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Web Design Trends You’re Not Already Expecting (2021)

design swatches - colorful and random

We can all agree that 2021 has been a year to forget, right?

Well, here’s something you need to remember. Right now, there are over  23 million professional web designers in the USA alone.

Why? With eCommerce sales projected to hit nearly five billion dollars this year, is it any wonder that everyone wants a piece of the pie?

And if you want in, you need to stand out.

Don’t leave your web design in the year from hell. It’s time to drop that hero-image and start thinking outside the box. 

Check out these 12 modern website design trends to show you exactly how to do it.

A lot of the advice out there would tell you not to follow design trends. 

But, the fact is that every web designer is watching the competition to see what works and what doesn’t. 

And this is why:

88% of users will never return to a website with a poor design.

Website design is just like everything else in life: you don’t get a second chance at a first impression.

Still, in case you’re hungry for more:

  • It takes 0.05 seconds (50 milliseconds) for users to form an opinion about your website (first impressions).
  • 94% of first impressions of a business depend on the site’s design.
  • 94% of negative website feedback is design related.
  • 93% of users leave a website because it doesn’t display properly on their device.
  • 93% of users leave a website because it loads too slowly.
  • 90% of users leave a website because it is poorly designed.
  • Slow-loading sites cause $2.6 billion in lost revenue annually.
  • 75% of consumers admit to making judgements on a company’s credibility based on the company’s website design.
  • 70% of software engineers use dark themes to write code.
  • Users spend an average of 5.94 seconds looking at a website’s main image.
  • Users spend an average of 5.59 seconds looking at a website’s written content
  • “Design-driven” companies are 69% more likely to succeed than their peers.
  • 67% of users prefer to read beautifully designed content.
  • 67% of users will pay more for a great experience.
  • More than 50% of users won’t recommend a website to others if it is poorly designed.
  • 38% of users stop interacting with websites that have a weird or unattractive layout.
  • 48% of people cited (2018) a website’s design as the primary factor for the credibility of a business.
  • Users can retain up to 95% of messaging transmitted in video compared to just 10% in text.
  • Using bold colors can increase web recognition by 80%.
  • It takes 10 seconds or less for a visitor to decide if they trust your company, based on the design of your website.
  • Bright colors can increase conversion rates by as much as 24%.

So with those numbers fresh in your mind, let’s take a look at the web design trends that can expand your web presence in 2021.

1. Dark mode optimization

dark-mode-wen-design-trends

If we’re talking about web design trends for 2021, let’s be honest: we’re talking about dark mode.  

Medium research found that a massive 82.7% of people answered “Yes” to using dark mode in their OS of choice. And, according to Android Authority, that figure includes 81.9% of Android users too. 

So, perhaps it is not so surprising to see mega-companies like Apple committing to a comprehensive system-wide dark theme on their latest iOS.

Website developers everywhere are ditching color schemes to give users the option to quickly turn their interfaces dark. 

Not only does it look super sleek, it can also save battery life. In fact, Phonebuff found that it can extend the life of iPhone batteries by up to 30%

Since we know from Google that 40% of transactions are now being carried out on mobile devices, that extra bit of juice might make all the difference for conversions on your website.

Speaking of Google, look at how Chrome allows users to switch to dark mode while browsing through websites. 

Right now however, only websites that are optimized for dark mode will be accommodated by the feature.

But, you can expect the number of websites with this design trend to grow rapidly in 2021.

Still, proceed with caution. If your designers miss something in development, your content might not be displayed properly, and as the statistics above show, you visitors will not stick around for long.

2. Minimal mobile layout

minimalist-mobile-design-web-design-trends

As of the last quarter of 2019, 52.6% of internet traffic comes from mobile

That’s more than half. And while that number might not surprise you anymore, you need to know that high-quality mobile web designs play by different rules.

In mobile web design, user experience is changing faster than on desktop as the mobile market is expanding at an accelerated rate. 

While the old trend was for simple design and monochromatic color palettes, the current trend is for designers to build mobile layouts that are as minimal as possible.

This is all to help to improve navigation. Smartphone screens are small but designers are realizing that optimizing mobile navigation isn’t just about white space any more. 

When it comes to 2021 web design trends, designers are thinking about micro interactions. 

Look at those three little dots in the top right corner of your browser. Click it, and a world of menu navigation options pops up. 

Recommended reading: How to Make a Mobile-Friendly Website

The trick is to hide something until the user needs it while also making sure that they also know exactly where to find it.

Swapping a phone number for a phone icon can guide your user’s journey without ever needing to code a “contact us” page.

Micro interactions can improve calls-to-action and help the user to visualize their inputs.

