32BRAINS 9 Key Web Design Trends – 2021 and Beyond.
Website design trends are ever changing in the endless pursuit for individuality. Here, 32BRAINS explore how elements of new and old have been married in some examples of eye catching web designs for 2021.
1. Monochromatic Dark Mode
In a nod to monitor displays of the 1980s where single colour text on a black background was the norm, the simplicity of dark mode styled sites and apps offers design with an appealing lack of on screen noise. In reality this trend isn’t anything new, but as often is the case, its a reimagined take on something from the past. The use of monochromatic dark mode is a web design trend which has already reached a fair level of popularity in the past couple of years. Web designers have been opting for UI centred around the contrast between the two extremes of black and white in volume. But there’s no doubt that in 2021 they will continue to do so. High profile apps such as Twitter and Instagram have also seen a huge increase in the popularity in their ‘dark mode’ functions in recent times.
We’re also seeing an increase in a ‘monochromatic plus one’ trend which adds a third colour into the format, as seen below. This is the spin which 2021 is most likely to embrace the most. Maybe there will even be room for a monochromatic ‘plus two’ edition, although you have to question whether this would really even monochrome at all…
In addition to the aesthetic aspect, dark mode typifies colour combinations which cause less eye strain when compared to light mode formats. In an age where screen time is a worry for many, reduction in eyestrain its a considerable benefit. Dark mode themes are considered to reduce the risk of Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) of which the symptoms are eye pain, blurred vision and headaches.
Dark mode is also useful in environments or situations where there are low levels of ambient lighting. To put it simply, when you wake up in the middle of the night and grab your phone, it’s going to shock your eyes and brain far less if you have the device in a low light or dark mode format.
An interesting secondary effect of using dark mode is the self reward that it is said to give users. As the dark mode UI has typically been chosen at will, the dark theme gives the reminder that they are doing something ‘healthy’. This one is somewhat of a self fulfilling prophecy.
2. Use of Colour
“Everything in moderation” – A well known catchphrase of mothers throughout the ages, now applied by designers to their colour pallets. Employing similar appeals to the monochrome web design, sites with muted colour pallets are able to achieve greater levels of naturality than those with bolder colours. Perhaps more suited to certain business types more than others – muted colours allow for focus to be centred around other aspects of a webpage such as functional elements, illustrations or animations. Use of pastel colours or greyscales adds to the emphasis of multi dimensional aspects and enhance shading effects.
Colour gradients are going nowhere in design trends in 2021. Wish it all we like, but tie dye just won’t go away. This trend is a marriage of retro and the new school. Expect new colour combinations alongside shading and dimension which allow the impression of movement without animation. This is going to be a feature within logos, site backgrounds, menus and more. Using a colour gradient for a web page background is an easy way to add some personality to a page. Incorporating parallax animations into the design alongside a gradient is also possible.
Organic or natural tones are something we’re seeing more and more of. As brands align themselves with ecological causes, focus on sustainable / meatless products and seek to soothe both souls and minds – their web design has followed suit. These neutral tones are a pretty easy way to exude a calming, neutral website design. There is something very 2021 about the use of calming colours, perhaps its the therapeutic effect we all require (even though it may be subconsciously) after a draining period. Expect browns, greens, blues and beiges in abundance.
Heavy Colour Saturations
Also, heavy colour saturations are going to be a key trend throughout 2021 and beyond. We have already begun to see an increase in the pairing of very intense colours paired with paler and more washed out shades in the same range. This is pretty similar to the organic tones, but with a bit of a spin – a positivity boost injected via intense colours. We’re due some uplifting tones, designers take note…
The use of 3-D in every day settings has always been somewhat of an anti climax. We all remember the clumsy adaptation of spy-kids 27 (give or take a few) in cinemas. However, since the availability of high resolution screens and better quality devices – 3-D is genuinely achievable. Impressive incarnations of multi dimensional web designs are pretty commonplace nowadays and can create a really striking visual impression, especially when paired with 2 dimensional elements and neat colour pallets.
As eluded to with the monochromatic web design schemes, parallax animations aren’t anything especially new. The core theme is a moving text background which creates a 3 dimensional effect as you scroll. When done in the right way, parallax animations can create a memorable and distinctive website design. There are a few pitfalls though, as if the animation is too fast or ‘busy’ (as in populated with text and moving feature) it can actually be dangerous to those with light sensitivity disorders such as epilepsy.
Less severely than this, if executed clumsily, parallax animations can detract more from a web design than they add to it. No one wants to feel like they’re trying to find the bar in a crowded club whilst scrolling through a website menu.
4. Simplicity in design
Keeping it simple is a rather broad category but many would insist it’s a cornerstone of design in general, not only when it comes to website projects. The concept of ‘digital noise’ has led to a new wave of simplicity (or minimalism) in design to the extent that over cluttered and uncoordinated web pages now look outdated. Simplicity in web design in 2021 is about improving user experience, and so minimalism in elements in parallel with ensuring that functionality isn’t in any way damaged.
In reference to colour schemes, web designers are opting for no more than three or four well matched, distinct colours. This allows for a clean layout with plenty of blank space. The theory being here that users eyes will be drawn to the most important elements of the page. Simplicity need not mean that the design of your site is boring, rather that the unnecessary clutter of ads, text and imagery which can often inhabit a poorly considered page are removed to cast focus onto what really matters. This could be artwork, an interactive form, products or anything else.
