May 27, 2021

6 of the Best Web Design Trends in 2021

Website design remains an incredibly dynamic landscape, and few aspects of marketing management change as frequently as the tactics used to optimize website design and performance.

Web design trends also often change with little or no notification because they are driven by such a diverse and interconnected ecosystem of external influences. These influences include consumer habits, search engine algorithm updates, privacy regulations, artificial intelligence, and the rapidly expanding set of digital marketing tools.

Businesses are required to not only understand these changes, but also to anticipate, prepare for and then respond to them effectively. Additionally, businesses have to respond effectively enough to outsmart and outperform their competitors. Failure to act on these trends will begin to hurt the bottom line as Internet users have increasingly high expectations for the design and functionality of websites.

The team of experts at e9digital wrote this article to share our expertise and help you identify the top web design trends in 2021. Our goal is to help you identify and navigate the trends that will be most impactful to your business in the coming year.

Trend 1 | Responding to Google’s Algorithm Update

In May, 2021 Google will be releasing a core update that heavily prioritizes on-page experience. While this update will affect more than just website design, we’ve included it in this article because it also affects so many digital marketing trends and priorities by altering the ability of a business to have their website appear at the top of search results.

There’s no way to avoid the impacts of this update; it will affect all websites that rely on Google for organic traffic. For context, Google describes a core algorithm update as one that is intended to “ensure that overall, [Google is] delivering on [their] mission to present relevant and authoritative content to searchers.” Google’s impending update will purportedly make a significant effort to holistically improve the user’s on-page experience.

How Will Google’s Algorithm Update Affect Website Design in 2021?

While the core update does force websites to institute some basic SEO best practices, it also touches on other key web design trends like the need for an attractive, intuitive, on-site experience with simple navigation and display, and the continued emphasis on producing excellent content.

Key highlights of the impending update include the following:

  • Optimized site layout and structure will be paramount for competitive organic ranking. Getting ahead of the update can be as simple as following basic best practices like adding alt text for images, simplifying page design, improving page load speed, and ensuring mobile-friendliness.
  • Another key design element to check includes cleaning up pages with multiple CTAs
  • Google has widely touted its practice of following the EAT criteria (i.e. expertise, authority, and trust). This update will only continue to emphasize the importance of expertise and authority as it relates to the website’s content. Critical considerations are: do you have content on your website? Is it well written and thoroughly edited? Is it authoritative and informational? Does it follow SEO best practices for structure, images, and keyword usage? Is it updated frequently?
  • An additional benefit of improving or adding content to your site is showing up in some of the relatively new Google search result components like Feature Snippets. While there is no way to target the featured snippet exactly, writing good content will greatly increase your ability to appear in those results.

This article from Search Engine Watch breaks down more of the technical components of the update.

Trend 2 | Video and Animation

Video and animation continue to lead trends in website design, and these types of content increasingly comprise a majority of all Internet content. Additionally, video has been clearly established as the preferred consumer method of engaging with brands.

In particular, video and animation are becoming more prevalent in the navigation and integrated user experience of websites. This is achieved by making video a core part of the site’s content, including calls to action, navigational features, and other key website components. This tactic is particularly effective at “slowing the scroll” of page visitors and getting their attention on a specific message or CTA.

Some of the most common applications of video in website design include:

  • Making the visible background of a homepage video or animations to immediately bring a message to website visitors.
  • Keeping visitors more engaged on informational or product pages by using video in addition to written or static visual content.
  • Placing video in pop-ups triggered by visitor actions or campaign-specific CTAs to increase conversions.
  • Applying animations that occur in transitional actions or in the background (often called micro-animations).
  • One significant eCommerce design trend involves using micro-animations to showcase products at different angles in a more real-life demonstration. Visitors feel almost like they are seeing a product in a physical store.

A few stats from Biteable about the effectiveness of video marketing include:

  • 74% of marketers report that video has a better return on investment than static images.
  • 49% of marketers say that video helps them engage their audience.
  • 81% of businesses use video as a marketing tool — up from 63% over the last year.
  • Mobile video consumption rises by 100% every year.
  • By 2022, online videos will make up more than 82% of all consumer internet traffic — 15 times higher than it was in 2017.

Trend 3 | Color and Graphic Design

Trends in popular colors and graphic design for websites have changed significantly in the past 18 months. Many of these changes are positive and do a better job of prioritizing the user experience by incorporating softer colors, simpler designs, and a cleaner layout. Together, these simple design changes can produce a superior website that doesn’t distract, confuse or frustrate visitors with unnecessary visual clutter. In fact, many websites that have successfully capitalized on these design trends are pleasant to use and measurably increase customer satisfaction.

Below is a list of the trends that we believe will continue to grow in popularity through 2021 and beyond:

  • The use of gradients. Huge brands have already adopted gradient design aspects into their core brand (think Instagram). Some designers are making this trend even more minimalist by blurring gradient backgrounds to create more of a color impression than a specific branding statement. Blurring a real background image can also help mute colors or objects and draw the viewer’s eye to one specific area.
  • Abstract art is making a comeback, especially with technology, design, media, and marketing websites (or any industry that appeals to customers with a sophisticated understanding of design and aesthetics).
  • More flat designs. This trend includes simple geometric shapes and illustrations; particularly in product demonstrations, data visualizations, and branded design elements.
  • A renewed focus on authentic, high-quality, and custom photography. Stock photography has become so ubiquitous that it no longer resonates with viewers or captures attention, in most cases. Instead, websites will need to invest in photography that highlights their real employees and real customer experiences.
  • Softer colors that are easier on the eyes. Specifically, more brands are using human tones (think pale, natural) and more soothing calming colors that are relaxing, positive, and easy on the eyes. Often, website colors now fall in between the two extremes of black and white, both of which can muddle text and strain the eyes. Popular colors include: cool greens and blues, pastels, and muted browns, to name a few.
  • Be on the lookout for a resurgence in serif fonts as more brands and websites are latching on to this typography trend. Is it any wonder? Serif fonts, when used properly, can be clean, easy to read, and classic.
  • All of the trends above are indicative of a general movement toward “retro” styles. Pre-2000s design features are becoming more popular for many industries and can be felt in color choices, typography, and other primary visual elements of trendy websites.

