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11 top web UX trends of 2021

11 min read
Harpreet Munjal

The internet is crowded, and only the websites that provide rich user experiences can stand out. Gone are the days when people just cared about functionality. Now they crave an extraordinary user experience (UX). In this post, we will take a look at the latest UX trends for 2021.

Design is the body language of your marketing. Don’t slouch. – Michael King

UX is the most critical factor in designing a website. A simple website with a great user experience is more useful than a heavily-designed website that is hard to use.

Therefore, the main goal of your designing efforts must be to provide the best user experience to users and help your clients get more engagements, sales, and conversions.

Just like any other technological trend, web UX design trends are quite dynamic. In fact, even an annual list won't do justice to what is out there. Every day, hundreds of new ideas are generated and buried forever. The ones that survive and thrive create a long-lasting impression and stay in the industry for years.

2020 wasn't a good year, but it brought a few shifts in web UX trends in 2021. Here are 11 of them.

1. Core web vitals

The key to long-term success of any business website is a high-quality user experience. And Google’s Web Vitals Initiative is a step towards this.

Google considers three specific factors in a web page to measure the overall user experience (also known as “Page Experience Score”):

  • First input delay
  • Largest contentful paint
  • Cumulative layout shift

Website load time is now more important than ever. A fast loading time helps you with website SEO, rich user experience, and conversions. On the other hand, a slow loading time is a big turn-off.

If your website doesn't load in 2-3 seconds, more than half of users will leave.

UX designers have always considered loading time a top-most priority to convert better and avoid user abandonment. Website loading times are also a standard metric to ensure great user experiences.

Tips on shortening load times

Here's what you can do to improve your website load time:

  • Use a powerful web hosting platform for your websites
  • Use Content Delivery Network (CDN)
  • Combine and minimise the JS and CSS files
  • Compress your images and use new formats like WebP and SVG
  • Host fonts on your website locally
  • Use Cache plugins like WPRocket (for WordPress)
  • Lazy load images and scripts
  • Avoid using too many popups

Apart from these, you can also check the page load time of your website on GTmetrix, Web Dev, or Google PageSpeed Insights.

This year and for the coming few more, you can expect website loading time to rule the web UX industry. Why so? Because humans are simply not that patient!

Related: Basics of user-friendly website layout design

2. Minimalism: less is more

It’s the UX trend of 2021 I love the most. The minimalist design proves that beauty is in simplicity. And, when “simplicity” is in the air, it's better to keep your UX designs basic yet aesthetic.

To be precise, customers hate information overload.

If you give them a web page full of multiple colors, heavy text and images, and then a plain web page with only three bold words on it, guess which one they'll read first? That's right, too much decoration is now becoming pointless.

StudioPress Homepage header

A minimal design helps users to take actions faster than a fancy design that may confuse them.

StudioPress and Zapier are some good examples of minimal designs.

The focus has shifted towards creating uncomplicated graphic elements by providing a light, clutter-free, and easy-on-eyes experience to the user.

3. Mobile-first design: users getting smarter

Who needs a laptop or desktop when you can do the same thing on a smartphone? Not to mention it's easier and faster.

According to Statista, out of 4.66 billion active internet users worldwide, about 92.6% (42.32 billion) accessed the internet via mobile devices.

This shift has made mobile-friendly interfaces significant and a priority as well.

Having a mobile-friendly design becomes even more important if you’re running a B2C (business to consumer) or eCommerce business, since most people use their smartphones to buy.

To know more about the devices your audience is using, you can check your Google Analytics Device report.

This UX trend not only demands an interactive design but also a responsive mobile version with excellent features.

So now, if your websites are ‘crushing it’ at desktop mode but are weak for smartphone performance, then you need to level up ASAP.

4. Text only hero image: the first impression says it all

SEO Las VegasHomepage header

The large banner-like image pinned right at the top of your web page can either make or break your conversions.

Use this section to describe what the business does or what the web page is about in a few words.

Upon clicking a web link, a user takes mere seconds to decide whether to explore further or not. And that's when the top image plays its part. These spaces are also excellent for promoting or announcing offers.

5. Dark mode: black is beauty, forever!

The dark mode is quite a popular user preference these days. And that’s why web designers are increasingly making it an essential part of their designs.

Dark mode:

  • Looks elegant and modern
  • Is an effective battery saver (for AMOLED or OLED screens)
  • Doesn't strain your eyes

What can be better than that?!

Dark mode is an option to the default light theme on your device's screen. After its launch, this UX design trend created hype among many and remains a preference for most users.

Be it Apple, Twitter, or Facebook, most giants have already included the dark mode theme as an alternative visualization option in their products and solutions.

Example of dark mode on Facebook

However, keep in mind that dark mode is not only the reversal of the colors.

It must be an intentional combination of darker and deeper colors that provides the same feel, experience, readability, and functionality as light colors. Maybe even better!

