Web Design

Web Design Trends 2021: From Dark Mode to Motion

Which web design trends will take the web by storm over the next year? Our Envato experts give us their top trends to watch out for in 2021.

Portrait for Kelsie Rimmer By Kelsie Rimmer
Posted 11 Nov 2020
Web Design Trends 2021

Web design has come a long way in the last few years. The practice exists at the intersection of creativity and technology – two of the fastest moving industries in the world – so it’s no surprise that new web design trends and techniques are constantly emerging. So what are the latest trends in web design?

While there will always be certain aspects of web design that are here to stay – such as user-friendly navigation, data security, and fast load times – fads and fashions will continue to come and go. But keeping on top of the latest and greatest web design trends, styles and innovations, will ensure your website stands out in the ever-expanding online ecosystem. 

So, from dark mode to interactivity, which popular web design trends will take the web by storm over the next year? We asked our Envato experts what makes a great website in 2020, as well as their hot take on the latest and greatest web design trends to watch out for in 2021.... 

01. Dark mode

Apple Website
Dark Mode - Apple Homepage

For a long time in web design, a white background was considered the only way to create empty space on a website or app. While some designers began adding darker themes and elements several years ago, the Dark Mode trend really took hold of the industry in 2020, and we expect to see it continue into 2021.

What Is Dark Mode?

Clock Strikes Twelve
Dark Mode - Clock Strikes Twelve Homepage

Used by large brands like Apple, Hublot, and even for individual portfolios like Clock Strikes Twelve, dark mode is a great way to add a modern, elegant touch to any website. As well as allowing designers to play with more creative elements, such as pastels and neon – two of the big graphic design trends of 2020 – studies have also shown that dark mode is better for both our battery life and our vision by it reducing blue light exposure.

“There seems to be a shift towards more products that offer a dark mode setting, or are only dark driven, based on studies that reveal the impacts of glare and blue light exposure, and on our treasured battery life,” says Envato UI designer Sean Feehan. 

As well as being sleek, chic and easier on the eyes, dark mode is great for increasing contrast, and making design elements more visible. You can even add a dark mode toggle to your website – as seen in these examples from Johny Vino, Koos Looijesteijn and Adrian Verde Studio – to allow visitors to customize their experience.

Johny Vino - Dark Mode Toggle
Dark Mode Toggle - Johny Vino Homepage

“I think dark mode is definitely the trend that’s had the biggest impact on web design in 2020,” says Envato UX designer, Tahlia Giannopoulas. “Since Dark mode has become popular, I’ve seen several websites that have a small ‘Dark Mode’ toggle (switching between light and dark mode), which is a great yet simple way that a user can customise their experience.” 

While originally designed around exclusively white and light color schemes, more and more neuromorphic designs – a divisive UX style drawing on skeuomorphism and flat design that’s often seen in iOS or Android UI – also incorporate the dark mode trend, which has quickly overtaken lighter color themes in popularity. 

To cross over to the dark (mode) side, check out this Dashboard UI Concept Dark Theme by hoangpts, Finance Wallet Dark Mode UI Kit PP by angelbi88 and this Spate Ui Kit by cerpow on Envato Elements!

02. Collage & Mixing Mediums

Collage - City Circus Website
Collage - City Circus Homepage

Collage was one of the biggest trends to take over the graphic design and social media landscape this year, and it’s quickly caught on in the world of web design. The mixed media style returned to the spotlight due to digital artists and social media influencers, and was also adopted by many brands and web designers – including Chobani, City Circus and Urban Outfitters

What Is Collage?

Collage - City Circus Website
Collage - City Circus Booking Page

Collage is all about mixing mediums such as photos, illustrations, graphics, motion and text to create an inspiring and eye-catching aesthetic. 

Now that it’s moved into the digital realm, the collage trend has evolved into mixed media such as animated collage, large decorative fonts, artistic textures (such as paint brush strokes) and even animated distorted text, which generate some incredibly unique results.

“I think the concept of mixing mediums will only get bigger in 2021,” says Tahlia. “Heaps of people are now using drawing apps on iPads, and with digital brushes that mimic traditional paint mediums (such as watercolors, oils, gouache), the boundaries of digital art are being redefined. Also, the added convenience of having digital art already on your device (not having to worry about photographing or scanning it) means it’s easier than ever to share on the web.”

