Anyone following the video games industry has probably seen this coming for a while, but we humans love interaction and most of all, we love games and stories. There’s nothing quite like a good interactive experience with our web browser to make our day and send us off on a lovely journey of discovery.
After a year spent in almost total isolation, web designers figured out that the best way to keep us connected and entertained could be to make websites even more interactive. And you can easily see where the sector is going from all the examples we’re going to list below.
How surprised would you be if I told you that the best 2021 web design trends will be about interactivity and immersion?
Top 2021 Web Design trends to inspire you today
Nature, interactivity, playfulness and hover galleries – web designers are incredible when it comes to finding new and creative ways to make innovative websites. 2020 has left us all longing for some fresh air, an urge that will inevitably be reflected in this year’s websites – both in terms of design and UX.
Let’s get started. Here’s 2021’s most popular and inspiring Web Design trends.
Immersive Digital UI
Immersion is set to become an important buzzword this year. As hopes of phasing out of the pandemic before Summer fade away, our computer screen will become an important window on the world. Might as well make it enjoyable, right?
Some websites last year have adopted the interesting mechanic of the transformative scroll, meaning the website changed shape before your eyes as you scrolled on your mouse wheel. This is certainly a trend that we’ll see a lot in 2021, as designers keep exploring its possibilities and craft even more stunning animations to leave us speechless in front of the screen.
Not only that; some have also experimented with the so-called Hover Galleries, showing the next step in your navigation as your mouse moves over some elements on the page. Those make for quite interesting navigation experiences, helping you understand what waits ahead and where you would actually want to go. And while we’re in the topic of cursor, so many websites now have their own personalised pointers, from little characters to dots and even auras that move glyphs and symbols all around their core (but more on that later).
Designed by Women
Now, if you thought the websites above were pretty interactive, you clearly don’t know what’s coming next. Some websites are full-on interactive experiences, as in virtual spaces that you can navigate and get immersed into. A perfect example are the virtual rooms from the Dutch Design Week website, but even Chile20’s stunning product visualisations by Adidas and Footlocker are absolutely unbelievable – plus, they offer a true service to users and customers.
Then there are just the experiences that are simply plain enjoying in their own right. Bruno Simon’s portfolio website is an actual little game that you can play, with a fully-featured RC car to guide around the homepage in beautiful isometric view. And if you ever wondered what would happen if the man behind our childhoods made a website, all you need to do is get ready for goosebumps and head over to Alan Menken’s website.
Sure, these websites are certainly resource-heavy and they require certain costs to be pulled off effectively. But how amazing is the final result? We can easily expect more people to jump aboard the interactivity train and produce even more stunning experiences this year. In fact, a lot of the examples and trends on this list will feature at least one fully interactive example.
Dutch Design Week
Chile20 by Adidas & Footlocker
Alan Menken's Website
Who said a computer screen must remain flat? There were so many websites in 2020 that played with different layers of background to create a parallax illusion, resulting in some marvellous visual experiences for all of us. Delassus, Neker and director Chungi Yoo’s website all feature parallax illusions in some ways, but you can find them all over this list of trends too – including on the True Cannabis website mentioned above.
For a lot of us, 2021 is going to be about looking out the window at best, in terms of interaction with the outside world. We are sure to see more websites taking advantage of parallax to help us feel the outside world yet again – even if we remain indoors.
Chungi Yoo's website
2020 was an interesting year for sustainability, and 2021 is sure to continue that trend. We’ll see even more websites founded on organic design and with a focus on sustainability, some of which will still use interactivity to design for social causes.
These sites will of course all take advantage of every element of immersive UI they can get, from hover galleries to cursor quirks, from glyphs to symbols and parallax. And in the meantime, they will remind us of how much it matters to take care of our home.
No Fishing (Sea Shepherd)
The Year of Greta
If 2021 is going to be the year where Abstractionism and Maximalism make their comeback in Graphic Design, Web Design won’t be much different. Artists will be keen to embrace shapes, colours and pure concepts to create their websites, while some may adopt a certain vintage vibe or style to play around with colours and convey a certain feel.
Don’t take my word for it – take a look at Philippe Neveu’s beautiful and colourful website. Who wouldn’t want to have something like that?
Minimalism & Dark Mode
Paired with an explosion of colour we will most certainly see Minimalism and Dark Mode dominating some of the scene. Bound to be expected, anyways – with the world still entirely focused on dealing with Covid-19, not everyone will be in the mood for a colour extravaganza and some might still aim at elegance, premium-feel, monochrome and realism.
Minimalism is quite renowned to be the perfect ingredient for anything elegant and premium, but the Dark Mode itself has evolved from being a neat feature to an actual style. Even Apple painted its website black several times in the past year, depending on the product launch, and boy if it looked absolutely amazing.
Marx Design is quite minimal too
Collages are very instagrammable, that’s true. As more people rely on social media to get through with their daily lives, it’s clear that we’ll see more collage websites around and we won’t get rid of that style too easily.
Urban Outfitters has already adopted that style for the full homepage, with full-width and cut-out visuals that give off a pleasant 90s vibe. Chobani is just another excellent example of that style, mixing photos and graphics to present products in a neat and quirky way.
2D/3D Illustrations & Characters
Lastly, artists or not, clients may require a more quirky personality for their websites this year. Mascots and characters are already quite popular, but it won’t be uncommon to see full-width 2D illustrations, animations and 3D models dominating a website, giving it a way more colourful and characteristic look that screams ‘Identity’ from every line.
Samuel Day’s personal website is a beautiful example of this. An interactive animation that you can scroll through to see it come to life before your eyes, with all of Samuel’s spirit imbued into it. Illustrations with textures also seem to be going strong among professional illustrators, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of that on websites as well. In fact, there are already a couple of examples of websites with textures, illustrations and noises in them – with Swab The World being one of the most beautiful out there.