Crucially, studies are showing that micro interactions can allow users to understand a non-standard website layout

Great news if your business has paid web designers for a unique, high-quality web design specifically intended to buck the trend. 

Microinteractions are the way to make sure that your user will understand how to use it in 2021.

3. Storytelling

storytelling-to-be-continued

Even the most everyday businesses have a story behind them.

Your visitors should know what they are getting before they even click on your page (if they don’t then your website has bad search intent.)

When they arrive, take the opportunity to tell them the story of how your business beats the competition.

Look at the way this architecture firm uses interactive storytelling to highlight the history behind their current work.

Consumers spend more time on a site with interactive features. But, creating responsive elements doesn’t have to be costly.

Your business can tell its story with a simple element such as a scrolling timeline.

It is an easy way to increase brand awareness while giving visitors a fun reason to stay on your site for longer, which in turn, should increase conversions.

4. Make space for video

video-web-design

You could probably guess that Google is the most visited site in the world but did you know that YouTube is second? 

With over two billion logged-in users each month (and counting) YouTube has global appeal. 

But, here’s the crazy part. Those users spend an average of 40 minutes on YouTube per session. 

Want to know the average for regular websites? Just 15 seconds.

The message is clear: people want to watch videos. 

In fact, according to a study from Forbes, 80% of internet traffic was attributed to videos last year. This trend is expected to continue well into 2021.

What’s more, Insivia found that users can retain up to 95% of messaging transmitted in video compared to just 10% in text.

Embedding short video clips into the background of your website homepage is a great way to show people what your brand is about, but more importantly what your brand is capable of.

And the best part? Internet connections are only getting better and video integration is getting lighter. That means you won’t even have to worry about page-load times.

5. Bold typography

bold-typography-web-design-trends

In online marketing, designers are always looking for a “thumb stopper.”

Whether it is scrolling on social media, or scanning your emails, bold typography does the job again and again. 

It is an evergreen web design trend in the design community that is quickly overtaking 2021 web design trends like the hero image.

Don’t believe us? Check out this timeline from web design watchdogs Awwwards , that traces the size of creative typography over the years.

Right now, the text-only hero section is blossoming into a big web design trend.

Better yet, it is one that everyone can follow with just a little bit of graphic design and some bold type. 

Eye-catching, individual, and much easier to create than complex imagery, bold fonts are one of those site elements that seem to influence UX design year-on-year.

6. Horizontal scroll

Once the refuge of early noughties flash games, it looks like the sidescroller will be making a comeback in web designs for 2021.

As we already mentioned, your visitors in 2021 are ready for a non-traditional user experience.

Side scroll is a simple way to invert regular website design in a way that makes sense to everyone.

Adding a micro interaction such as an arrow at the side of the screen lets your visitors know exactly what to do without the need for a menu.

Check out this vibrant example from Vogue

The magazine is known by millions of people worldwide and wouldn’t risk its business reputation with a design that people couldn’t understand.

In this case the designer gives the feeling of interacting with the website the same way you would turn the pages of a magazine.

Since side scrolling isn’t a common feature yet, you can also switch the page by “scrolling down” on your mousepad just in case.

Side scrolling is a feature that is going to keep growing as current design trends for 2021 go out of fashion because it is a functional way to switch up your UX while maintaining clear and obvious navigation .

7. Motion user interface

kreatank-animated-logo-web-design
Kreatank animated logo design

It’s hard to get, let alone keep, the attention of the average online visitor. 

Nielsen Norman suggests that website visitors stay on a page for an average of 10-20 seconds.

One method to keep them drawn to your page is by having a motion user interface (UI).

Motion UI are page elements that are animated. These used to slow down page loading. But thanks to advancements in website building technology, motion UI doesn’t use up much of the website’s speed.

User-triggered animations like this one from design agency Red Collar are the 2021 update to this growing trend in web design.

According to Adobe, combining user interaction with tasteful animation is one of the most exciting things to happen in a generation. 

As web design has caught up with the expressivity of print publishing, Adobe argues that this development adds a whole new dimension to the ways we can interact with content.

Better yet, The Drum notes that far from slowing down your websites, including this element in your web design actually enables faster page load time since it only has to render once the user interacts with it. 

8. 3D elements

3D-ELEMENTS-WEB-DESIGN-TRENDS

Since we’re talking about page load speed, let’s talk about another black sheep that will come in from the cold in 2021 and 2021.

Google research showed that as page load time goes from one second to 10 seconds, the probability of a mobile site visitor bouncing increases 123%.

Luckily, smartphones, internet connections, and modern web design have come a long way since that was published in 2017 and 3D elements are one of the trending designs set to benefit.

