Revamping a tired, outdated website with a fresh new look and feel can seem like a daunting task. But in a time where the pandemic has forced everything from education and retail to entertainment online, your website has never been so crucial in connecting with customers and establishing an authentic brand.

As we reach the end of what has been a challenging year for small businesses around the world, 2021’s emerging web design trends share a common theme. Rather than aspiring to high-tech futurism, brands and business owners are embracing realism in new ways by celebrating ordinary moments and behaviors within the digital realm.

If you’re looking for inspiration as we move into the new year, here are some of the biggest web design trends predicted to breathe life into SMBs online through 2021:

Abstract art compositions 

While geometric patterns and shapes can appear simple and restrictive in their minimalism, in 2021, web designers are taking this trend to a new level by creating sprawling, complex compositions across the screen. Abstract elements can be used in new ways as an alternative to stock photography to add interest and create a sense of freedom.

In this web design for Miles Agency, the abstract composition, vibrant array of colors and patterns bring a warm and expressive energy to the page. An engaging and approachable visual style, this is a trend that business owners across a variety of sectors can easily tap into to various degrees.

websiteScrolling transformations

 Scrolling, whether with a mouse or on your smartphone, has become second nature to us all. But this action is about more than just navigation around a website, the movement equates to interaction and participation – and the more involved a consumer is, the more likely they are to be engaged and interested in the content they are looking at.

As a result, in 2021 web designers are responding by emphasizing the visual feedback that users and customers get from scrolling. The effects can vary from color scheme shifts to more complex animated transitions and changes in layout, for example this concept for Klein Blue by Outer.

Captivating questionnaires 

The first window of time when a customer hits your homepage is the most crucial moment in their journey with you as a brand. First impressions count, and you want to make sure your customers find exactly what they’re looking for as soon as possible.

This is why the use of dynamic and tailored onboarding questionnaires that funnel customers straight to the content or products that most suit their needs is set to gain significant traction in 2021. From a design perspective, this creates a highly interactive experience through a series of landing pages that level up the humble survey field of years gone by. Examples of this approach can be seen from finance company Empower and this concept for a home renovation firm from designer, Darko Stanimirov.

websiteThree-dimensional colors

Taking inspiration from Apple’s Big Sur OS, 2021 will also see brands embrace an evolution of the gradient trend that has been popular for a while now. This next stage in the journey sees color transitions feel more lifelike and overly saturated, with a three-dimensional aspect that makes web design almost tactile.

The effect is created using fine shading that elevates the flat design that has dominated our screens, particularly when it comes to app icons. In this design for example, it feels as if you could pick the Instax cameras straight off the page, while this Urban Ears concept blends colors in a natural but striking way.

Shadows and blended imperfections add a realism and depth that will take website design to new realms in 2021.

(L) Apple’s Big Sur OS








Whether you’re simply looking to give your business a fresh coat of digital paint, or are planning to start a completely new online venture this year, these down-to-earth and achievable trends are a sure-fire way to bring your website up to date in 2021.

Shayne Tilley is Head of Marketing at 99designs, the global creative platform that makes it easy for designers and clients to work together to create designs they love. Wrangler of collaboration, diversity, and creativity to help bring more opportunities to people all around the world. Twitter @99designs


Website design 2021 stock photo by Executioner/Shutterstock