Collage - Urban Outfitters Website
Collage - Urban Outfitters Homepage

Collage is a trend that pairs well with minimal UX design – or even anti-design if you want to push those boundaries. Integrating mixed media and collage into your website design is a surefire way to add a splash of creativity to an otherwise ordinary experience and make your brand or business stand out. 

To integrate collage into your next web design, check out this Brynn Creative Portfolio Theme, this Bridge - Creative Multipurpose WordPress Theme, or this Boldlab - Creative Agency Theme on ThemeForest. Or, check out these great collage-inspired items on Envato Elements!

03. Anti-Design

Anti Design - Roze Bunker Homepage
Anti Design - Roze Bunker Homepage

Warning: we know this trend isn't for everybody!

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s to throw all rules and expectations out the window. Anti-design is a trend that was spurred on by the resurgence of Brutalism in 2019, and the controversial style has more recently seeped into the realms of social media and pop-culture, as well as web and graphic design.

Anti Design - Play Type Homepage
Anti Design - Play Type Homepage

What is Anti-Design?

Described as ‘raw’, ‘unapologetic’ and even ‘hideous’, the anti design movement is all about embracing chaos and ugliness in protest of the traditional standards of ‘good’ design. It features experimental and asymmetrical layouts, exaggeration, distortion, layering and traditionally ‘ugly’ elements, which means it’s certainly not everybody’s cup of tea. But if you’re someone who likes to stand out from the crowd, there’s no denying that an anti-design website is a very effective tool for doing just that!

Anti Design - XXIX Homepage
Anti Design - XXIX Homepage

Many designers are now dabbling in the bizarre world of anti-design, which can be seen in the chaotic yet quirky website designs of Dutch brand Roze Bunker, and design studios Play Type and XXIX. Even Aussie artist Flume has taken a bright, bold and brutalist approach with his website. While this style always stands out (hopefully for the right reasons), effective web design is about balance. So, if you do choose to go down the road of anti-design in your UI, it’s important to ensure that the UX of your website is still simple, functional and user friendly. 

Anti Design - Dynamic MTL Homepage
Anti Design - Dynamic MTL Homepage

“I thought the anti-design trend might die down, but I think ‘Breaking the Rules’ has evolved along with collage and mixed media,” says Tahlia. “I have come across a lot of different websites that are layering imagery, mixing serifs with san serif font, and using animation in an unconventional way. Yet, because of their great UX, they still make it work.”

04. Minimalism

Minimalism - ETQ Homepage
Minimalism - ETQ Homepage

A design trend that absolutely refuses to quit, minimalism has become the bread and butter of the work of web designers over the last decade. But what is minimalist web design? Less a visual style and more a design principle, minimalist design is based around using only the essential elements – such as basic shapes, clean text, limited color palettes and empty space – to create something simple, functional and memorable.

Minimalism - Huge Inc. Homepage
Minimalism - Huge Inc. Homepage

Many brands have been executing the minimalism trend beautifully in their web designs, such as luxe shoe label ETQ Amsterdam and Brooklyn-based business development agency Huge Inc. While typically associated with monochrome and white space, minimalism isn’t just black and white. In fact, colorful minimalism is on the rise in both graphic and web design, featuring block colors and bold backgrounds, simple sans serif fonts and minimalist typefaces, as well as minimal design elements to create a simple yet stunning website design. 

Minimalism - Huge Inc. Action Page
Minimalism - Huge Inc. Action Page

A trend that aims to not only simplify website visual design, but usability and functionality – another big trend pegged for 2021 – minimalist web design will continue to be a key component of modern UI design for years to come. 

“I’m not big on trends, but I believe that minimalism will always be relevant in the digital design space,” says Sean. “The more we overcomplicate our interfaces, the more users will struggle to use our products.”

05. Organic Design

Organic Design - Ora Homepage
Organic Design - Ora Homepage

One of the biggest design trends of 2020, organic design is all about using nature and the world around us as inspiration. While frequently seen in product design, interior design and graphic design, this trend is now starting to gain momentum in the world of web design too. 

