The internet is continuously evolving. Web design trends change from year to year and from season to season. As fads come and go, it's fun to see what the newest websites will look like and what creative ideas will pop to the forefront.
One thing is clear—the steady push towards user-designed websites is going to continue. Web templates make it easy for everyone to make their site and be their own designer. But having an ear to the ground and following the latest trends in web design is still a good idea because it means you can continue to update and improve your site. Every site gets a little stale, and refreshing with new layouts and new features is a great way to keep it updated and active.
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For several years it has been trendy to be minimalist and flattened. For 2021, it seems designs are splitting two ways. The earlier trend continues, but there's also a movement toward three-dimensional realism with a dash of over-the-top maximalism. Throw in a hefty serving of cool effects, and you've got yourself a pretty good vignette of what the internet will look like this year.
10 Web Design Trends for 2021
Dark mode has become completely embedded in most computer and mobile device operating systems by now. More and more people accept the trend, and as a result, more web designers are incorporating dark themes. The standout feature of these themes in web design is that they look good regardless of the background operating system ecosystem colors.
The wonderful thing about dark themes is that they make your work and portfolio look good no matter what. Black or dark shaded backgrounds provide less distraction for the eye. They look good in low light, and they make your work pop out front and center. Text is high contrast, and the colors in photography seem more vivid.
Color choice isn't all about matching the operating system, though. With everyone trapped at home for the pandemic, people spend more time than ever staring at their screens. One of the best web design trends 2021 will see is a greater understanding of eye strain and colors and layouts that prevent it. More use of dark themes, or themes with neutral colors in general, is overdue.
It's not all good news, though. In some cases, dark modes give you a moody vibe that you might not be going for. It feels more serious, more somber. It's vital to take into account how the viewer feels about the whole package. You don't want the mood of your theme to overtake the mood of your work. Modern web design needs to be holistic in its approach—how does the design interact with the entire UI interface that makes the experience happen.
If you're considering switching your site to a darker theme, take a holistic approach. Often this will mean reoptimizing any logos or vector artwork you might have on your site. If you use intro videos or slideshows that are prominent on your landing page, you'll want to make sure those look best with a dark background. It takes a little tinkering, but the end result should look fabulous on both normal and dark mode desktops and devices.
Fun With Fonts
Designers have been getting more creative with typography over the last few years, and the trend will keep increasing. Eye-catching fonts are fun, and they're a great way to get your message across in a unique and fun way. Experimental typefaces or custom-designed fonts are a great way to add an artistic look to your homepage. Even if it's just a creative logo with a hand-drawn font, this is a great way to make an impression.
Another family of fun fonts that are being used are retro fonts. Look for themes that harken back to older times with recognizable and forgotten oldies.
Like adding vector artwork or other custom elements to your site, fun fonts will not work in every situation. Sometimes you can incorporate them into your logo; other times, you might have to make your landing page image a complex element with typography and imagery. If you're using typography for impact, try to find themes that give you a little bit of white space to play around with to make the text stand out.
Modern Takes on Colors
Color fads come and go over the years, and hues and tones become trendy as tastes change. There are two paths you can take in recent years. The first is the over-the-top colorful approach. This moves color from a background element in the design to be the star of the show. It's fun and inviting, but you have to be knowledgeable about using colors to understand the full effect.
Colors have a visceral effect on the viewer. Everyone has an emotional reaction to color and its use in a website, so you've got to be careful of the overall message and how the color use applies. As a general rule of thumb, cool and soft colors are great for informational pages and backgrounds. Think in terms of blues or greys. For calls to action or designs where you want to pump your audience up, look at bold, bright colors like red or orange.
But of course, there's another tactic you could take. Black and white, completely colorless interfaces, and homepages are a great way to make a statement. You can use these to make a little bit of color pop. For photographers, black and white layouts are a great way to make sure your photography tells the story, not the web template.
Finally, the middle ground is an excellent place to be too. Many minimalist designs use a tiny bit of color to make them stand out, with neutral tones throughout. Check out the Pixpa theme Ohio for an excellent example of a muted color scheme. In some ways, layouts like these personify the happy medium between dark mode and the glaring whiteness we associate with most web layouts.
Another great way to neutralize a design while also making it stand out is to use a gradient background, or even just an abstract blotch of faint color here and there. Elements with a Gaussian blur applied can draw more attention to white spaces in the design and create an emotional response with minimum visual impact. Blurred or grainy elements can add a splash of color and give just the right amount of emphasis to your design.
Grid Designs and Collages
Grids are nothing new in web design, especially in photography and online portfolios. But the wonderful symmetry of a well-laid out grid is a beautiful thing, and it's also a powerful storytelling tool. Grids have their own flow and their own storytelling prowess.
Related to grid layouts is the collage, a popular tool for several years in the web design community. Collages are a great way to combine several works into one message. If your work collection would benefit from this approach, look into the Snow layout on Pixpa.
Some other trends popping up for 2021 involve the sort of photographs that site designers are using. While not entirely applicable to artists' portfolios, it's interesting to note that the prevalence of photos of people is trending downward. The coronavirus pandemic has taken its toll even on web design, and more and more designers are focusing on things other than people's faces. In a world where design highlights what we are most used to seeing, these days, that is not people's faces.
While a clean grid's symmetry produces a pleasant design that is almost universally applicable, don't overlook the appeal of asymmetry in design. That same human tendency to enjoy the sameness of the grid also draws us in when there's a sudden lack of it. Asymmetry in design nothing new, but it's as powerful as ever. Check out how it's used in the Burst theme, which uses a grid that's divided asymmetrically to divide the images up in a visually pleasing way.