Ease of use: Fewer superfluous elements mean greater user satisfaction.
Quick page loading time: Allows slower connections or devices to access the pages.
Less moving parts: Require less development & maintenance.
SEO Friendly: Google rewards sites which are easy to crawl, better visibility in search results means more organic traffic.
Better conversion rates: Studies have revealed that simpler sites give better customer conversion rates.
Fit your brand: Often simple design can fit with a brand ethos. Scandinavian brands are a common example of this.
5. Augmented Reality (AR)
With the exception of VR (which requires a headset or similar the average joe isn’t likely to have in their home) there’s nothing more immersive than the inclusion of AR into a web design. Whereas VR plunges its users into a completely new world, AR takes elements of real life and layers them with altered reality. This essentially means that it’s possible to see computer generated images in combination with actual surroundings. AR is commonly used on mobile devices and incorporated into games like Pokémon Go!
Particularly useful in E-Commerce and retail settings, customisable AR allows prospective customers to fully engage with a product and pick & choose their preferences. Call it a try before you buy, digital fitting room or whatever you choose – it’s quite simply a great way to sell your products based on their real life merits. This is something which is considered one of the greatest drawbacks to traditional online shop windows.
As an extension of web design AR – some brands have the ability to offer mobile camera based applications. Black & Decker’s (via Aircards) QR code activated business card interaction allows details to be stored directly to your phone or tablet.
AR might well seem like an inaccessible design trend for experienced web designers alone. However, that’s not quite the case. For example, there is the possibility to incorporate it into WordPress themes via a plugin called WordPress VR. You can pretty seamlessly include 360 videos onto all WordPress theme sites.
Photographs mixed with graphics and illustrations seem like a hectic contradiction to a rise in popularity of simplistic design. However, designers are opting for arrangements which evoke emotion and engage page users rather than confuse.
The mixture of photographs with other forms of media is encapsulated in collages. This is a mixed media style which lends itself to web design with photos, illustrations, graphics, animation and text all combined. Urban Outfitters have employed it on their website in the past year, and it’s fitting with their brand aesthetic. We expect other similar brands to use collage and similar mixed media combinations.
7. Speed Optimised Design
For many reasons, it’s really important to have a site which is both fast and easy to navigate. Users are quick to abandon a website, with over 50% of web users expecting a page to load in under two seconds if they feel as though it isn’t as responsive as it should be. In an age of ever increasing website performance, it’s critically important to keep up with demand. This is in order to encourage users to scroll, therefore increasing CTR and conversion.
Page speed can typically be evaluated through your sites Google Search Console (GSC), via the PageSpeed Insights tool. This index incorporates data from the Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX) based on First Contentful Paint (FCP) and DOMContentLoaded (DCL). There are many things you can do to increase basic page responsiveness and load time including:
Reducing Redirects: Redirecting takes time, it may not be a lot but it does effect page load significantly.
Optimizing Images: Ensure Images are no larger than they need to be.
With all this in mind, web designers in 2021 will be seeking to ensure that responsiveness is taken into account. Especially when such large budgets are put into paid (PPC) and organic (SEO), the last thing brands want is for the website to provide a ‘conversion hurdle’. Really, this web design aspect heralds back to the core beliefs of simplicity in design (minimalism) but with more of a focus on the technical reasoning behind this rather than the visual.
8. Preference Based Design
Something which has definitely come to the fore within web design trends in 2021 is the concept of individually customisable website designs. This item is something which is hugely variable in terms of what each developer may want to offer the user. Some sites are as simple as a dark / light toggle, others offer complete control over colour schemes, font, shapes & even a personal Spotify playlist whilst you browse. Reasons behind customisation in the past were solely centred around accessibility. Whilst this is still the case, the focus is nowadays also on individuality and expression.
Personalised content based on geolocation and browsing history.
Dynamic web content based on a users past behaviour is an interesting development. To give a working example: once you have logged into a website (and they have stored your details), when you return to the site – it’s content will have slightly altered. This can be used by web designers in 2021 to tailor content to individuals more effectively. Also, this is an important notion in local SEO efforts.
Something we’re expecting to see become more prevalent in the next year or so is interfaces which start to recognise device capabilities and tailor the responsiveness, animations etc within a website design automatically. For example, if a user with a slower connection visits a particular site, why should the focus be on flashy parallax designs and multimedia? Sites will be built with layers within their design and usability which can ‘peel away’ when these sort of factors are recognised. This is a level of intelligence which isn’t yet fully formed.
9. Bespoke Designs
With the advent of website building tools such as WordPress, Squarespace and Shopify, there has been an inclination for companies to favour an ‘out the box’ website design approach. There are definitely huge advantages of doing so. Most of these options offering a decent chunk of financial saving, a good range of flexibility and creative freedom in a fraction of the time of a ‘from scratch’ development
Conversely, with the ready made solutions, there are only so many possibilities. With brands of a certain vertical often favouring similar themes and layouts, it can make standing out in the crowd a forlorn hope. Also, without some sort of professional guidance about how users see a site and their individual customer journeys from homepage, through subpages to basket / cart, there can be a huge wastage of resource on a relatively inefficient site. At some point, you’re probably going to need the input of a developer or technical head – why not make this at the start?
There can be a tendency to favour design / ease of conception over a longer term combined marketing strategy with websites. It can be a massive mistake to only view your website as a visual tool to showcase your business; it’s imperative that its tied into all aspects of your overall digital blueprint for your company.