The line between ourselves and our digital twins is blurring more and more; therefore, users are looking for realistic designs focused on purpose, not just good looks. This is the result of our home-bound 2020 and our need for a digitally enhanced reality.
As we step into 2021, it’s crucial to keep up-to-date with the web design trends as well. The users’ needs are in constant evolution from dark mode, 3D illustrations to voice user interfaces, and conversational design. Staying up to date is essential nowadays, and it helps us decide which trend suits our client’s business goals. This is why we scouted the web design trends predicted for 2021.
1. Dark Mode
Even though Dark Mode design “was born” in 2019 as an app design and was labeled a “fad” trend, 2021 seems to be its year. Contrary to the critics who considered that dark mode looks awful, more and more people tried to switch to it, and they all discovered one thing: it is way better for our eyes and the phone battery.
With the increase of user’s screen exposure time, dark mode design has emerged as a friendly alternative to white screens that tired our eyes. Therefore, its adoption has expanded incredibly much, making it normal for users to expect to have such a version of your site or application.
Indeed, Dark Mode is better for reducing eye strain due to light text on a dark background. It minimizes flickering and blue light, which can harm our eyes, especially when we spend long hours on the Internet. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t? Besides these, it looks very fresh, calm, and gives an overall elegant look.
Left to right: Dwinawan (Dribbble), Nicholas.design (Dribbble), Admin Dashboard by Creative Tim, Nicholas.design (Dribbble)
Neumorphism is a new design trend with roots in flat design and skeuomorphic. It is very controversial because it comes with challenges, especially for front-end designers who must pay a lot of attention to this design’s usability issues.
On the other hand, it is gaining popularity thanks to its simplicity combined with life-like tools and components that give a fresh, intuitive overall look. It may not fit all user types and “it will remain a niche trend in our opinion, expecting as art & futuristic related industries, to use neumorphism” (source).
Left to right: Neumorphic Components by Themesberg, samson vowles (Dribbble), mariana konstantinova (Dribbble), emy lascan (Dribbble)
Glassmorphism is the newest trend in UI that is rapidly becoming popular among designers. While its brother, Neumorphism, did not win so many fans, this trend will definitely do. It is characterized by a glassy look that is based on a combination of shadow, transparency, and background blur. It can work great if it’s used the right way – “in some cases, a limited use of “glass” will actually make the product look better and more attractive to the users ” (source).
Left to right: Ceptari Tyas (Dribbble), Soft UI Design System Pro, Choirul Syafril (Dribbble), Happy candoi (Dribbble)
4. Minimalism and Simplicity
Minimalism is holding its stable place on the web design trends podium for a while, and it seems that 2021 doesn’t miss it either. This trend’s essence comes from the focus on experience and not necessarily on the aspect. Minimalism aims for simplicity and objectivity, relying on “Less but better.”
This design type didn’t become popular due to designers looking to work less on their projects, but it was demonstrated that it positively impacts the user’s experience. Indeed, users are most attracted to sites that have a simple, clean design. This trend is highly used for utility applications, like email and banking apps.
Left to right: Gleb Kuznetsov (Dribbble), Soft UI Design System Pro, Feresteh (Dribbble), apple.com
5. 3D Illustrations
We all know that web designs based on illustrations feel premium, cool and easy-going, and most users fall in love with the aesthetics. Knowing this and the fact that 2020 was all about 3D, it feels normal that illustrations keep the same vibe. This trend is also empowered by big brands, like Adidas or Yamaha, and e-commerce stores that have used 3D illustrations this year to render their products. This trend is blurring the line between digital and reality, creating life-like experiences.
Left to right: Anton Tkachev (Dribbble), Herdetya Priambodo (Dribbble), UI8 (Dribbble), VAGO (Dribbble)
Extra resource: If you are interested in illustrations, check out Ira Design and see how you can build your own amazing illustrations using awesome gradients and hand-drawn sketch components. For 3D illustrations, check ThreeDee and see if you find what you need.
6. Comfortable colors
Aligning to the Dark Mode trend, comfortable colors positively impact user’s experience on a website. Among Brand’s color guide, the UX designer should consider the emotions that each color triggers. In contrast to the beginning of the Internet, when graphic possibilities were limited, nowadays, new techniques allow smoother transitions, finer effects, and a much wider palette. This helps designers create a clearest and more realistic experience for the user.
Left to right: ranganath krishnamani (Dribbble), Tran Mau Tri Tam (Dribbble), Adam Rozmus (Dribbble), Natalie Bui (Dribbble)
7. Mobile First Design
In March 2020, Google announced its mobile-first indexing algorithm launch. Also, for over one year, mobile traffic has exceeded desktop traffic and the rise of Progressive Web Apps (PWA) is obvious. Therefore, web designers are now officially “coerced” to prioritize mobile responsiveness.
In the past, we were focused on designing the experience for a desktop screen, but now going the other way around will definitely improve in areas such as user acquisition, SEO, and digital marketing. This trend started in 2013 with Bootstrap launching the first Responsive CSS Framework. With such large numbers of people using mobile phones to surf the web, it makes sense to give responsive design priority.
Left to right: Ghulam Rasool 🚀(Dribbble), Ghulam Rasool 🚀(Dribbble), Material Kit Pro React Native by Creative Tim, Ghulam Rasool 🚀(Dribbble)
Extra resource: If you are looking for mobile design templates, check out these awesome UI Kits and Themes for iOS and Android from Creative Tim.