Illustration and Vector Artwork
Vector art is making its way into websites where you'd least expect it. Sometimes it takes the form of shapes and abstract art. Other times, it's a complete vector artwork that makes use of all sorts of custom illustrations and storytelling visuals.
Circles, in particular, are trending up right now. Maybe it's the symbolism of connectedness and oneness that the world is feeling in this moment, or maybe it just looks cool. Whatever the source of the trend, circles are everywhere right now.
Another savvy way that web designs are setting themselves apart is with 3D illustrations. Three-dimensional artwork is a unique and memorable experience for the end-user. There are apparent fields and portfolio sites where this might be of use, but think outside the box and figure out how you might integrate it where viewers might not expect it. Is there some element of your overall story that could stand out if illustrated or computer-modeled?
One of the most prominent trends in web design lately has been the explosion of three-dimensional elements. This isn't limited to only websites. Apps, and nearly every other user interface and user experience design, have been kicking this up a notch. While everything was flattened like a pancake a few years ago, now the trend is to make things look 3D and lifelike. More and more buttons are starting to look like buttons again, with depth, shadows, and a new-found level of realism.
As discussed above, with fewer people's photos being used in general, there's an opportunity for more artistic and abstract art concepts in design. Abstract artwork is a great way to evoke emotional reactions without photographs of people. Check out the Sketch theme for some cool ideas on how you can incorporate more art into your layouts. When combined with the color ideas mentioned above, artwork can be a potent selling tool on your website.
The Extreme Life—Minimalism Meets Maximalism
A lot of web design has defaulted to minimalism in the past few years. Less is more, reduce the clutter, and make your mission clear from the get-go. But in 2021, there's a little bit of pushback. Minimalist designs like the Balance theme will likely never go out of style. They work exceptionally well for portfolios because they mark everything that you include as "really important."
But with so many other cool trends popping up on the web, it's getting hard to distill the best stuff down to fit in a minimalist package. With the 2021 mantra of "more is more," go ahead and pile it all in there. A maximalist design includes everything and the kitchen sink—scrolling animations, custom cursor effects, slideshows, videos, and anything else you can think of.
A lot of designers out there just cringed. Just because you can doesn't mean you should. Whatever you choose to include in your site, it needs to uphold your mission. Some things are still just distracting, and there is never a good excuse for a clunky interface that users will have trouble using. Don't confuse people, but don't assume you have to go all-in on the minimalist fad.
Every year that goes by, multimedia gets easier to integrate into web design. We're now at a point where videos can be used to intro a website. Multimedia web design is here to stay. This isn't just for videographers and filmmakers anymore. Corporate websites and traditional artists are using introductory or process videos to connect with viewers instantly.
The great thing about including multimedia and video elements is that it's the ultimate tool in hooking your viewers into your story. If there's one overarching goal to your mission in web design, it's to tell a story. So videos, introductions, slideshows, animations, and multimedia elements all help you do it. It's all about creating a user experience that tells the story. Some call it "scrollytelling."
The Aperture template is an excellent example of a dynamic webpage that can be used for exceptional scrollytelling. The intro can be customized, with whatever leading elements you've got to include. The page's flow adds to the story, and with intelligent positioning of galleries and contents, you can make your entire website flow into one story.
As websites try to stand out among the crowd, effects are becoming more common. The number one way to grab your viewer's attention is with custom cursor effects, which make your cursor change as they move it to different areas of the screen. Alternatively, the cursor might interact with the design elements on the page somehow, whether or not it has been clicked or selected. On a desktop or laptop, it's a cool and memorable effect that grabs attention. It doesn't do much on mobile, though.
Some neat scrolling effects work on mobile platforms as well as traditional desktops. Parallax scroll animations are effects that change and interact with the webpage as the user scrolls through. They add a dynamic element to the page, making it feel more alive than ever before. On the back end, it is a simple effect that simply changes the rate at which the background and foreground layers move. But for the user, it makes the page stand out as unique and memorable.
Scrolling effects don't even need to be that fancy. Simple changes in the color or proportion of elements that occur while the user scrolls can make a great
More Use of White Space
White space is a vital design element that helps make the important stuff in your design stand out. White space doesn't have to be white, but it has to be empty. It's an area that doesn't have an element, and it can be used to direct your viewer's eye towards essential things like navigation bars. It can also be used as a green space in a city—it's a quiet place for your visitor to relax for a moment. No one is consciously relaxing there, but their eyes will be relieved to find a place where they can recenter.
White space has long been a trend in web design, but it's finding its place on the landing page now. Where designers previously felt that they needed to pack in as much first-impression material as possible, now a little bit of white space and a relaxed visitor is the goal.
Many templates make excellent use of white space. See the Define template for a look at how to use it well.
One of the coolest web design trends 2021 has shown us so far is the integration of the product right onto the web page. Maybe it's as simple as matching product colors to background colors. Or maybe it's having a spilled drink that runs down the page. Or perhaps as a user clicks on different products, the entire color scheme changes in reaction.
For artists and photographers, this can take a few forms. Maybe the backgrounds of your photos blend into the grid frames. Maybe you pick a color scheme that merges flawlessly with your photography. The Snow theme on Pixpa is a great example—in it, the pictures are the theme.
Web design trends change with time, and the new layouts and themes are as dynamic and captivating as ever. Muted colors, dark modes, animations, scrolling effects, and blending the experience with the product—are steps towards a more inclusive web that fits our needs. As designers, our goal is to communicate as well as to entertain and enthrall. You might also want to look at our article on 10 Tips to make your website stand out from others. With access to easy drag and drop modules, it just needs your creative imagination to build a portfolio website of your dreams!
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