Top 10 Web Design Trends for 2021

by Josh Biggs in Tech on 24th October 2021

Technology and culture change by the day. Ultimately, this affects web design trends in the long run. Professional web designers and web design agencies in San Francisco must follow these trends because they need to be at the forefront of design solutions to make up-to-date and enticing websites. That, in turn, helps web design professionals effectively reach target audiences and provide their customers with working sites.

The problem with design trends, however, is that they are ephemeral. Sometimes, it is difficult to tell which direction is relevant and which is outdated. A wrong decision can, therefore, lead to unforeseen issues. Think about how it would feel about spending hours and hours of time and effort into developing a specific style for the concept and look of your website only to realize that the techniques, patterns, and solutions you’ve applied are out-of-date.

The year 2021 has just started, and as everyone returns from holiday vacations and rehabilitates from some intense partying, it’s time to focus on the things that will define the market for the next 12 months. Being a creative agency that always strives for new heights, we, at Clay, have analyzed and summarized the top 10 web design trends for 2021 and have presented and described them below. Whether you are an employee from a company that needs a website or work in a web design team, this article will help you grasp the principal ideas of what you should expect from competitors in your niche and maybe even help you sketch out a plan for your niche the coming year.

Trend #1. Bold Fonts

Take your time and review the websites of leaders in your particular industry and market. One peculiar thing you will notice is that headlines immediately grab your attention, not graphics. The thing is, though, that hero headlines have already been around for quite some time. However, it’s not the familiarity of the technique that deserves attention, but rather, the way the headlines are designed, using bold, large fonts. The thing is that heavy fonts add to any message’s visual weight, thus directing readers to the place they should see on the page in the first row. In aesthetic terms, bold fonts also add a modern feel to web designs.

Bold fonts work great on both desktop and mobile platforms. For example, after Apple iOS 13 was released, bold headlines had become an essential part of all iOS applications. Heavy fonts are handy in creating a visual element hierarchy and contrast, improving content understanding and text readability, respectively.

But, it’s also critical not to overuse bold fonts on the page to not make it look ridiculous and cluttered. Too much bold typography on the page makes it difficult to read.

When deciding where and when to use Bold Text, you need to show caution. If you have a lot of text, placing everything in bold will not allow special sections to stand out. Bold text should be used to draw attention to a specific point or for titles and subtitles. 

If you use bold for the entire text, everything will look the same and not draw the reader’s attention to the point you are trying to make. Bold should be used to create a contrast, so use it wisely.

The first thing you should understand about a text is forming a sentence or paragraph that viewers can easily read and comprehend. One of the most popular fonts is Sans Serif because of its excellent scalability. When you need to use a bold sans-serif font, look for somewhat rounded letters in shape.

Trend #2. Abstract Illustrations

Everyone knows that if you want to make your brand stand out in the crowd, you should use some custom, unique style of illustration. Authentic illustrations are an essential part of the essence of any brand or product – it’s like the DNA. Your competitors may easily copy your color patterns or font style, but it’s a different story if your illustration style is original.

The past several years have seen digital illustrations rise in popularity. As of 2020, various websites belonging to different companies have shown a real boom in such images. Larger firms started using pictures to represent themselves visually. However, it has recently become clear that such solutions are not as impactful as they once were. There are too many illustrations floating around the internet today. These illustrations are done in all imaginable styles, making it more difficult for users to connect a specific style to a particular brand (with minor exceptions).

The abstract style of illustrations emerged to make them more effective. This tendency will surely be dominant in 2021 since, as of now, this is the only way to stand out in the crowd.

But, before we move on to the next trend, there is one significant thing that web designers should remember about abstract graphics. It’s essential to make sure that the audience is capable of interpreting the images. Too abstract an idea is not beneficial for business – it will ultimately make images no more than pieces of art without any apparent business purpose.

Trend #3. Emotional Design

Above all, design is a form of communication. It transfers information. However, one crucial aspect of communication that is easily overlooked is emotions. Usability has, for a long time, been the priority focus of product developers and web designers. Today, however, it’s essential to make an emotional impact while providing superb usability — brands from all over the world attempt to create designs that people can connect with emotionally.

There are quite a few design tools out there that provide all the necessary resources for creating emotional interactions. For instance, a design can have some humor in it. Simple animations can strengthen the emotional dimension of interactions on websites. 

Emotional design is naturally associated with the use of colors. It’s simply about using the primary color on a page to incite particular feelings in visitors. Let’s say you are creating a charity page on your site: you can use subtle colors to stimulate the feelings of sadness and pity. While it may sound marginal, it is pretty effective. In the same manner, vibrant colors in call-to-action buttons work fine on e-commerce sites.

Color theory is integral to adding emotions to websites. 2021 will see a lot of emotion-based use of colors, as this will help brands establish connections with their audiences.

Trend #4. Dark UI

Some of the leading brands on the market are implementing dark and light modes to their websites. Dark modes are low-light user interfaces with mostly dark surfaces. Taking advantage of a design that incorporates two compatible color schemes benefits the user’s experience. Dark modes will relieve eye strain by altering the screen’s brightness and serve a second purpose for conserving your device’s battery power because it’s cutting back on the level of light pixels.

One particularly great thing about the dark mode is that it can look modern while also adding more emphasis to various colors and elements in the design. Dark backgrounds make designs more dynamic. These themes are also great for OLED displays, extending their lifespans, and saving power.

