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2021 Website Design Trends

December 16, 2020 | Northwoods Team, Your Trusted Digital Trail Guides

5 Minute Read

If you’re like me, you’re already looking ahead to 2021. One reason I’m ready for the new year (aside from, well, you know … 2020) is because, as a website designer and front-end developer there are several new design trends I’ve been following that I’m anxious to see take shape in the new year.

Keeping your website current can help engage site visitors, make your brand stand out from the crowd, and generate more conversions. Especially if you’re considering a website redesign in 2021, it’s important to understand what design trends are fading from fashion and the new, emerging trends you’ll want to consider.

Design trends change every year – in large part because of technological advancements to computers, tablets, phones and other devices that make new design approaches possible.

Here’s a list of the design trends I anticipate will shape the website landscape in 2021.

Website Design Trends to Watch in 2021

1. Page Load Speed

Website visitors expect lightning fast website response time. Sites that take a mere 3 seconds to load can feel too long to users – and even raise concerns of a technical problem. That’s a lot of pressure to deliver an immediate experience without delay.
If your site load time is 2 seconds or longer, using page loading animation can help reduce the perception of wait time and also reassure visitors that the site is, in fact, working properly.
Even if your site loads quickly, consider adding page loading animation as a way to positively reinforce your brand. A well done, on-brand page loading animation can more deeply engage users in your online experience and reinforce your brand position and messaging.

Example: Yousupova

2. Non-Traditional Scrolling

Vertical scrolling is the accepted standard for websites. For brands that thrive on bucking norms, using non-traditional scrolling can set you apart and create an unexpected, memorable and more emotional user experience for your visitors.

The biggest non-traditional scrolling trend I anticipate seeing a lot more of in 2021 is horizontal scrolling. Below are a few great examples of horizontal scrolling in action.

Examples: Nemesis Corporation | Enso Tyres

3. Scrolling Animation

Scrolling animation is a feature where elements of a website appear or move as you scroll down a page. I’ve seen this design technique used quite a bit this past year and I anticipate seeing more of it in 2021. Scrolling animation can further engage users, help with page load wait time (similar to page loading animation), direct user’s attention to a Call to Action (CTA), and assist with site navigation.

Example: Quebec Bio

4. Minimalism

Minimalist website design is all about using limited elements to create the most functional website possible. Minimalist design helps designers communicate complex information as succinctly as possible by eliminating all unnecessary design aspects.

Benefits of minimalist design include: improving overall site aesthetics, helping guide users through a defined journey, increasing load times, and more easily adapting a website to a variety of screens sizes.

Despite its seeming simplicity, minimalist design isn’t for every brand. It’s important to consider the needs of your target audience and what they want to accomplish on your website before completely redesigning your website in a minimalist approach. A design that’s too simple may cause confusion. If you do want to try a minimalist design, I highly recommend testing potential designs with real users to ensure you’re able to offer a solid user experience.

Example: Fuoripista

5. Light/Dark Mode

The continued increase in mobile device use – along with both Apple and Google recently incorporating dark mode into their products – has spurred this trend. Dark mode (also referred to as Dark UI) is a low-light user interface that displays on mostly dark screens.

Using dark mode can offer some significant benefits for website visitors, including reduced eye strain and increased device battery life.

If you decide to try this design feature on your website, be sure to offer users the option to toggle back and forth between light and dark mode. Not every user will appreciate a dark mode option or want to use it based on the lighting in their environment.

Also, consider that your brand’s identity elements – such as color palette and imagery – may not work well in dark mode. Dark UI is best suited to websites with very little text in order to place emphasis on visual elements.

Example: Qatar Foundation

6. Storytelling

Sharing stories is an incredibly powerful way to engage and persuade others. While storytelling isn’t something we usually associate with web design, the idea has taken hold over the past several years.

Mockplus, a user experience company and software developer, has a great definition of a storytelling website:

“The term ‘storytelling’ means to share a moral value or story with clear plots, characters, a narrative point of view. And a storytelling website uses the same techniques to tell a narrative about the featured company, product, culture or slogan. It does so by unfolding a story gradually using clear visual cues.”

A storytelling website usually combines images, text, video and other elements to convey a visually engaging story. Oftentimes, parallax design is used to move users through the various story elements.

If your brand has a compelling story to tell about its history, culture or values, building a storytelling website is something you’ll want to consider. Here are a few examples of sites that do this well.

Examples: Big Sky Health | End Family Fire

7. Full Window Design

Full window design – also known as full screen design - takes up the entire space on a page and automatically resizes your website to fit the size of any screen. This trend has come into fashion as screen sizes and resolutions grow and internet speed continues to increase.

Benefits of full window design include clean formatting that doesn't distract a user with unnecessary page elements and imagery that seamlessly blends with text. Using full screen imagery can create an immediate, visually stunning and engaging experience for users.

Example: Rom

8. Virtual/3D Experiences

Creating immersive, interactive experiences that engage customers is something marketers have focused on for as long as virtual technology has existed. In 2021, augmented reality, 3D and other virtual technology will gain steam.

Brands want to show you their products or services from the web that gives the user the best experience possible. A virtual experience is as close as you can get to reality without walking into the storefront.

Examples: Infiniti | Vanmoof

Not Every Trend is Right for Every Business

New website design trends are exciting, and our tendency is to want to implement as many as we can as quickly as we can.

However, not every trend is right for every business. While some trends are likely to be a perfect fit, others could ultimately detract from your goals. That’s why I always remind clients that it’s critical to understand your audience and match trends with business objectives before moving forward.

You should also test potential designs with real users before you embark on a full website redesign. Testing will ensure you end up with a website that both engages users and helps you achieve success. And, no matter the trend, that’s a win-win!

Need advice or guidance with your website redesign project? Northwoods’ digital design and development experts are here to help! Contact us today