In recent months, most of the world learned that they can do a heck of a lot more things online than they ever knew. Even the most “old-school” and off-line among us were forced to adapt to an online world. Let’s just say that a lot more people are comfortable ordering takeout on their phone than there were last year at this time, which is why staying on top of the website trends for 2021 is crucial.
Top Website Trends for 2021
We all know how important websites are. Now more than ever, commerce, dialogue, relationships, entertainment, and just about everything else can be done online. Is your website ready for all that action? Innovation and creativity are the calling card of web designers, so it’s hard to say what might be the “biggest” web trends over the next year. Here are 10 styles, maneuverability, and design strategies that we see as website trends for 2021.
Website Load Time and Page Speed are King
Perhaps the most essential web design standard is ultra-fast load time. Quick loading times have been crucial factors in UX and SEO for years, and it continues to be a top priority for websites that want to rank well and convert better. Studies show that more than half of internet browsers expect a website to load fast and no more than two seconds after clicking a link. If it takes more than three seconds to load your site, your visitors most likely will leave.
Website performance has a direct impact on a companies bottom line. While perhaps not a “trend,” in the traditional sense, speed and usability are always crucial for a website’s success and should be looked at, as always, as a significant website trend for 2021.
Parallax scroll effects have been a trend in website design for years, and in 2021 you’ll see more subtle and creative explorations of what can be accomplished with parallax. Parallax is the optical illusion that happens when objects near to the viewer appear to move faster than things farther away. Although we see this in everyday life, the effect on web pages comes across as equal parts real and surreal.
Designers need to remember that too much movement in parallax effects can be harmful to people with vestibular disorders because the illusion of depth and movement can cause disorientation and dizziness.
Parallax animation works the best when it is used sparingly—thus creating more of an impact. Here are some guidelines top designers keep in mind when using it, as it will continue to be a big website trend for 2021.
- Never let parallax effects distract from important information or muddle the message
- Never make it more difficult for the user to complete an important task
- Use it sparingly and minimize the amount of movement in each instance
- Include an option for users to turn off parallax animation
Comfortable and Slightly Muted Colors
You hear the term “digital marketing” a lot here, but let’s face it, the whole world has gone digital. Most people spend a majority of their time on computers. It is not uncommon for users to experience eye strain after staring at screens for long periods of time. Web designers have been taking this into account with color schemes focused on being easier on the eyes.
In 2021, web designers will be thinking outside the two extremes of dark and light. They are finding middle ground in soft color palettes, like wholesome greens, pastel blues, warm browns, or light pinks. These not only make website colors less jarring than pure black or pure white, they naturally induce calm and relaxation.
This website trend for 2021 is a hopeful sign that web designers of the future may be more concerned with accessibility and comfort than dramatic innovation.
Web Design Based on Preference
Because of many of the reasons listed in the last item, web development has made great strides in offering more personalized experiences. This can be anything from including a toggle between dark and light mode and other ways of changing a site’s appearance and navigation to offering content custom-tailored to one’s taste like the playlists generated by Spotify.
New design practices and algorithms are making the internet more user-centered and less of a passive experience. A prominent website trend for 2021 will bring even more focus on meeting the needs, wants, and tastes of those navigating through websites.
Accessibility and Availability
Inclusivity and accessibility are more than a website trend for 2021, but there is a growing need for web design to factor in the needs of people with disabilities. Having a site that every visitor can navigate and interact with is more than just part of good customer service and providing an excellent experience. It can increase conversion, boost your SEO, and help you reach a bigger audience.
Elements that improve accessibility include:
- Creating strong color contrast between text and backgrounds
- Adding focus indicators, such as the rectangular outline that shows up around links when using keyboard navigation
- Using labels and instructions with form fields rather than low-context placeholder text
- Using functional alt tags for images (which also boosts SEO!)
Adding interactive sections to your website is a great way to provide value for visitors, get them to engage with your website, and learn more about them.
Examples of interactive marketing that will be website trends in 2021 include:
- Assessments like quizzes
- Polls and surveys
- Giveaways or interactive coupons
Rather than having the user read product descriptions and make decisions independently, more and more brands are using questionnaires to foster an interactive experience. These quizzes ask personable multiple-choice questions focused on the visitors’ likes and dislikes to cater products to them subtly.
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 engaged.
A website trend in 2021 is web designers 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.
Believe it or not, horizontal scrolling, previously regarded as a design faux-pas, is having a comeback. Designers are experimenting with horizontal scrolling not for the sake of being different but as a practical way to disclose secondary information progressively, like an image gallery. A horizontal scroll should never be used for text that needs to be read.
With most people having access to faster internet speeds, it makes sense that multimedia web experiences are one of the website trends for 2021. Bringing together visuals, text, video, and audio makes for a rich user experience.
Having said that, a website trend in 2021 will be using constraint with multimedia experiences.
- Prioritize simplicity, like when combining motion and audio. Too much going on can be distracting or overwhelming to people with cognitive disorders.
- Use different media formats thoughtfully as a way to maximize the accessibility of content.
- Include closed captioning and transcripts for all pre-recorded multimedia
- Include alt text for images, and accompany complex images with longer descriptive text
- Ensure that all text is made with HTML rather than rendered inside images
- Avoid auto-playing video or motion content; instead, provide a noticeable “play” button that affords the user the option to play and pause the content. Few things are more annoying to the user than videos that start blasting away without any user control
While video is great, it needs to be thought out. Have videos with a purpose and meaning. Gone are the days of embedding a YouTube video on your site just to have one. One well-thought-out, high-quality video is better than a dozen haphazardly assembled ones.
Full Height Home Page Hero
Like a giant billboard, making your homepage hero section full-height can focus your users’ attention and serve as distraction-free messaging.
Think of full-screen hero sections as an opportunity for great storytelling. Just keep in mind that images will crop differently based on browser dimensions. You should use an image that will accommodate accordingly.
Thumb-Friendly Mobile Navigation
There are 3.8 billion smartphone users in the world. That’s nearly double the number of worldwide users in just five years. That amounts to 48.4% of the world population owning a smartphone! And if you take a second to look up from your phone, you’ll notice that nearly everyone around you has their eyes on theirs.
Phone use isn’t going away anytime soon, so it makes sense that catering to smartphone users makes sense as a website trend in 2021. Making mobile navigation as easy as possible makes sense, and having a thumb-friendly website on mobile will boost your site’s impression and your company’s impression as well. Making your site more comfortable to use and improving the UX can be as simple as putting the menu, navigation bar, and contact buttons in the space where your thumb hovers—most of the time near the center of the screen.