Not Just for Stylish Spiders: Web Design Trends 2021

Published: March 19, 2021

by Justin Difazzio

At the end of the first quarter of 2021, we’re taking a moment to bring you the third installment of our predictions for design trends series. This installment will focus on web design. Ultimately, web design combines the elements of typography and graphic design, with consideration toward user interface. We’re excited to share what’s coming in the aftermath of last year’s heavy reliance on the web to bring us together when we couldn’t meet physically. The Covid-19 pandemic has truly affected every facet of our lives, and web design definitely doesn’t escape that umbrella.

web design trends cartoon

Cartoon Cavalcade

The first trend is something you’ve already seen a lot of, we’re sure. It seems like everywhere you look online there are custom illustrations, cartoons, and line art. Everyone wants to stand out and differentiate themselves from all the other boring old websites. So they’re hiring illustrators and tasking artists with dreaming up characters to fill the pages of their website. Custom cartoons are great at conveying emotion that is hard to convey through text alone. And with that trend comes micro animations–short loops of animated content that liven up a page. Whether these be hover effects or cute banner image animations, you’ll see more and more of them as this year continues.

web design trends depth

Getting Deep

3D is growing exponentially. From custom 3D objects and animations to drop shadows and implied depth, it’s all here. In the same way that typography is embracing the solid shadow, web design is making the flat plane deeper through the magic of illusions. You’re going to find buttons that rise, panels that float, and images that appear recessed, just to name a few. If your website is strictly flat, maybe take another look at it and see what could be done to easily liven up your page through elevation.

web design trends retro

Retro Returns

Brace yourself. Put on your flannel. And let that lockdown hairdo flow free, because the 90s are back. And while referring to the 90s as retro might make you feel like a dusty old mummy being menaced by Brandan Fraser, that’s just what’s happening. Look for callbacks to early web and PC nostalgia to hit big time. It was a simpler age with simpler functionality and icons, blockier graphics, and that magical dialup tone. You remember it. Like a robot stuck in a meat grinder.

web design trends glitch

Glitches and Grunge

Speaking of that horrible dialup noise, this next trend is a callback to a time when everything wasn’t so slick and smooth. Within a time of 90s callbacks, you’re going to be seeing a lot of grungy distortion and glitch effects online. Sure, we worked through the decade to get rid of these sorts of unwanted effects from all our digital platforms, but they’re trendier when they’re on purpose, right? Right? Well, whatever the case, the digital glitches and distorted backgrounds and images and even text have come back with a purpose. Or, rather, on purpose.

web design trends color

Experimental Color Combinations

We talked in an earlier entry in this series about duochrome as a trend in graphic design. Well, here’s where it shows up in web design. There’s going to be a lot of color schemes where two colors are combined in interesting ways, ways which may not always be successful or easy on the eyes. But it will certainly catch your attention, though, so maybe get on the trend and start getting creative with your color combinations. Neons and pastels? Pink and green? Screaming orange and electric blue? Why not.

web design trends text

Big, Bold Text

Yes, it’s true. We already tackled typography in our last post, so I won’t beat a dead font. But it needs to be said that those trends will be in full effect on the web front as well. Go check that post out if you don’t recall what those trends are. One thing we can say? Big, bold titles and subtitles, words used as focal points, and messages you just can’t miss are going to be…well…big. You won’t miss it. We promise.

web design trends handmade

Handmade Elements

Handwriting was pretty big last year, and it’s getting even looser and more handwritey (shhh, it’s a word now) this year. Add to that even more elements looking like they were made by hand, including box borders, illustrated flairs, and more, and you have some idea of what you might encounter. In addition to hand written and hand drawn elements, something new that’s coming along is collage. Hopefully it won’t get too much like a ransom note. We’re hoping more for artistic elements cobbled together from bits of other things rather than cut and pasted letters demanding cash. Fingers crossed.

web design trends neumorphism


Finally, there’s this term we hadn’t heard before this year: Neumorphism. Turns out, it’s the cousin of skeuomorphism, which is the use of outdated or real world objects when making digital representations of those things, such as using the look of a real calendar when making a digital calendar or making a save icon look like a floppy disk. Neumorphism (or neomorphism–the spelling hasn’t been agreed upon yet) is the making of a flat surface to look embossed or debossed. It can also include 3D elements and shadows as we discussed before. Basically, it’s making websites look like maybe they exist in the real world and not on a screen, and we are here for it.

web design trends 2021

Bring on the Rest of 2021

Whether you’re interested in staying on trend or like to stick to the tried and true, you can still find ways to freshen up your website without a complete redesign. Hopefully these trends in web design (and graphic design and have given you something you can work with. Did we miss anything? Are there other stylistic waves we may have missed? We shall see as the rest of the year passes and web design changes with the times. Stay tuned!