The world of digital marketing is constantly evolving with new innovations, technology and ways of doing things. It can be hard to keep up!
While it’s never good to be a slave to trends, if you have a website, it’s important that you stay up to date.
Good web design isn’t just about aesthetics – it has a fundamental role in creating your brand identity and has a tangible impact on your website conversions. Many trends are led by user needs – they solve problems that make it easier for people to use your website and in turn, buy from you.
Over the last year, the world has changed drastically, and design has evolved to reflect that in all its forms.
As we move out of lockdown and look forward to a brighter and more optimistic year, let’s have a look at some of the latest design trends that have emerged and see what we can expect for the rest of 2021.
1. Asymmetric layouts
A good website layout is all about visual balance – you know instinctively when it’s not right. Traditionally, websites have followed a grid-like layout with key information (like the logo, title and menu) being placed on the left-hand side and a header at the top.
Asymmetry is a less rigid way of designing websites, where different design elements are pushed around the page and there is no formal layout. It might seem that this could be confusing, but when done well the information flows easily and the result is a contemporary, eye-catching design.
2. New colour schemes
For the last few years, websites have been very white, minimal and clean. But we’re seeing darker colour schemes emerging, and it’s proving popular for good reason. Having a dark background with white text not only looks stylish but it also helps images and graphics stand out more. Designers can use pops of complementary colours to keep things light and bright.
At the same time, there is also a trend for more organic, muted colour schemes. People are spending so much time online (work, school and even our social lives play out on screens), that softer colours are easier on the eye.
3. Softer, organic and more playful designs
Website design in 2021 is becoming less flat and minimal. Designers are making subtle use of grainy imagery, gaussian blur and gradients to create depth, texture and character to websites. The overall effect is calming and a bit more human.
The move to softer and more playful designs means that there is greater scope for brands to express themselves visually online, through everything from colours, typography and icon choices. We’re also seeing hand drawn illustrations, abstract art imagery and animations being used for the same reasons.
4. Retro is back (again!)
From colour schemes, typography and even content – the retro look is becoming popular, and it works brilliantly for lots of different websites. Rather than reusing older design styles in a cliched way, we’re seeing a modern reimagining of them.
This is about more than just having a retro aesthetic. It’s a nod to simpler times and doing things a little bit differently.
5. Designing for page speed
With the launch of Google’s latest algorithm update (we wrote a blog about it here), page speed is now one of the most important ranking factors. Because of this, more attention is being given to designing websites that will load quickly. This isn’t just important for SEO, it improves your visitors’ experience on your website too.
While page speed depends on many factors, the visual design impacts it too. Large images in particular slow down page loading time, so it’s important to not have more than you need and make sure they’re optimised for the web. Sometimes less is more, and it helps bring the focus back to your key message.
6. Scrolling isn’t just about moving up and down a page
Scrolling is a form of interaction, and you want users to interact with your website as much as possible! Designers are ramping up the visual feedback people get when they scroll with changing colours, animations and even layout changes. This interactive and fun design keeps users engaged for longer.
Horizontal scrolling used to be a no-no, but designers are now using it to help users navigate galleries and secondary information. The key is to make sure it’s not the only navigation option and that the other options are clear.
7. Neumorphism in user interfaces
The word ‘neumorphism’ describes the way different elements of a website look, primarily the call-to-action buttons and icons, but it applies to the whole user interface.
Back in the old days of the web, buttons were designed to resemble the things they were for – for example, a music app icon would look like a cassette player. This was known as another technical term – skeuomorphism. They were colourful, textured and high contrasted. Think of the iPhone in 2007.
This led to websites looking a bit loud, cluttered and fussy. Around 2010, a new style emerged called ‘flat design’, which simplified the interface using basic shapes, colours and kept everything in 2D. It evolved to be a bit less flat and minimal (known as material design), it is the style most of us will be familiar with today.
Mix skeuomorphism and material design together – and neumorphism is born!
It has a softer interface, where buttons and icons seem to emerge from the background rather than float on top of it. You can see it in use on the Tesla website. It’s more realistic, resembling what a physical interface would look like with solid colours and low contrast.
Neumorphism is now finding its way into Apple’s design aesthetic for its latest operating system, macOS Big Sur, so it’s making an impact. To how well it translates in real life, the jury is still out!
Companies are now adapting their content to fit individual users’ preferences and craft more personalised experiences. Things like dark/light mode, font size, spacing and accessibility can be customised, alongside things like customers’ product preferences on e-commerce sites. This is often based on questionnaires or the visitor’s previous history on the site.
By designing different interfaces for different people, you can create a better user experience that makes browsing and buying easier. It’s also fun – look at Netflix and Disney’s personalised artwork options and tailored recommendations.
9. Design Activism
Design has a powerful role in getting messages out there, and 2020 in particular seemed to bring a bigger platform and wider audience for activism. Just one example is the Black Lives Matter movement, which built huge press coverage and saw brands such as Nike creating campaigns to support it.
People want to feel connected to the products they buy. For brands with strong ethics and values, now is the time to shout about them, whether it’s your sustainability efforts, anti-racism work, gender equality ethos or charity initiatives. Likewise, designs need to be more diverse and inclusive in their illustrations, photography, language and advertising campaigns.
That’s it. Have we missed anything?! Of course we haven’t even touched on things like video, augmented reality and multimedia designs that have been growing in popularity for a few years now.
New trends appear all the time, but they don’t all solve problems to improve user experience and make the web better. Some are simply stylistic choices that are here today and gone tomorrow! In this blog we’ve tried to stick to the trends that we think are making an impact.
The challenge as a business owner is to keep your website looking fresh, while also evolving it in a way that is authentic to your brand and values.
This is where expert help comes into play. We can help you make the right decisions for your brand and create a modern design that works best for you and your audience.
Get in touch, we’d love to help!