The Organic design trend is influenced by an increased focus on sustainability and environmentalism, featuring warm, earthy colors, natural shapes and raw organic textures – as spotted on these websites from Ora Floral Agency, A Better Source, and Melbourne’s Abbotsford Convent

Organic Design - Abbotsford Convent 'What's On' Page
Organic Design - Abbotsford Convent 'What's On' Page

Neutral colors replicate our environment’s natural palette, and are one of the easiest and most effective ways to add a more organic feel to your website. Alongside soft browns, beiges and whites, faded pinks, blues, and greens can also be great additions to a neutral color palette, which can be used on their own or paired with brighter colors to make them pop. 

Organic Design - A Better Source Product Page
Organic Design - A Better Source Product Page

“I have noticed quite a few websites shift towards earthy warm color palettes, which is a welcome change from the bright cool tones we usually see dominating our screens,” says Tahlia. 

06. Illustration

Illustration - AHM Homepage
Illustration - AHM Homepage

Illustration has absolutely exploded this year across graphic design, social media and web design. Plenty of brands, businesses and creators are catching on to the popularity of illustration and digital art, with many now integrating hand-drawn elements into their website designs – including the likes of health insurance company AHM and even luxury fashion brand Gucci.

Following on from organic design, illustrations are great for adding a crafty, authentic touch to your web design and give your website a welcoming feel. With an increased focus on diversity and representation in design in 2020, many illustrators are now featuring quirky people of all shapes and sizes, a style commonly referred to as “odd bodies”.

Illustration - Huge Inc. Research Page
Illustration - Huge Inc. Research Page

3D illustrator and Elements author Amrit Pal Singh is a big advocate for these more quirky and inclusive illustrations, focusing on diversity, individuality and representation in his work. 

3D Illustration - AmritPalDesign's Website
3D Illustration - AmritPalDesign's Website

“Illustrations and character design over the years have really established wrong standards of beauty and importance. Almond-eyes, fair skin, and particular body types; we have grown up watching cartoons that establish these biases,” says Amrit. “As creators and artists, it's our duty to fix that. We need to consciously think about representation at every stage. I’m always trying to make my work more diverse and inclusive.” 

07. Functionality, Inclusivity & Accessibility

Functionality - Blue Receipt Homepage
Functionality - Blue Receipt Homepage

Website functionality has always been a key aspect of web design. However, along with fast load times, page speed, and mobile-friendly design, an increased focus on inclusivity and accessibility have created a growing need for web design to factor in the needs of people with disabilities, and make websites accessible and functional for all. 

Accessibility - Blue Receipt Product Page
Accessibility - Blue Receipt Product Page

Luckily, accessible web design is being adopted by more brands and businesses – such as e-commerce hub Blue Receipt and no-fuss cat food brand Cat Person – and having a functional, accessible and user-friendly website that any visitor can easily navigate is now essential for providing an effective online experience.

Accessibility - Cat Person Product Page
Accessibility - Cat Person Product Page

Optimizing your website to be more functional, accessible and inclusive is not just good for customer service – it also increases conversion, boosts your SEO, and extends your audience reach. 

Some ways to make your website more inclusive and accessible 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;
  • Featuring easy-to-understand, straightforward, and jargon-free copy. 

“On the whole, I have seen a real raising of the bar in well designed, functional, accessible websites which is really positive,” says Sean. “I’ve observed this through higher contrast colours, large typography, authentic, relatable copy, big buttons, and soft curved UI elements. I somewhat optimistically believe this is due to a growing understanding and appreciation of the value good design can add to businesses.”  

To make your web designs more functional and inclusive, try this Accessible Business Portfolio & WooCommerce WordPress Theme, Product Designer WordPress Theme for WooCommerce or this Voicer – Text to Speech Plugin for WordPress on CodeCanyon. Or, check out more items below on Envato Elements!

08. Motion & Interactivity

Motion - Gridspace Homepage
Motion - Gridspace Homepage

Video is proven to be the most engaging form of content online, so it’s no surprise that motion has also become a big trend in web design. Used everywhere from boutique websites such as Alter Mind and Gridspace to SEEK’s career advice page, motion and animation in web design is a simple way to make an otherwise ordinary web page more exciting and engaging. 