Gradients have made a comeback in the last years, and we are still going to see them a lot in 2021. They give a fresh, realistic feeling to the design and website simply by adding depth. Real-life isn’t made of flat colors; therefore, gradients are more closer to the real world.
Left to right: alex banaga(Dribbble), Filip Legierski(Dribbble), Rafał Staromłyński(Dribbble), Soft UI Design System Pro
9. Realistic textures
People are usually attracted to familiar elements; thus, a higher level of realism impacts the UX positively. Using realistic textures on a website, like wood and ice, can have the same impact on the users. The interface will give them a tactile and familiar feel making them more comfortable with the website. Being aware of this, web designers had used this principle in 2020, and we are expecting to see even more of it in 2021.
Left to right: The Glyph (Dribbble), Anatoly Suhan(Dribbble), Soft UI Design System Pro, negin valadkhani(Dribbble)
10. Abstract art compositions
Even if we focused so far on the users’ need for realistic lifelike elements, the abstract composition style still has a following in 2021 as a standalone trend. Abstract art compositions in web design, like abstract shapes, crazy colors, etc., can give a joyful and fun visual look. For web designers, abstract art design’s value lies in its characteristic to adapt to a wide range of purposes and businesses.
Left to right: Andrew Trofimenko(Dribbble), Dimitris Chatzilias(Dribbble), Akshay Devazya(Dribbble), Peter Tarka(Dribbble)
11. Dynamic video and animation background
Dynamic videos and animation can make the users interact more with your website because they find it more user-friendly and engaging. Also, videos and animations are the easier choices if you are looking to communicate a specific mood or brand message. But don’t get carried away with them. Otherwise, you can end up with a slow website that scares users away instead of attracting them.
Source: Minh Pham (Dribbble)
12. Parallax animation
We’ve already talked about using background animations, but we’d like to mention parallax animations as a trend in itself for 2021. Firstly known from video games, the parallax effect is now widely used in web design. Parallax websites enhance visual storytelling, which attracts users and reduce bounce rate. These animations naturally encourage users to keep scrolling and scanning the page down below the fold.
Source: Muh Salmon (Dribbble)
13. Mixing photography with graphics
Even it feels unnatural to mix realism with graphics and illustrations, the result is beautiful, unique and people feel in love with it. If you want to bring some personality and freshness to your web design, keep in mind this trend!
Left to right: Ghulam Rasool 🚀(Dribbble), Matt Wojtaś(Dribbble), Blocksy, Ghulam Rasool 🚀(Dribbble)
14. Big Typography
Why Big Typography? Simple. Because it is easier to be noticed and it grabs the viewers’ attention immediately. The typeface is usually extravagant, dramatic, with a wow-factor. This technique should be used to convey a message or make your brand/name to be remembered rather than highlight minor pieces of content.
Left to right: Gleb Kuznetsov✈ (Dribbble), Stripe(Dribbble), Stian ◒ (Dribbble), Mike | Creative Mints (Dribbble)
15. Three-dimensional colors
Colour is one of the fundamental elements of communication and interactions we seek with our audiences. The realism tendency comes out from this 3D color trend as well. Fine shading, gradients, and thoughtfully chosen colors make any app’s components feel like getting out from the screen.
Left to right: Roger Roque(Dribbble), Oğuz Yağız Kara(Dribbble), Roger Roque(Dribbble), Gleb Kuznetsov✈ (Dribbble)
16. Scrolling transformations
Do you want to keep your users engaged and encourage them to interact with your website? Then you should focus as much as possible on the scrolling experience your web page has to offer. The basic function of scrolling is to allow users to digest as much or as little of your content as they wish, so it’s important to tailor the experience to your offerings. Users are attracted by new, intuitive experiences. Check out AD+D Culture‘s website if you want to see what an experiential website based on scrolling transformations means.
Source: Cuberto (Dribbble)
17. Enhanced product photography
In 2021 everything is about online shopping. If this year we felt more prominent this transition, in the year to come this trend will result in a clear need for detailed products showcase. Users want to feel like in a real store when they make an online purchase decision. And the product images will play a critical role. Videos and 360′ images can make or break the purchasing experience for your customer.
Left to right: Dmitry Litvinenko(Dribbble), Tabriz Heydarov(Behance), Masud Rana(Dribbble), Outcrowd(Dribbble)
18. Conversational Design
All the “Big names” on the tech market, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Apple, have already developed voice-enabled AI assistants. The shift of UX towards VUIs is natural, and they are constantly growing in number. Probably, by 2020 the voice commands use will become step-by-step a user’s need on a daily basis. The designers should adapt quickly to this new trend as the way users interact with voice user interfaces is very different from how they interact with graphical ones.
Chatbots had been very popular in 2020. They come with automation and a dramatic boost of user experience on the websites. The customers feel special and appreciated. This trend will definitely continue to expand and evolve, thus creating new types of human-machine interactions.
Left to right: Daniel Prokopiuk(Dribbble), Onteractive(Dribbble), blacklead studio(Dribbble), Mirek Nepelski(Dribbble)
To design better, we need to understand the individual parts that make up the whole. Moreover, every design part it’s in constant evolution and we need to stay up to date if we want to remain competitive on the market. Trends come and go, but we need to adapt them into our design strategy. By knowing what is trending, you can offer innovative ideas to your clients.
I hope this article will help you kick off your strategy for 2021! 🔥