However, dark modes aren’t anything new. Some sites started using manual dark themes many years ago by simply adding a tiny control switch to the top corners of pages. But this year, original apps for both desktop and mobile platforms have already started adopting an additional dark theme (or, depending on the default theme, it could be a light one) after all the powerful platforms added a dark mode.

At the same time, dark themes also fit perfectly with other major web design trends that involve moody and dark color patterns with glowing neon colors and various futuristic styles.

Trend #5. Improved Personalization

2020 already had issues with the ‘one-size-fits-all’ concept. Today, brands are looking for ways to improve the user experience as assiduously as possible. A personalized experience is no longer up for debate – it’s a necessity.

There are already quite a few websites that consider user preferences, suggesting the best options based on the latter’s interests. It could be a music site, library, online cinema, and what-not. Moreover, artificial intelligence and machine learning are making user experience personalization that much easier.

Trend #6. Data Visualization

Humans are used to seeing things. Many people find it much simpler to understand any information by actually visiting it rather than reading about it. Data visualization is now becoming an essential tool for the creation of visually engaging stories. Such stories can grab the audience’s attention and incite interest in the brand.

Moreover, “big data” has been a buzzword for the past several years now. The effects of data on the latest trends shaping the design business are undeniable. There are already quite a few websites on the Internet that are using data visualization in their designs. Sometimes, it even becomes a part of the leading site, and at times companies launch additional sites to show valuable data.

In other words, data visualization is now a part of the message the brand conveys to its audience and is crucial for its identity.

Trend #7. Geometric Shapes

Using geometric shapes, web designers can create exciting and appealing compositions. Quite often, geometric shapes are incorporated in visual dividers between various sections of a webpage. However, in 2020 designers started using them in new and intriguing ways. For instance, they used soft geometric shapes to create a futuristic look, while sharper contours helped them create a more brutalist look.

The good thing about this trend is that it perfectly blends in with other movements, including bold fonts, dark themes, abstract illustrations, etc. If you want to find inspiration for fresh geometric ideas, nature is a fantastic muse.

Trend #8. Ultra Minimalism

It seems that minimalism is a trend that’s going to stay forever. It’s clean, elegant, and reduces loading time for websites. Moreover, minimalism helps sites perform better in search results. And if you take a look at such services, like Calendly and Slack, for example, you will notice how their minimalist emphasis on landing helps their call-to-action buttons get the attention they need.

Sites without distracting background components are usually easier to navigate and have a higher rate of sign-ups. As we’ve already mentioned, this trend has been around for a long time and doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.

Trend #9. Smoother Gradients

Ultra-minimalism has dominated eons, with web designers doing their best to focus on critical elements and content. It resulted in websites – and other products for that matter – with too much white space in them and almost no color. In other words, minimalism is good, but when the style dominates the industry, everything looks virtually the same.

As a result, users got pretty annoyed with such dreary designs. Hence, designers began trying out different visual styles. Gradients have become one of the styles that evolved immensely popular. During the past two years – 2019 and 2020 – gradients have gradually (no pun intended) started to replace flat colors. Angles allow designers to add visual depth to flat layouts, thus making them more visually appealing. Using gradients makes it possible to add branding colors into any minimalist design, thus supporting the brand image.

Gradients are a flexible tool in any designer’s arsenal. They may be used in a wide range of contexts, including content background, image filters, or to emphasize functional elements (such as CTA buttons). And they look great on both small mobile displays and huge monitors and even TV screens.

As of 2021, the new generation of gradients differs from that of the previous years in style. Today’s angles can be either loud via vibrant colors or subtle via muted colors. But, whatever gradient style you decide to use, it’s pretty simple to get around using just one clear light source and one or two colors.

Trend #10. 3D designs

For many years, 3D designs were only meant for use in entertainment and video games. As devices became more and more powerful, 3D objects started to appear on both desktop and mobile versions of websites. This has helped to add realism to the internet experience.

Today, 3D designs are an essential part of web design. We can expect many more great 3D designs in 2021 – animated, interactive, and static. They may be actual 3D or pseudo-3D, but their careful and wise incorporation into web design and other techniques will help emphasize brand identity, convey business messages, and increase client conversions.

But 3D is nowhere near being a new trend. It just found its way into the design industry, as specialists looked for ways to increase their capabilities and search for new ideas. Therefore, as more and more web designers and web design agencies start using 3D designs, the cost will drop, making the option more and more affordable to companies.

Perhaps, the only thing that raises concerns regarding 3D designs is how they will affect website loading times. While there are techniques to minimize loading time, 3D still demands more memory compared to ultra-minimalist methods. So, if you want to create 3D designs, you should first make sure they don’t make a website slow as a snail before rolling it out to your customer.


Some of the trends mentioned in this article may already be familiar to you, while some may be new. And as exciting as these trends may sound to you, you shouldn’t rush to implement them in your projects.

It doesn’t matter how impressive some trends may seem, and it’s essential to keep in mind that your mission as a web designer is that you must help users accomplish their goals by providing them with more usable solutions. This is precisely why usability will always overshadow fashion. As fancy and fun as some particular feature might be, if it doesn’t provide any practical value or significantly complicate the achievement of the desired result, it will soon be obliterated by the audience that prefers a more straightforward, more practical solution. Therefore, make sure to evaluate each trend before implementing it in your designs. Focus on using solutions that help you to create a better user experience for people.

Categories: Tech