The best (and worst) website design trends of 2021 so far

We’re halfway through 2021 – the perfect place to stop and take stock of what the year has brought us so far in terms of website design.

If there’s a thread of gold that runs through all of our favorite designs, it’s not that they’re super futuristic or do something mind-blowing – it’s that they’re practical but playful, eye-catching yet easy on the eye – and more importantly, they’re user-friendly. When it comes to trends that we aren’t passionate about, it’s usually because we see designers getting carried away by the appearance of something without really considering the poor and confused user.

From abstract shapes and retro fonts, to 3D modeling and smart audio, there’s a lot to enjoy. Whether or not you think trends are good for branding, there is no escaping them to some extent. So here are the best (and worst) design trends of 2021 to date. And if you want to create your own designs, don’t miss out on these web design tools (or just marvel at these 404 pages for more web fun).

01. Bold colors

web design trends

Boldness is (still) beautiful (Image credit: Karolina Marques on Dribble)

First there was the hard white, then the inky black of the dark mode. Now designers are embracing vibrant colors, from warm, infectious colors to contrasting color palettes that are impossible to ignore.

Given 15 minutes to consume content, two-thirds of people would rather read something beautifully designed than something simple. Incorporating bright colors into your website design is one way to accomplish this goal.

Along with bright colors, we are also seeing an increase in abstract shapes (in bright colors too) as an alternative to photography or illustrations. Nature-inspired formations, lava lamp spots, Pollock-esque spots – these designs exude freedom and energy when splashed across a page.

02. Use of sound

web design trends

Could audio be added to your website? (Image credit: The New York Times)

AutoPlay audio has undoubtedly been one of the the the most annoying web trends of the past decade (with special mention for ads that start out of the blue) – but we’re not about to reverse it altogether.

Used sparingly, in context, and under user control (i.e. choosing when to activate), audio can both be welcome and enhance the experience of the user. The New York Times did so brilliantly in a recent article on mothers in lockdown. An important design factor here is that the audio is initially muted, which means that it is up to the user to play it or not.

Another benefit of having audio on your site is that when done right, it increases downtime. According to a recent conversion rate statistics, the average duration of a session is about three minutes. With audio, you can easily increase this while your mesmerized audience stops to listen.

03. Parallax transitions

web design trends

There is a lot of depth in this design (Image credit: Alex Bender on Dribble)

Web-based animation trends are on the rise, and parallax scrolling and transitions are where we are in 2021. This is done by separating the page elements into foreground and background elements. -plan, giving the viewer an immersive feeling of depth.

04. Retro fonts

web design trends

Retro is back (Image credit: Shelf Heroes)

We have seen a comeback of once cool fonts that have fallen out of favor and returned to normal. But rather than just repurposing typography from the past, the designers are reinventing these traditional typefaces for 2021: Vintage fonts from the 70s and 80s have been spiced up with bold new colors to give them a new look.

Check out Creative Bloq’s list of the best free fonts if you want your own typography, as well as the best retro fonts available.

05. 3D animations

web design trends

Go 3D or go home (Image credit: Minh Pham on Dribble)

Three-dimensional images bring a tactile element to web design, with drop shadows and semi-flat colors, which in turn creates an immersive experience for the viewer. Discover our best 3D modeling software or animation tools to create your own.

06. Dark mode on websites

web design trends

The White House site is darker than you might think (Image credit: The White House)

Technically speaking, this was a trend that started a few years ago on social media, but now we’re really seeing it take on its full meaning as designers embrace darkness as a striking backdrop to make images pop. The White House added optional dark mode to its site in 2021.

As with everything about style, what we think is good is subjective – but when it comes to web design, there’s a guiding principle behind something that flies or falls apart – and that. ‘is the UX. If the design makes it harder for the user, then it’s a thumbs-down. Here are some of the upward trends for 2021 (which we hope will disappear soon).

Scroll hijacking is a usage nightmare. Not only is this outside of UX design principles, but it’s also really boring.

Scroll hijacking is when a designer causes the scroll bar to behave differently on their website. This can include a redesigned bar, fixed scroll points, or scrolling that speeds up or slows down at a certain point on the site.

They are controversial because scrollbars are designed to behave the same, wherever you use them. And when they don’t, it’s shocking – a big part of why they’re widely hated.

02. Irrelevant illustrations

web design trends

Too much? (Image credit: lapa.ninja)

Is it just us or are these illustrations of oversized people all over? Illustrations like this handily trump boring storage images – they add personality and charm to a blog post or website. But – and this is a big deal – we’ve hit saturation with this particular illustration trend.

If you want an alternative to stock images, we recommend working with a 3D illustrator or designer to get something personalized for your site. If budgets are tight, go for free illustration (UnDraw is a good option) – but use them sparingly.

03. Extreme minimalism

web design trends

Where are the clothes, Zara? (Image credit: Zara)

Minimalistic website design is awfully cool when done right, but too often it is overdone to the point that the user simply has no idea what to do, where to go or what to talk about. the website.

We also see that it’s overused in the wrong places. Concrete example ? Zara.com. While the homepage looks good, it’s almost impossible to tell what it is actually selling. Speaking of which… to access the threads, you have to click on that little hamburger menu up there in the corner. It’s manageable, but figuring out what to do takes a millisecond longer than it should, which means from a UX perspective it’s a failure.

The product pages are not much better. While these lifestyle photos are good for raising a mood, there are too many of them and it slows the user down in their browsing journey: you have to scroll through one lifestyle photo after another, rather than to dive into the layout of the grid. we have come to expect low and mid-priced clothing sites.

web design trends

Keep scrolling, scrolling, scrolling (Image credit: Chromatix)

There’s a lot to like about the iPad Pro product page: it’s clean, there are scrolling transformations, there’s a parallax design in there… but it just goes on and on.

Scrolling through websites saves the user from clicking to access information – but there must be a cap on the amount of scrolling the user has to do. If you go over that limit, then it is potentially important website content that the viewer is missing out on.

The key here is to be concise. You have about 7 seconds to hold a website visitor’s attention, so keep things as short and to the point as possible.

Note that almost endless scrolling is not the same as infinite scrolling, another feature that allows visitors to access new content simply by scrolling instead of clicking.

web design trends

Scroll sideways to learn more about Amsterdam’s canals (Image credit: Chromatix)

We’re not saying horizontal scrolling is a trend that has no value – but you also need to know Why you change the default scrolling behavior and how it improves the user experience. When you scroll horizontally a website you are intentionally going against what your visitor expects – so make sure they have a legitimate purpose beyond looking cool.

There’s a lot to love about this site: stunning typography, parallax scrolling, vivid colors, and crisp photographs. And the side-scrolling of this site makes sense: the goal is to make it look like you’re leafing through a high-end coffee table book, and – mission accomplished. In short, it’s a well done side scrolling.

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