When it comes to website design, things are always changing. Or maybe it’s more appropriate to say things are always advancing. 2021 is no exception. If 2020 taught us anything, it is that the World Wide Web is more valuable than ever in keeping us connected to our work, our world, and one another. To keep up with the changing world around us, web designers find new ways to express this change in the digital world. If you’re looking for ways to upgrade your website this year or want to keep up with the latest tricks, look no further than these top web design trends.
As a graphic designer, one of the web design trends I love watching emerge is the use of illustration. Instead of overusing the stock photos, many brands are leaning towards creative, one-of-a-kind illustrations to lend some zing to their websites.
Not only is illustration taking center stage in 2021, but the animated illustration is also something to keep an eye on. As web designers work to make websites more interactive, they’ve recognized that any movement and animation can bring the simplest website to life.
Some examples of illustration, blended with traditional website imagery, can be seen on websites like Slack.com. Slack does a great job of combining graphics, photos, and illustrations to capture their product’s essence: a more human way to work.
Another fun example of illustration — this time animated — is on the UK website useless.london. This website was designed to help Londoners locate zero waste shops, encouraging their audience to be useless. Cleverly, web designers used animated illustrations to bring their mission to life, a web design trend we will see more and more in the future.
Geometric Shapes and Patterns
The use of the abstract in web design is one of those trends that always seem to make their way back to the top. And that is true of this year more than ever. Geometric patterns have always been a favorite of Apple — even their late 90s iMac resembled the abstract. The brand’s love for pattern and color is also evident in their promotion of macOS Big Sur throughout their website.
While abstract shapes and geometric patterns are also a popular web design trend on portfolio websites for artists and bands, I see this trend pop up on everything from restaurant websites to digital platforms and media outlets like Closing Media.
I mentioned earlier that creating audience interaction is one common driver among web designers. In fact, getting the audience to engage is the goal behind the web design trends we see today. So it should come as no surprise that one of those trends is 3D graphics.
With more and more of the world spending time online, it makes sense that web designers would seek to add some “reality” and depth to a 2D space. We’ve seen 3D begin to revolutionize the retail, real estate, and car buying space — but what does this web design trend look like on the average website?
The website 16personalities.com combines illustration and 3D graphics to create a unique website that draws the user to take their personality test.
Pitch, the collaborative presentation building platform, combines geometric shapes and patterns with their 3D elements, giving the user the sense that they truly control the website.
While 3D has been a growing web design trend over the past few years, I really think we will see much more of it in 2021. As users become more accustomed to their screens opening up into entire worlds of retail products, software, and art, 3D will be a necessity in web design, especially if you want your website to stay up to date with competitors and an increasingly fast-paced audience.
Parallax and Scrolling Animation
Parallax scrolling is another web design trend that has been around for several years but is increasingly utilized across the internet. Web designers (myself included) warn that overusing parallax scrolling can have a negative impact on some of your audience (too much movement can make the reader feel sick). However, a combination of parallax scrolling and trendy scrolling animations could be the combo we’ve been waiting for.
Where parallax creates layers of foreground and background to create movement and depth, animated scrolling uses things like color, font, and graphics to create an animation as the user scrolls. We see examples of this everywhere, but I can’t help but head back to apple.com to see this played out in several different ways.
Take just one page, the Macbook Pro 13” page, as an example. As you scroll down, the page comes to life through timed animations. The computer screen opens. The background grows and changes. The font fills with color. The M1 Chip magically appears before your eyes.
This combined use of parallax and animation creates movement and depth on the page without overwhelming the user. In fact, it creates a dynamic experience that makes you feel like you are in a creative, moving space…and not a digital, 2D landscape.
More Freedom with Fonts
The final web design trend I want to discuss is fonts. For years, fonts have been at the forefront of web design techniques and trends. Previously, sans serif fonts that stand out and are easy to read have been the go-to fonts for web designers. With upgraded screens/displays and devices, however, that is finally starting to change.
Instead of feeling like you can only choose from the sans serif font family, 2021 is going to see an increasing trend of “almost anything goes” fonts. That means serif fonts are back on the table now more than ever before.
Still a fan of the clean look of sans serif? Consider combining a serif and a sans serif to create a typography-driven design. The most important thing to know is that 2021 brings much more freedom with fonts in web design. So have fun and get creative!
Which Web Design Trends Will You Use?
As you begin designing your next website, which 2021 trends and tricks will you add to your repertoire? As the year unfolds, I imagine we’ll start to see other trends emerge and new ways to implement some of our favorite elements from over the years. And maybe it’s time to create some of your own trends. After all, that’s what web design is all about: coming up with creative, innovative new ways for users to interact with the internet.