If you ask a seasoned UX designer what are the trends in UI/UX design, they are likely to say that there are no trends. UX professionals pray for good usability, and when usability is the cornerstone, the trends don’t matter. Yet, it would be weird to deny that websites in 2021 look different from websites of 2011. There are new kinds of typography styles, new animations, color usage, and layouts.
It’s like clothes: everybody says that the most important thing about clothes is comfort, but… Fashion has been in fashion for many centuries and remains so. People keep on buying weird and barely wearable garments.
The same goes with web design: usability exists, but trends exist as well. At least we should be grateful for the existence of usability, as some 20-30 years ago it was not a thing. Remember those crazy designs from the 90s? People did them just because they could, and it was something cool and innovative, yes, I mean flash images.
By the way, here’s one of the latest trends :
90s style web design comes back, just like fashion trends. Angular shapes, old-style layouts, pixelated elements — that is how this trend looks in 2021. The 90s have been known for a strong nostalgia effect and it’s used in web design now.
Intentionally disharmonious, “kick-in-the-face” brutalist websites have been a long-term trend so far. This style is featured by rough typographies mixed with wild colors and experimental layouts. Brutalist websites look like they don’t care about being easy to use or even legible, in some cases.
This style is a response to the process of homogenization of web and mobile apps since UX design has been on the rise. It is very comfortable for users to have all the different apps look like parts of one minimalist design system. At the other end of the spectrum lies the desire of brands to stand out and become memorable. These opposites in UI/UX design trends are represented by minimalism and brutalism.
You probably don’t see all these new trends on the websites of the majority of popular digital products. Indeed, most of them are designed in that standard, easily readable, and easily clickable style: sans serif fonts, flat “corporate style” illustrations, smooth gradients. Naturally, big companies don’t want to risk and experiment with new styles. The first ones to adopt new fashion are personal websites, niche online media, and digital products targeted at the creative class who would be likely to appreciate the cool looks.
A good example of such a product is Figma. Stylish typography, animation, and bold color palette speak the language of the target audience, designers.
It has been present for a while, but in 2021 dark mode really starts to take over. Most popular apps make two versions, and some go for the dark mode as the only one. macOS suggests an automatic switch of all apps to dark mode depending on the surrounding lighting.
Gadgets in dark mode keep the battery longer and reduce eye strain. Also, dark screens look stylish and that is one of the main reasons why they are becoming so popular. The dark mode is here to stay, so get ready for preparing each design in two versions.
Despite all the concerns regarding privacy and safety, touchless interactions such as voice commands, face identification, air gesture control, and others are on the rise in 2021.
Many people consider it to be an overvalued hype, but the fact remains the same: touchless interactions are spreading. When used wisely, they are not only impressive as a cool innovation element but also really functional.
Voice User Interface, as part of touchless interactions, is worth a separate mention. After Clubhouse has exceeded all the expectations in 2020, both product and users turned their attention to voice user interfaces. Nowadays they are more than just an option for those who can’t see/touch/hold phone at the moment. Audio is the new video, and voice is the new touch.
To make the apps be as legible as possible, designers have narrowed their type choices to the same simple and proved to be efficient fonts. However, often the font that is not the most legible itself will draw attention and make the viewer’s eye stop a bit longer at the heading. Because even a super legible font and layout are worth nothing if they don’t attract enough attention of the viewer.
A good example here is Figma. As a UI design product, they have to keep up with the trends.
Behind this fancy name is hiding just a particular kind of blur that feels like looking through the glass. For the first time it was introduced in Windows Vista back in 2007, and for some reason became popular now.
Glassmorphism came after skeumorphism and neumorphism. While most UI/UX trends don’t last long, one thing you can be sure about is that every year there would be a new -morphism on the stage.
AR, VR graphic elements and environments
Since AR and VR have been a hot and not-so-hot trend in the last years, in web design there have been many successful and not-so-successful experiments with them.
Heavy elements are likely to make a website slow to load but when done properly, these elements catch the viewer’s attention better than anything else.
Have you noticed how each app out there is talking to you like if you’ve been buddies since primary school? Well, there is a reason for that and it is called microcopy.
Even traditional foundations of formalities and bureaucracies, such as banks, try to be funny and friendly in their mobile apps. Sometimes they are funny and friendly, sometimes just annoying. Yet, UX writing is an important part of the design in 2021 — and often it can have a bigger impact on users than all those sophisticated fonts and graphics.
To sum up
We started by saying that there are no real trends and user experience is the only thing that matters and finished with listing ten UI/UX trends… So, what is the truth? Well, both. You have to care about user experience but at the same time you can’t ignore trends: in the end, they are not just a random selection but a reflection of modern time.