In a similar vein, many brands and businesses – such as YouTube Rewind – have begun adding more interactive elements to their websites, including quizzes, games, polls and surveys. A great example is Estee Lauder, whose website features an interactive arcade game called ‘THE ANRCADE’ – a futuristic quest focused on earning ‘youth-generating power points’ to promote their Advanced Night Repair cream.

Interactivity - Estee Lauder's ANRCADE Game
Interactivity - Estee Lauder's ANRCADE Game

In addition to being a fun addition to the online experience, interactivity is a great way to engage your visitors while also learning more about them. However, it’s important to achieve balance and ensure your motion or interactive elements don’t dominate or distract from the purpose of your website. 

Interactivity - YouTube Rewind's Global Search Page
Interactivity - YouTube Rewind's Global Search Page

“As technology continues to improve it is becoming easier to utilize and apply motion to your designs, which can make for delightful experiences (when used appropriately),” says Sean. “I see this done well when transitioning between content, and interacting with elements.”

To add more motion and interactivity into your website, check out this Lottie Animation for Elementor by merkulove, Animated Typography by motionbeard, and this Scribble Elements by FlashFXbox on Envato Elements!

09. 3D & Geometric Design

3D Floating Objects - The Artery Homepage
3D Floating Objects - The Artery Homepage

Geometric patterns and elements are frequently used in the world of modern web design – including classic flat shapes such as polygons, diamonds, rectangles, triangles, and the occasional rhombus. However, the geometric web design trend has evolved to also include  more modern elements such as 3D shapes, floating objects and visible gridlines. 

Geometric Design - The Imagineers Homepage
Geometric Design - The Imagineers Homepage

The use of 3D shapes and floating objects in geometric design blends surreal motion with realistic objects, creating a mesmerizing, futuristic effect – a style popularized by the suspended, rotating movement often used in tech commercials to show off new products. This is perfect for adding another layer or dimension to your web design, to ensure your website captivates your visitors  – as seen in this website by The Artery, which pairs geometric elements with minimalist, simple gridlines to lay out their website.

3D Floating Objects - The Artery Design Lab Page
3D Floating Objects - The Artery Design Lab Page

In contrast to the complex nature of 3D and floating objects, the use of simplic grid lines, borders and other structural elements has also become a trending style in the web design space – such as in these websites by Rail Road Ladies, Monograph Comms and The Imagineers

Geometric Design - The Railroad Ladies
Geometric Design - The Railroad Ladies

“I’ve also noticed a resurgence of more geometric elements and visible grid lines in web design, which I’m kind of into as someone who loves structure and order,” says Sean. 

Envato Elements - Connected - Landing Page by cerpow

10. Wordpress Page Builders & Template Kits

In the last few years, self-serve website templates and page builders have increased in popularity. Website builders such as Elementor and Wordpress Gutenberg mean that, nowadays, even the least tech-savvy or design-minded person can create a professional website in no time. 

Kaleo - Creative Portfolio Template Kit
Kaleo - Creative Portfolio Template Kit

Page builders are fast, code-free and fully flexible, offering professional layouts and limitless customization for those without design or coding knowledge.

With a little something for everyone, Envato Elements Template Kits for Elementor offer a wide variety of professional and cohesive website designs and templates for everything from your homepage to your contact page. Envato’s new category of pre-designed templates are designed to go hand-in-hand with your WordPress page builder – which makes it super easy to get a website up and running in no time. 

The Restaurant - Elementor Template Kit
The Restaurant - Elementor Template Kit

To build your own Wordpress website, check out these top 10 Template Kits for Elementor, or try out some of the Template Kits below… 

Reformoa - Architecture & Interior Design Elementor Template Kit
Reformoa - Architecture & Interior Design Elementor Template Kit

We hope you enjoyed our collection of Web Design Trends for 2021. Want more? Check out our UX and UI trends 2020 roundup and our Marketing Trends and Social Media Trends Predictions for 2021 on the Envato Blog!