What’s trendy in web design shifts from year to year, with some things remaining the same. As we move into 2021, expect to see some changes driven by advancing technology as well as some old favorites that stand the test of time. Although it’s impossible to predict every style that will crop up in the next 12 months, we can make some predictions based on what’s popular at the end of 2019, as well as patterns in design over the decades.
Graphic design is a $46 billion-per-year business with around 520,875 workers. Competition in the sector is fierce, so designers work hard to come up with innovations and create user-centered designs. New developments appear constantly. Some fizzle, and others stick around for a while.
Keep in mind that many changes occur because of current technology, such as the move toward mobile responsiveness. Some of the top designs we think you’ll see in 2021 include the following.
1. Dark Mode
If you own an iPhone, you probably noticed a change with the last iOS update where your phone looks a bit darker. You can change your settings back to light mode, but users often find the darker display is easier on the eyes. Web designers have started copying this look for trendy design. It’s also a creative way to mesh mobile elements into their lineup.
What makes this color scheme so interesting? It adapts to whether you’ve picked dark or light for your phone and will shift the look of the website based on your preferences. The new capabilities of web browsers allow websites to ascertain user settings on their devices and present the preferred display.
2. Call to Action
Calls to action (CTAs) aren’t anything new, but designers are getting smarter and smarter in the wording, look and presentation of this element. Today, you have detailed analytics at your disposal that break down who your user is, where they live and even an age range. These demographics can help you choose CTAs that reflect personal preferences. The language of your CTA, the placement and the color of the button all impact conversion rates. Better and better testing methods will ensure you choose the perfect CTA for your site and get the highest conversions possible.
Frommer D’Amico meshes their CTA perfectly with the design of their page. They place a CTA button right at the top of the page that reads “Free Consultations — No Fee Unless We Win.” This CTA answers the question a user might have about whether there is a charge and encourages them to have their case reviewed by a firm specializing in workers’ compensation.
3. Three-Dimensional Graphics
In a perfect example of tech driving trends, high definition for smartphones has advanced rapidly, and designers are keeping up by offering 3D videos and images in their designs. The reason this will become an even more notable trend in 2021 isn’t that designers weren’t capable of creating beautiful high-def videos all along. They had to worry about how well the content would stream. Now, there is less concern over connectivity and speed, thanks to the coming advances of 5G and more advanced devices on the user end.
In 2019, there seemed to be gradients popping up everywhere. Gradual color shifts from top to bottom, side to side and even diagonally ruled the internet for a while there. Gradients won’t go away anytime soon, but they are becoming increasingly subtle. A range of shades with an ever-so-slight shift in hue seems to be rising in popularity month after month. You might see a gradient on a logo, on a website or in advertising. They’ve also taken on a bit of a smoky look.
5. Big Type
The use of gradients in typography has shifted us toward larger and larger type. Because designers now create graphics that adapt to screen size, there is no worry about a larger font overtaking the screen. It automatically scales based on the size of the user’s screen. The trend toward large type for headlines has continued throughout 2019, and should move forward into 2021 because of the use of gradients and other unique design choices such as cutouts.
Look at how the design agency Born & Bred uses large type to add high-level design to their page. The name of the brand is in big letters, but they split the page in half vertically, with half of the name in black and the other half in white. It is a striking design that captures site visitors’ attention.
6. Mobile First
For several years now, web designers have been developing mobile-responsive websites. However, with the growth in the number of people who own smartphones and more and more people using them to get online, expect mobile-first designs. Websites will focus less on desktop, but more on mobile, with desktop as an afterthought. Be cautious with this trend, though. While it is smart to create a site aimed at where the majority of your traffic comes from, you may find you have more people accessing your site from desktops. Study your internal data and make the choice that’s right for you.
7. Horizontal Scrolling
You may have noticed a trend in the last month or two where more and more websites offer horizontal scrolling. The real advantage here is that the user expects the screen to scroll down, so when it scrolls to the side, it captures their attention. It also works especially well on mobile devices where people are used to swiping right or left to access functions.
This Side of Rice offers a beautiful example of how smoothly horizontal scrolling works both on mobile and desktop screens. As you move your tracker down, the screen moves left and reveals a new page with each shift down. It is much more engaging than if the page continued to scroll downward.
Asymmetrical design isn’t exactly new. Designers have used floating elements for years for print advertising. However, it is a shift away from the boxy look of yesterday. Browsers’ ability to break out of the grid pattern is responsible for this changing trend. It isn’t that designers didn’t know how to lay out a free-floating look all along, but that browser functionality was holding them back. Expect to see grids fade away this year, and more and more free elements appear.
Gone are the days of clicking on a button and waiting for a page to load or something to pop up. Internet speeds are making things seem almost instant. Reusable elements and developer frameworks with better capabilities are creating the ability to show users their actions worked and the website is doing something now. This design trend keeps people engaged, so they don’t bounce away. You might see a function such as a pointer moving as you guide your mouse toward a CTA button, for example.
10. Voice Search
Researchers predict smart speakers will grow sixfold by 2022. Homeowners are getting on board with Alexa and Google Home. Between smart speakers and smartphones, users access voice search features more frequently. Expect websites to start adapting to voice search to remain compatible with these devices.
Watch the Coming Trends
You can likely predict some of the trends yourself based on new technology as it appears. The best way to figure out what might be popular in 2021 is to read widely in graphic design publications, keep abreast of new technology and study what other top designers are doing. Who knows? You might even be the one who innovates the next hot design idea.