2021 design trends

2021 will be an interesting year again, to say the least, with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to impact how people live their everyday lives. There is now a greater increase in the importance of websites as a whole since people are now at home more working, communicating, and shopping online more than ever. With this being said, we are expected to see a rise in websites improving their overall offerings in general and user interface design needs to be top-notch to support this. Design trends will constantly be evolving from year to year but 2021 will be unique in that more people are online so things may evolve faster and companies may experiment more. We’ve highlighted a few of the most common elements we expect to become popular or continue to rise in 2021.

Plan Content Before Design Choices

We’ve all heard it for years but at the same time, it cannot be stressed enough that a content-first website is always a better approach than a design-first website approach. This is especially necessary with how important fresh and relevant content is for Google rankings and SEO. The truth is, if you do not have a good content strategy, it will be hard for your business to stay competitive and afloat with all of the other eCommerce businesses and basic website services online. Of course, depending on what the content is and how much of it exists, the content alone could impact the way the design should be laid out. You could have the most breathtaking design in the industry but if your content isn’t well-executed then it simply won’t rank well or get you leads. Bottom line, be sure to plan out the content first to ensure you can rank well and take that into consideration before defining design decisions.

Darker Interfaces & Dark Mode on the Rise

Dark interfaces have become hugely popular in the last year with different applications, especially on mobile and tablet sizes, allowing us to switch to what is commonly now called dark mode. For example, Instagram, Facebook, Apple interfaces, and Androids are now allowing you to view screens in dark mode instead of only being able to view content on a traditional bright white background with dark text. The reason for the dark mode trend is that it is easier on the eye in certain lighting conditions, most ideal for OLED screens which are gaining popularity, it can save on battery power and can make for a sleeker user-interface when designed well. Browsers are also embracing the dark mode trend which is influencing the entire web design industry by not only allowing this option but also making sure a site or application looks good in dark mode. For some websites, dark mode or darker interface design, in general, is the only option proving how big this trend is becoming. For more information on how to properly use and implement dark mode for a website, check out this article from CSS-Tricks.com here.

Hand-Drawn Design Elements

With the popularity of illustration applications like Procreate, I believe we will see a rise in hand-drawn elements incorporated into websites as a whole. This could be done in larger illustrations on a landing page or even in smaller design elements like icons. It seems like this trend has been slowly creeping up in the industry for a while and especially for websites in the creative industries but I believe it will also start making its way into more corporate or eCommerce websites even. Does this mean the days of pixel-perfect design elements and high-end photography are over? Absolutely not. It just means that, like all design trends, this is a new one that is shaping out as more artists emerge in the digital design industry. After all, template designs are gaining popularity and one way to help make template sites stand out is this type of artistic expression and customization. For some examples of illustration in web design, check out Awwward.com’s list of illustration in web design here.

Unique Product Page Layouts for eCommerce

Making your eCommerce website stand out amongst the rise of eCommerce, especially during COVID-19 when most people are shopping online, is key to success and sales. One way to do this is to make your product page layouts visually interesting. Instead of just opting for the traditional layout of a product picture on the left, tabs with information, and basic text we will see the trend rise to make these pages more appealing from a layout standpoint alone. The baseline content might still be the same but the designs of these types of pages might start shifting towards something more modern, more open, and overall less conventional. To check out some eCommerce websites from Charlotte web design agency E-dreamz, click here.

Experimental Typography

This trend goes along with the trend of the hand-drawn elements rising in that websites need a way to stand out amongst the template sites out there that are a dime a dozen. One way to do this besides the custom illustration and graphics is to have experimental, unique typography. This could mean a number of things like typography being bold/large, different fonts, or being more hand-drawn itself. Really, along with illustration as we mentioned previously, the sky's the limit when it comes to making typography a fun design element for your website especially with the rise of so many artistic web-friendly fonts. Along with the typefaces themselves being more unique, we are expected to see a rise in animations or micro-interactions in web typography to add movement and artistic expression. For some examples of websites with experimental typography, check out the Awwwards.com website’s list of best examples of typography in web design here.

Data Visualization

Data visualization is basically a way of showing collected or dynamic information visually and we expect this trend to rise in 2021 as statistics and facts become important to gain trust on the internet. Data visualization in web design should be informative, clean, well-designed, and not misleading. You want to find a visually appealing way of representing the facts you are trying to portray and also ensure that any numbers or statistics can update in realtime if need be. You can use different types of charts such as graphs, line or pie charts, numbers, statistics, maps, or any combination of these items to portray the information you are trying to relay. It is also a smart design choice to use color to your advantage by using unique color combinations or bright colors to make certain elements stand out or sit back from one another. Lastly, it is also common to incorporate some animation or micro-interactions into your charts or numbers especially upon the initial load.

ADA Compliance

ADA compliant websites are continuously evolving, improving, and becoming a norm as inclusivity is on the rise as a whole. With people working from home and students being at home due to COVID-19, it’s imperative to make sure a site meets the ADA standards so everyone can get their job and schoolwork done despite their situation or disability. To put it simply, an ADA compliant website is tailored to people with disabilities so they can use it well without a struggle. These websites are designed and planned with these folks in mind from the beginning or have ways for certain elements to be altered to comply with ADA standards. A few examples of ADA compliance elements include size adjustable text, voice readers, text transcripts for podcasts, HTML tags & captions, color contrast, and alt text on images. For more information on basic ADA compliance and accessibility, check out the article by Search Engine Journal here.

Unique/Experimental Navigation

While traditional navigation structures, especially being horizontal at the top of the page, will never go out of style completely, experimental navigational structures are becoming common. This trend has actually been on the uptick for years but we will be seeing more of this across the board in 2021 as companies and businesses are less afraid of trying experimental layouts in general. Look out for navigation structures being vertically integrated into the page, hidden until a target action is taken and/or designed within the main marketing section of the page. Really, the options are endless and since this trend has been evolving for a while, most users are now used to seeing sites with navigational structures that are not as obvious making them more comfortable using and less intimidating in general.


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