The 3D effect can be a very powerful marketing strategy for designers who want to showcase their skills whilst also increasing brand recognition. 

It is very difficult to deny the UX of high quality product design like this from Bruno Simon.

Still, your web design doesn’t have to go all the way and your brand can benefit from the 3D effect without investing millions of dollars.

Design elements we might call “3D-Lite” like this from Prior. Are a great method to enhance the user experience on a business website by employing modern web design trends.

We are only just arriving at the possibility of regularly including 3D elements in website design so you can expect to see an increased web presence for this trend.

At least, that is, until AR and VR arrive in full force in the years to come.

9. Floating Elements

Brittany Ann Keller – Anonyome Labs

Shadows, layers, and floating elements are going to be as common in the websites of the early 2021s as the background image was in the early 2010s.

Designers are working with an ever increasing number of tech-savvy clients and as such, they are beginning to flex their muscles.

Dev notes that soft shadows and floating visuals can infuse positive emotions into web design. 

Designers are making use of improved technology to create elements that make your website look more 3D. 

These elements are more lightweight and as such are less risky in terms of UX. 

Also, this trend can be applied to any web content: text, images, videos, and more.

10. Hand drawn elements

Hand-drawn-elements-design-trends

This one might seem childish until you consider the fact that consumers who have an emotional connection with a brand have a 306% higher lifetime value.

At that point, it is just smart business.

Hand drawn elements are a great way to inject emotion, and personality into your website and are showing strong evidence as one of the big web design trends in 2021.

In fact, case studies from 99 designs recommend that you avoid overly perfect illustrations or a pixel perfect web page with a grid design if you want to stand out. 

That trend is on the way out from 2019 and some businesses are looking towards hand drawn styles as an easy method to make their brand more approachable.

Still, outside of bold typography and fonts, hand drawn imagery or illustration is one of those trends that will require outside help from a graphic designer, so it is worth keeping that in mind.

Recommended reading: 7 Best Web Design Classes and Tutorials for Beginners

11. Gradients

color-gradients-design-trends

Color scheme has always been important to web design trends. 

While minimalism and white space are still going strong in some sectors, some of the game’s biggest players such as facebook are turning towards color gradients.

The social media giant has started integrating its web presence on instagram and messenger and it did so with a gradient color scheme.

What does that mean for web design trends? Well where social media goes, the rest of the internet follows and there is plenty of evidence to back that up.

Raid boxes explain that gradients – as we know them in 2021 – are part of a relatively recent development of CSS (the code responsible for web design.)

As such you can expect this trend to last as we are only just at the tip of the iceberg in terms of the things that we can do with it.

12. Dreamy images

bold-colors-design-trends

When SWEOR crunched the numbers, they found that on average, a visitor to your site spends an average of 5.94 seconds looking at a website’s main image.

And that already seems like a lot. 

When you compare it to the fact the same visitors spent only 5.59 seconds looking at all of a website’s written content then you get a good idea of how important images are.

Whether it is an illustration, photos, or even just screenshots. No one wants to look at an article that doesn’t have any visual content.

We’ve already talked about the style trends for illustration and how hero images are actually on the decline in 2021.

Web design trends in 2021 will clearly still include a lot of imagery but it is the colors that you should watch out for.

Forget white space for now and look at the way that Le Petit Nantais uses brighter colors in their web design.

Colors can be enormously powerful in producing an emotional response.

Recent case studies into the psychology of colors in web design has shown that bright colors can increase conversions by as much as 24%.

The year will see web designers moving towards brighter colors in their images and text content as the business case is obvious for everyone to see.

How to future proof your website design

Trends are trends for a reason, so if you want to build a website that will last beyond 2021, you’re going to need to learn how to refresh your website regularly.

Sure, you could read one of these articles every year but if you want to stay ahead of the curve it pays to know which of these options really converts on your website and which ones are just popular.

To do this, you’ll either have to pay a web designer every year who knows what’s hot in your niche, or you can use your own expertise.

Picking a website builder that allows you to customize your design in a way that really converts is a simple and effective way for you to cut out the middleman.

Plenty of platforms feature AI heatmap technology which can show you in an instant the elements that your users love and the ones that are out of style.

Whichever approach you take, remember that the best way to find out if your website is leading the pack or just following the crowd is to keep testing, and keep optimizing. 

That way, when 2022 rolls around, you’ll be ready and waiting with the hottest website designs.

References

Written by

Author avatar

Damien

Damien is a self-professed, semi-obsessed word-freak that wants nothing more than to tell small-business stories in a big way. Always scouring the market to find the right tools for the job, he is focused on finding creative ways to bring them to the people. When not writing, Damien is known to be a massive music bore, amateur radio enthusiast, and woodland wanderer.

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