Each year’s web design trends promise to beam us into the sci-fi future of our dreams, given that they are based on technology. But the 2021 predictions we received from our community of web designers from around the world suggest the opposite.
2021’s web design trends appear to share a common theme: rather than aspiring to hi-tech fantasy, web designers are seeking new heights of realism. They are blending the digital and the ordinary like never before, and it reflects just how much a part of everyday life websites have become. In this way, the following 9 web design trends for 2021 are literally breathing life into the digital world.
- Parallax animation
From micro-interactions to particle backgrounds, we’ve witnessed the rising popularity of web-based animation trends year after year. 2021’s web animations are getting even more complex through the separation of page elements into foreground and background extremes, creating a parallax effect.
Parallax is the optical illusion that happens when objects near to the viewer appear to move faster than objects farther away. Although we see this in everyday life when viewing passing scenery while driving, for instance—the effect on web pages comes across as equal parts real and surreal.
The depth created through the use of foreground and background also has the added benefit of immersion, transforming the computer screen into something closer to a theater stage. As users navigate the web page, they are drawn into its convincing performance as if by magic.
Neumorphism has been gaining incredible traction this past year, and in 2021 it promises to usher us into the paradoxical age of minimalist realism. The style is a successor to skeuomorphism a design approach that incorporates renderings of familiar, outdated materials into current designs, and it had its heyday on app icons everywhere in the early 2010s. This trend was largely supplanted by flat design, which simplified icons and colors in a way that was less realistic but more uniform and easily identifiable.
Neumorphism represents a merging of both trends, with designs that mimic physicality through selective drop shadows while being overlaid with semi-flat colors. Most commonly, the effect resembles digital embossing or debossing. It allows designers to reclaim the tactile experience that was lost in the flat design era, and this, in turn, heightens the user’s connection to the design he is interacting with. Expect to see this stylized realism on the buttons, search bars, and text boxes all across the digital designs of 2021.
3. Abstract art compositions
Abstract shapes, especially those consisting of geometric primitives like squares and circles, can come across as simple, minimalist, and restrictive. However in 2021, web designers are incorporating them into complex, sprawling compositions that exude freedom.
In most cases, these abstract art arrangements are taking the place of stock photography and figure illustrations. While they can include images of people, they still evoke emotion without them. Their bursting, Pollock-esque compositions feel energetic, and their many vibrant colors are infectiously warm. The result is web pages that feel expressive and alive, even in the absence of familiar human faces.
5. Web design for causes
With the COVID-19 pandemic and the various shelter-in-place orders that followed, the internet has become a refuge. Not only have virtual conferences become the norm for social gatherings and entertainment, but many brick-and-mortar brands have also turned to websites to keep their businesses afloat. And we are up to the task, creating meaningful and impactful designs.
In 2021, we will continue to play our role in helping the world through troubled times.
What this means is we focusing our web designs around our virtues, such as our sustainability efforts and community involvement. It means a rise in digital spaces bringing awareness to social causes through interactive means, such as visualizations and simulations. And it means an increase in the resources and methods of DIY web design, making website production accessible to everyone.
Web design has long been focused on delivering great user experiences. And in 2021, the best user experience will stem from shared values and joint causes.
6. Scrolling transformations
When users scroll, they are doing more than navigating the page: they’re interacting. The physical actions they perform in real life flicking their fingers over the mouse cause a response on the screen. Interaction is a form of participation, and when users are involved in things that are happening, they are more likely to be interested and get going.
Navigating is one of the most subtle forms of interaction, and as such, 2021’s web designers are ramping up the visual feedback users get when they scroll. This can range from full-color scheme changes to complex animated transitions to wholesale shifts in the layout. All in all, web designers are taking the time to make each scroll feel like a new page sometimes even a new website.
7. Digital interpretations of physical products
Products are often at the heart of websites, and 2021’s web pages have their hearts on their sleeves. Specifically, products are inspiring literal design elements through creative, digital interpretations of physical media.
This might come in the form of color smeared across a page like a nail polish or images that are cropped in rounded rectangles like smartphones. Not only does this approach create visual synergy between the product and its website, but it also makes web pages feel more organic and unexpected.
With websites becoming an increasingly common part of everyday life, this trend of blending the real world and the digital feels like it was made for our moment in time.
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