrolling
Many web designers have a natural instinct to dismiss horizontal scrolling as just another fad. But effective use of this web design trend can help you draw attention to certain sections of your website. For instance, Momento Multimedia, a design studio, utilizes horizontal scrolling to showcase its portfolio.
Image via Momento Multimedia
In the above example, notice how the website provides users with alternate ways to navigate the website. As a ground-rule, you should use arrows or other visual indicators to inform visitors where you’ve implemented horizontal scrolling. Also, we recommend that you avoid horizontal scroll for text. Instead, restrict its use to image galleries and portfolios.
9. Creative Use of Geometric Design
In 2021, web design is all about making your website unique and offbeat. It’s no longer mandatory for you to follow the norms. Instead, you can bend the rules to create striking layouts that make a lasting impression on the audience. This has encouraged designers to experiment with different shapes and colors to give their websites a more premium look.
This kind of freedom with the use of geometric patterns and shapes breathes life and personality into a website. Here’s an example:
Image via Awwwards.
On the other hand, you can use grid lines to structure your website’s layout. This is particularly crucial when you want to draw a visitor’s attention to certain blocks.
Image via Flowmingo
Likewise, you can use scrolling cards to make an impact while displaying vital information on your website.
Image via Felipe Elioenay
10. Customizable User Experience
A one-size-fits-all web experience won’t make the cut in 2021. It’s time to move beyond a user-friendly layout and strive to make your design user-centric. This, in turn, involves providing visitors with the right options to modify the appearance and navigation of your website.
One of the most common ways to offer customization is to let users switch between light and dark modes. Additionally, you can provide them with controls to manage multimedia, adjust the contrast ratio, and increase font size.
In today’s competitive and user-driven online landscape, it’s not enough to build a fast, responsive, and user-friendly website. Instead, you need to utilize the right web design trends to enhance your website. From retro typography and geometric layouts to parallax scrolling and 3D animation – you should keep an eye on the latest trends.
However, you must carefully assess your brand image and audience’s preferences before you implement any trend on your website. Having said that, certain emerging trends, such as web accessibility and user-centric design, are here to stay. It’s a good idea to consider hiring a web design agency or independent designer to help you identify and implement relevant trends.
Are you following any other important web design trends in 2021? Share your suggestions in the comments section below.
Richa describes herself as an avid dreamer and a curious soul! She is a certified Content & Search Marketing Specialist from Digital Marketer, USA. With an experience of 5+ years as a content marketer and researcher, she is in love with Digital Breakthroughs, Content Marketing, Startup Strategies and so much more.