Trend 4 | User Experience

We should all be thankful that web designers like our team at e9digital are creating more enjoyable and intuitive websites by focusing on simplicity. The mantra for success with this trend is, without a doubt, that less is more. Less imagery, less graphics, less CTAs and less distractions. Not overcrowding pages, over designing graphics, or adding too many elements on a single page will all help users focus their attention on what really matters. The drive for simplicity is occurring across industries and is also a central eCommerce design trend (particularly for health and wellness).

If you’re redoing your website or building one for the first time, pay attention to these 2021 website design trends for user experience:

  • Minimalism is beginning to dominate website layouts. In particular, designers are working hard to simplify navigational components. Achieving this simplification involves changes like reducing menu options and making them easier to see, and simplifying sign-on pages and processes. For a more technical breakdown and specific examples, check out this article from UX Collective.
  • Entire websites are “going dark.” While this is technically a color change, it’s not one that’s reflective of a brand decision so much as making digital experiences easier on the user as darker backgrounds cause less eye strain.
  • Mobile-first designs will continue to become the norm. These designs will prioritize logical content hierarchy, excellent responsiveness, optimal legibility, and lightning fast load times.
  • An increasingly common method of segmenting site visitors is through the use of interactive quizzes or other dynamic content. These tools can include calculators (an excellent lead magnet), surveys, contests, and more. Interactivity is an essential trend to test because it allows websites to collect valuable user information and more accurately serve content while simultaneously affording users the ability to alter their own experience on the site. If done properly, the end result of interactive content like quizzes should be that the user feels their on-site experience is uniquely customized and the company is able to provide their best content, products, or services to the visitor. This trend also means that higher quality content is imperative. Better video, photography, and product descriptions are crucial for keeping users engaged with the interactive features of your site.

Trend 5 | Advanced Website Design Trends for 2021

Beyond just meeting the baseline for website design trends in 2021, some brands are going even further with advanced features and functionality. These more advanced trends are especially prevalent in industries where it’s important for visitors to fully experience the appeal of the product, visualize the complexity of the service, or otherwise be drawn in by the on-site experience as part of the conversion process.

As you might expect, it doesn’t make much sense to incorporate these more advanced features in websites that visitors frequently visit to perform routine functions, check data, interact with other users, etc. as it would likely prove frustrating. It’s all about a proper balance of form and function.

In other words, these more fine-tuned design trends are great for showcasing work or products, but aren’t necessarily a fit for all industries or types of websites.

  • Neumorphism, which makes digital elements look more “tangible” through the strategic use of drop shadows for added depth and a refreshing change of perspective.
  • More sophisticated parallax scrolling options that include things like responsive animations. If using parallax scrolling, consider adding an option for users to disable the feature and try to minimize the total number of effects. Users might get agitated by the need to scroll at length to return to specific sections of the page. The goal with parallax scrolling is to feature the most important pieces of content, not show off.
  • 3D visuals have made a noticeable comeback and, as screen resolutions improve, we expect to see this trend grow in the coming year.

Trend 6 | Accessibility, Inclusivity and Privacy in Website Design Trends for 2021

This trend comprises a few major movements in digital marketing, but is not specifically represented by a single tool, tactic, or outcome. Instead, this trend incorporates a mix of social sentiments, legal regulations, and general consumer preferences that are prompting many companies to re-examine their online presence. This trend affects corporate websites but also extends to all marketing channels, including social media, email, and even traditional practices like print and display.

The central driving forces behind this trend are:

  • ADA compliance enforcement to ensure that websites meet WCAG 2.1 AA standards. What are these standards? Why do they matter? Do you need to be compliant? How do you get compliant? We’ve addressed all of these questions and many more in our comprehensive overview of ADA compliance.
  • Voice and image search, while not the majority of queries, are still increasing in popularity. There are specific ways to optimize for these types of searches that will make your site more accessible to all potential visitors, though proper site structure and SEO best practices will help you stay competitive in the results. Wordstream has published an exhaustive article on the impacts of voice and image search and how websites can adapt to be more competitive.
  • Inclusivity and goodwill are “softer” trends, but they are becoming a higher priority for consumers when choosing the companies that will get their business. Genuine content that goes beyond just product marketing or self-promotion and broader conversational marketing strategies can go a long way toward earning authentic brand loyalty.
  • Privacy expectations, GDPR rules, and new “cookieless” operating systems are creating problems and opportunities for all digital marketers. Each of these issues can be unpacked in excruciating detail, but a basic understanding of each area is recommended as it will affect how web visitors can be tracked and advertised to both on and off your website. Here are authoritative sources to help you learn more about each area: GDPR breakdown globally, navigating cookieless marketing, and online consumer protection and privacy acts taking effect in 2021.

Tackling new website design trends head-on does not have to be overwhelming, time-consuming, or cost-prohibitive.

If you’d like to discuss how to update your website, contact us today to get started. 2021 will only see the acceleration of these trends, and the time to act is now!