As we gear up for 2021, you might want to look at how web development has advanced. After all, just like fashion and other visual crafts, the web is always changing – and with these changes come trends.
Looking to keep your website fresh and up to date? We’ve looked at trends from 2020, and identified the most popular design elements used in some of the biggest, most successful websites. If you take these trends and run with them, your website might just be one of the best websites of 2021.
As subjective as design may seem, 75% of people claim to judge a website’s credibility based on its visual appearance. If a website has a sharp appearance, smooth visual flow, and intuitive navigation, people are going to feel a lot more comfortable following or buying from it.
Like we said, the web is always changing, so we’ll update this page if new trends arise, or if new websites encapsulate these existing trends.
Nostalgia is a powerful force these days. So much of the media we consume nowadays – popular shows like Stranger Things, or the stream of Hollywood reboots – is based on what we used to love. And if it’s powerful enough to make billions for Hollywood, then it’s powerful enough to design your website around.
Built using WordPress, Block Rage – a website dedicated to a competitive puzzle game – has an interface meant to elicit feelings of the 80s/early 90s. VHS tapes, Ghostbusters memorabilia, and old video games are littered around the website, giving it an enticing air of times gone by.
It’s one thing to add a lot of different elements to your page to encourage feelings of nostalgia, but the opposite direction is just as valid. Cut away all the chaff, and you’re left with one of the most persevering principles of 21st century design – minimalism.
Colonization of Mars is a website that chronicles the logistics and possibilities of colonizing our galactic neighbor, Mars. There is a lot of information involved in the colonization of a new planet, but this website cuts down on anything you wouldn’t need to know, leaving you with the digestible basics.
This site is also a good crash course on the best ways to present information. The website almost acts as an interactive infographic, showing comparisons between Earth and Mars in visual layouts that encourage mental engagement.
On the topic of presenting your information in an engaging way, Wealth, Shown to Scale is one of the most enlightening and concerning websites on the internet.
This website shows the incomprehensible level of wealth owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, making you scroll for minutes to reach the end of his net worth, comparing it to things like the pay of medical professionals, or the cost of housing every homeless veteran in the US.
When dealing with numbers this large, they can lose their meaning when simply written out, so visualising it with an inspired method can take a website from good to great. This site also exists to convey what boils down to a single statistic, meaning that nothing gets muddled or lost in a flood of information.
There are few brands as synonymous with sleek design as Apple. Apple plays with the idea of minimalism, but doesn’t fully commit, adding a few extra design elements – like pictures and moving menus – that aren’t strictly necessary, but still engaging and enticing.
We spoke to Ganesh, a Senior UX Architect, who said he loved Apple’s “hyper-realistic, sensational images taken from quirky angles to promote their products.” He also said “it’s the unique lighting that really makes the iPhones jump out on their website.”
Its use of soft colors is complemented by their incredibly high quality images. Apple’s products can look better online than they do in real life, which might be one of the reasons that it’s such a successful company. So if you’re selling things online, make sure to take the time to secure some flattering photos of your products!
It’s not just tech that can benefit from well-thought-out photography, either. Egg Shop, a website built on Squarespace, uses photographs of its recipes that can make anyone’s mouth water – and is living proof that you don’t need to be a tech pro to build a beautiful site.
The spinning hamburger in the top right corner and the various parts of the site that page through his work are two small touches that allow the viewer to get the impression that they’re looking at a website that works as a system, rather than a static page.
Nothing has to bounce around the page or jump out at you – as long as there’s some small amount of movement, it can make the page feel that much more engaging.
Resp is a movie-focused website that uses a chatbot to answer a user’s movie-related questions. You can ask for movie times, ask for popular TV shows or films, and even log movies you’ve seen and use this information to get recommendations.
It’s one thing to have a website that is well designed and fits everyone’s uses. It’s another to have a service that delivers tailored content to each of its users based on their needs. By using a chatbot, your users won’t have to dig through menus and buttons, but can seek out what they want just by asking a question.
Making a chatbot is on the trickier end of the website building spectrum, but it’s not impossible. A handy tip is to write your chatbot script in small segments, predicting every possible user response. And make sure you teach it the most common user misspellings!
More and more people are accessing the web from their phones nowadays. While it’s good to have your website ironed out for desktops, if you’re looking to maximise traffic or sales, it’s just as important to make sure it’s fully functional on smartphones.
WeAreOSM is a site that’s nailed down their mobile version, with the spacing and menus being crafted to perfectly suit a mobile screen.
There are a few things to keep in mind when managing your site’s mobile version. Firstly, when using a website builder, make sure you pick a mobile-responsive theme. Then, when you’re designing your mobile site, keep in mind that a phone screen has a lot less real estate, so keep your text large, your menus snappy, and your display clean.
Remember when the web was first starting up, and there were all kinds of websites that would interact with your cursor movements? Things like glittery GIFs following you around as you browsed the site.
As we’ve advanced, both technologically and artistically, our standards have changed. This is reflected in Squadeasy, a website focused on promoting responsible and healthy living.
As you browse their site, the animated head of their mascot Boogie will bounce around, get dizzy if you scroll too fast, and even eat your cursor if you get too close to him. He’s in the center of the screen, but doesn’t cover up important information when looking at their case studies or information. It’s just a simple way of making your website stand out and stick in people’s memories.
It’s one thing to have an interactive element on your site, but it’s another thing entirely to make your site into an entire experience in itself.
Bruno Simon’s portfolio site is an example of applying an out of the box perspective to an entire website, as the navigation isn’t done by a mouse and cursor, but rather a remote control car controlled by your arrow keys.
You can drive around his portfolio, go bowling, and find all his social media by driving over the correct logos. Bruno Simon is a web developer, so he shows his creativity and talent by creating a unique and engaging experience that will impress anyone looking for a designer.
All of these pages and tips have been shown in a vacuum, but it’s important to remember that each trend can enhance another. Look at Pioneer, a website focused on the future of corn production.
This website is undeniably an experience, with the page going through an evolution as you scroll, showing the life cycle of corn. A perfect amount of information is presented with each level, and the effects that surround your cursor as you navigate allow you to feel fully immersed in the page.
It’s hard to explain how this website blends these elements without experiencing it yourself. It’s a perfect level of information, interactive elements, and visual flair that shows how combining and keeping trends in mind can elevate your site to another level entirely.
To wrap up, here are the eleven tips we’ve taken from our showcased websites:
- Block Rage: Use visuals to elicit emotion
- Colonization of Mars: Don’t stuff your page with too much unnecessary content
- Wealth, Shown to Scale: Think of creative ways to share your information
- Apple: Use high quality visuals of your product to engage your audience
- Egg Shop: Entice your audience with images and descriptions
- Pei Jung Ho: Use subtle animation to make your site feel alive
- Resp: Cater to your users’ needs and allow them to easily find what they’re looking for
- WeAreOSM: Keep your mobile users in mind
- Squadeasy: Have an interactive element
- Bruno Simon: Turn the site into an experience
- Corn Revolutionized: Implement multiple trends at once
Designing a website is as much of an art form as it is a technical triumph. There are a lot of routes you could take to impress your audience, so as long as you know the product or service that you’re offering, you’ll be able to use the right techniques to stand out from the rest.
Remember that everything in this article is a recent trend. Who knows what other trends will arise in the future? As long as you stay on top of them and take advantage of the trends that work best for you, your website will flourish.