You don’t need us to tell you that 2020 has been a difficult year. But for web design, it has in some ways been a strong year, too: as stay-in-place orders, lockdowns and other social distancing measured have been put in place to varying degrees worldwide, many of us have been spending more time online. And web design has filled the gap.

In the thick of this unprecedented twelve months, it might seem presumptuous already to be looking forward to 2021, and what that year might hold for web design. But the truth is – as we’ve said many times on this blog – that the best web designers always have an eye on the horizon.

Trends are all well and good, but you want to be ahead of them a little more than you want merely to be following them. Preparing for the next phase of web design is how businesses keep their sites fresh, but also how they prevent running to keep up. Designers should always be planning for the next update.

With that in mind, here are our top four web design trends for 2021 – from 3d web design to UX best practices for eCommerce. These are the four things we think you should have an eye on right now, and be getting ready for 2021 – which we all hope is just as good for web, but a lot better for everyone else, too.

  1. Improved UX. The year 2020 was the year eCommerce became for many their primary means of buying products and services. Long nipping at the heels of traditional retail, due to the pandemic eCommerce has this year dominated. Regardless of what happens in the future, many consumers may have changed their habits for good.

This means that UX best practices for eCommerce websites are even more important than ever: the more we use eCommerce, the more we expect from it. Expect and demand sleeker eCommerce UX for starters: smoother loading, quicker onboarding, easier check-outs. Eliminate all friction in the general on-page experience.

Here’s one way to achieve that: microcopy. A mixture of bold fonts and informal snippets of text can really help users through the maze of buying online. Consumers who buy a lot online get bored easily: bring a brand’s personality into the copy and signposting in your UX and they will stay more engaged. Make the journey clear and fun at the same time.

  1. Dark Mode Is Here To Stay. Many high-end websites now have a simple toggle which users can flick to change the ‘theme’ of the site: from the high-contrast black-on-white style we’re all very familiar with to a more subdued palette of slates and greys. Check out Instagram, Twitter and Apple – all three of these sites feature a dark mode, and they are increasingly popular with users. Why? They are easier on the eyes in low-light conditions – such as the dark nights when many of us are now sat at home in our lounges. It’s also easy on battery life – no bad thing for harried users. But the contrast with the dominant and opposite trend of decades now also gives dark modes a contemporary edge that feels exciting. Give your site a dark mode in 2021 – it works functionally and aesthetically.
  2. Virtual Assistants. Many eCommerce sites now incorporate live chat functions, utilising bots to provide users with an easy means of interfacing directly with a brand without requiring the commitment of human resource in the first instance. With the rise of voice interface, too, virtual assistants have become even more intuitive and user-friendly.  It’s true that virtual assistants can be intrusive – too many invitations to chat, or push notifications that appear too early in a user’s visit to your site, can be off-putting. It’s also the case that voice user interface isn’t there yet in terms of full deployability on every site. But the principle of offering some form of responsive interaction element is going nowhere – and designers need to consider it.
  3. Animated and 3D Elements. 3D web design and animation of all kinds add visual interest, layers of depth and engaging texture to a site – and all of those are trends for 2021 that users will soon be trained to expect. Designers who incorporate this sort of aesthetic in their sites will reap dividends for their clients. Flat graphics have been modish for some time, but the illusion of depth offered by 3D web design is now, here, with a vengeance – graphics which trick the eye into experiencing more than two dimensions in a site will seriously enhance the immersion a user feels. Animation, too, will keep them interested. The key with this trend is to keep things nimble: if your site loads slowly thanks t all your clever 3D web design and animated elements, few users will stick around long enough to experience them. Load times still matter – so make the right trade-offs.

Ultimately, after all, web design for all purposes is a matter of achieving the correct balance of elements. Don’t be a slavish follower of fashion – but do stay current. Don’t be led by – but keep your eye, then – on these web design trends for 2021.

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