Web design trends for 2021

While we stand by the consistent, sensible web design advice given in our post Visual tools for effective web design, this still leaves a lot of wiggle room for ways to make your site stand out in a very competitive field. This can mean following trends which, like fashion or art trends, keep changing, making the recently-novel seem “old school” by next season.

The trends discussed here all work within the overall framework we outlined before, so that they don’t contradict general wisdoms, but instead amplify them. We start with the most harrowing and work down to more conventional solutions. Also, it must be noted that loading speeds on Google are becoming more important, so that is also factored in.

Strong tertiary colours 

With the world overtaken by Covid-19 during 2020, websites instilling shock and fear to grab attention began losing in favour of more solid, muted colours, made by mixing in at least a little of each primary colour, to take the edges off.

Still, new trends in achingly bright colours have continued. While a muted palette is standard and works well, it can include one or two really fetching colours that visitors do not often see. A few years ago, in the art world at any rate, these tended to be bright or even shocking pinks and lemon yellows. Now, trends are moving onto colours previously considered ugly and taboo: cobalt blue, bottle green and lurid purple.

These are very awkward colours which are hard to blend, as they are not tempered with the usual mixture of contrasting colour that would calm them down and bring them closer to a nice warm softer brownish range. It’s hard to use these colours without looking like you have no taste at all, and your site is for a second-rate bank or cut-rate pharmacy. Used well though, they can separate the visually sophisticated from the safe and hum-drum.
So, handle with care!

Huge and unusual fonts

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

These may be combined with starkly minimalist landing pages, where, for instance, the only text might be the name and button reading “menu.” Playing with elements like this can be shocking and fun, yet also completely sensible. Needless to say, shocking colours can be used with shockingly bare-bones font design!

Large abstract shapes

For context, see the paragraph below about Neumorphism. One can see how this trend would open a space for the use of shapes that refer to nothing outside themselves. In other words they are purely abstract, and not representational. Combinations of abstraction and representation can also be novel and intriguing.

Neumorphism replacing Skeuomorphism

Skeuomorphism was a trend in which older surfaces like leather, copper or glass were represented in places like menu bars and buttons. This has been replaced by the “Apple-esque” style of Neumorphism, which uses shadows to differentiate otherwise-flat planes of colour. Thus, it restricts visual references to tech devices, rather than to pre-tech devices like leather-bound books, brass plaques or glass jars.  

Sliders out, parallax in

Photo by Willian Justen de Vasconcellos on Unsplash

Large images that move intriguingly are great attention-grabbers on a landing page. However, sliders are losing popularity as a way to do this, as it takes a visitor too long to see  the entire slide show,  and they may thus miss crucial information. Instead, parallax is a new vogue, as it creates an intriguing mystery about what is in the picture while nonetheless making sure the viewer sees everything they need to see. An added bonus is that loading speeds are faster.

In other words, more flat-image animation

Abstract and neumorphic shapes, combined with fonts, can be animated into user experiences mimicking the physical mobility that visitors missed during the pandemic lockdowns. Thus, websites have often become small worlds to explore rather than merely lists and shopping carts. Interactivity has also grown out of this opportunity to focus on websites as our primary means of connecting with others.

And, more efficiency

With so much time to spend on tiny improvements during lockdown, more efficient user experiences have emerged around previously less glamorous tasks like filling out forms or paying for stuff.

Additionally, with visitors forced to shop online where products could not be seen in real life, website owners focussed on building trust with testimonials, case studies, logos of satisfied clients etc, and made sure these trust-builders were easy to find and to read. 

Looking forward

Thus, the pandemic has been a cloud with the silver lining of improved website design and user experience. We now look forward to a world in which we will start exploring the physical world again, bringing these innovations with us.

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