6. Web design for causes: designs that care

The past two years have been difficult for people and businesses alike, but it did incline brands to re-think the importance of supporting social causes.

Meaningful and impactful website designs primarily focused on delivering value-based messages can resonate more deeply. It gives a reason for visitors to take action or to return to the website.

Therefore, more and more brands and entrepreneurs are focusing on meaningful designs to connect with their audience on a deeper level.

A meaningful design talks about the user’s pain points and provides a solution. It can be done by:

  • Making the design layout according to the need, or
  • Providing custom solutions based on the requirements of the user, as web hosting companies do

Finally, the web design that shows reality while connecting with its users wins the deal!

7. Sensitive and optimistic: motions to express emotions

Haven't we all stayed optimistic to survive these tough times? And, web UX has supported this cause too.

Over the past year, we've been witnessing positive and uplifting messages all over the internet.

From memes on social media to ads on Google search to inspirational landing pages, web designers have adopted an emotional approach.

Positive messages, vibrant color palettes, and illustrations are creating a sense of wellbeing and optimism. Designers are putting humans first instead of technology, which is great for building a friendly environment.

Moreover, brands are now inclining toward promoting emotional wellness by circulating motivational and sensitive content. These are paired with powerful visuals, energetic colors, and aesthetic illustrations.

8. 3D visuals: out-of-the-screen is always awesome

Be it movies or web graphics, if they are in 3D, they are hands down exciting!

Visuals create an immersive experience for users by adding a real-world effect to the illustration or typography.

The 3-dimensional design is a blend of perfect depth, balanced lighting and shadowing, and a beautiful texture that contributes to a mesmerizing and unforgettable user experience.

3-dimensional design from Stripe website

That's not it.

3D visuals also improve the overall user experience. They can make a bigger impression with minimal design layouts. These design elements can add a sense of dimensionality and uniqueness to any web page and bring the design to life.

This UX trend has been ruling the industry for years and gets better with time. Moreover, with AR (Augmented Reality) being so much in demand, 3D will soon become an inseparable part of web designing.

9. AR/VR experiences: upgrading for good

Ask social media users how important filters are, and they will give you a long list.

AR has brought a massive change in user experiences across multiple platforms.

It helps the user to get real-time feedback on applications and is best to study user behavior. Real-time animations and AR avatars have been at a peak lately.

Visuals are a hundred times better with Virtual Reality (VR). Besides photography or motion designing, VR is also used for many other elements, such as curved design and sound design.

The popular 360-degree vision is only possible because of Virtual Reality. These simulated experiences add to the satisfaction of using an application, software, or a solution.

Image from WebVR showing stand desk from every angle

With AR/VR technology, you can help your users get the live virtual experience of your product or place.

For instance, as a hotel owner, you can give your audience a virtual tour of your hotel, saving them the trouble of visiting physically.

As an e-commerce business, you can showcase the virtual live experience of your product to your customer to help them make a purchasing decision.

A fashion brand could give users the option to ‘try on’ their products virtually.

Virtual reality offers tools to provide a good experience to your customers and gives a competitive advantage to your business.

10. Live collaborations

Just when we thought that online interactions were dying, the pandemic forced people to move online. Because of that, there is an increase in the live collaboration features. And this UX design trend will become more popular in 2022.

Collaborative apps are common in the tech space, but now we can see them in other industries as well.

For example, a collaborative interface for automotive repair technicians. Editing, live viewing, messaging, tagging are examples of these kinds of features. For this, UX designers are creating interactive platforms with bright visuals, new features, and creative user avatars so that online collaborations become easy and fun.

11. Voice optimized: why type when you can speak?!

We live in a world where saying “Hey, Alexa! What are the top web UX trends of 2021?” is the new, smart, and fast way to search.

Voice interactions are becoming a major part of our daily lives.

Users rely on voice assistants for carrying out tasks like Google search, dictating text messages, or creating shopping lists.

This trend has led UX designers to integrate voice optimization in various applications and software to create an interactive user experience. Adding a Voice User Interface (VUI) to your design can expand your reach. You can use voice chatbots and assistants to better serve your visitors.

Moreover, this UX design trend may upgrade to 'Voiceprints’ in the future, which will help the system recognize the person by their voice.

Although keeping up with constant changes is difficult, nobody likes a boring web interface. Therefore, the web development industry is dynamic.

User experience decides the fate of a website. Good UX can turn the casual visitors into customers. On the other hand, a poor UX can make people leave at once and never return.

UX trends may change every year, but the basics will always remain the same — to provide the fastest, easiest possible user experience to customers. Also, some trends like minimalism and simplicity are evergreen and may maintain this position forever.

If you ignore user experience, users will ignore you!

It has become mandatory for UX designers to walk (even run!) with the current trends to create designs that can influence and resonate more.

Follow these web UX design trends to create user-friendly websites for your clients and do more than just increase conversions. Make them fall in love with the websites you build.


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