Top 6 UX and UI design trends for 2021

Written by: Samantha Wolhuter

icon of a monitor with design elements

In today’s always-on world, people have become accustomed to not only receive smart functionality when interacting with brands digitally, but they also expect unique brand experiences at every binary touchpoint. UX and UI designers are tasked with creating engaging, interactive, and fresh brand experiences to captivate customers on an emotive level using colours, fonts, layout, and innovative digital interactions.

If you are looking for the latest digital design trends poised to make both aesthetic and functional impact in the coming year, then look no further: here is our list of the top 6 UX and UI design trends for 2021.

Dark mode

In the world of design, dark mode has become the hottest trend to gain considerable traction in recent years. Tech giant Google has even developed a Dark Theme for YouTube which will no doubt cement the trend’s staying power in 2021 and beyond.

Dark mode is even considered a UX best practice as the lack of colour reduces strain on the human eye, limits image distortion, and saves battery (if you have an OLED/AMOLED display). These are important factors that directly affect the amount of time users spend on your website or mobile app. Dark design, using predominantly blacks and grey with a carefully selected accent colour, is timeless and adds a certain level of elegance and sophistication to your page.

So, if you want your brand to remain running with the design pack, then best you get your designers to quickly get on the dark mode/dark theme trend as it is certainly going to be considered “standard” in 2021.

Neumorphism

In a quest for hyperrealism in mobile and website design, neumorphism is a trend that will only develop further in the coming years. Combining flat design elements with skeuomorphism, neumorphism creates stylish and clean designs through the clever use of shadows, highlights and gradients. The result mimics real-life objects, bringing clean interfaces to life by bringing physical elements to flat UI layouts.

Neumorphic design, or soft UI, is best used for buttons and switches, display cards, and loading bars to create a simple and almost 3D-like appearance. Neumorphism ties in well to another design trend finding its way into almost every design element imaginable: minimalism. With design leaning toward a minimalist approach as a dramatic rebuttal to cluttered displays of previous years, neumorphic design is poised to remain a leading design trend in 2021.

UX writing and storytelling

Humans are innately receptive to the concept of storytelling which is why the art has, and will continue to be, incredibly important for brands to engage with their audience. The right words are engaging and have the power to evoke every human emotion on the spectrum. Combining great UX writing with the power of storytelling will boost user experience to new levels.

Customers have become more discerning with their choices of brands they engage with: no longer will the hard sale copy suffice, people want to be seduced. As such, brands are finding new ways of engaging with their audiences using the power of language to create a story: familiarity. People want to feel like they are engaging not with a brand but with a person. Brands are now using more colloquial, friendly, and irreverent language to appear less formal, less threatening, and less corporate. 

Microcopy is a great way brands are able to assist users while also showing their brand identity. An error page is no longer just a transmission of information but an opportunity for brands to show off their personality. While design is aimed at aesthetics, UX writing is the design of how your website or apps sounds. Microcopy is often brand-specific which means a great opportunity for brands to engage emotionally and directly with their audience.

Illustrations

When limitations occur regarding the amount of text on screen, digital illustrations are a great way to tell your brand or product story without saying a word. Many large brands, including high-end fashion house Gucci, will continue to tap into the growing trend of powerful illustrations.

Illustrations transmit multiple ideas, feelings, and moods, in a shorter space of time compared to text. They grab the audience’s attention and curiosity, engaging with their emotions and aiming to express more of the brand personality.

Hand-drawn illustrations are an option to add fluidity into rigid layouts for a more engaging presentation of the content. But 3D illustrations can also be used to add more modern, yet still playful and engaging visuals that compliment your designs. There are marketplaces where you can acquire these assets if you don’t have the capabilities for creating them yourself.

Always try to make each illustration unique and bespoke to your brand. This, of course, drives distinctive brand personality further into the customer experience and gives you more control over what you want to communicate. 

3D elements

In 2021, brands will continue to leverage the engaging and emotive power of immersive 3D design elements. With the inevitable rise in popularity of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) expected to peak in 2021-2022, the use of 3D elements in website and mobile app design is a trend that will continue for years to come.

Hyper-realistic 3D visuals will encompass screens to attract users’ attention and keep it. By retaining users on your site or app for longer thanks to beautiful 3D elements, the more you are likely to make a sale of your product and/or service. Intricately crafted 3D elements immerse your audience into your brand and offer a welcome change from static 2D design and copy, adding a dynamic mix of mediums on your site that drives engagement and attention.

Microinteractions

If impressive enough, life’s little moments are the ones that are endowed with longevity in our memory, and our experience in the digital world is no different. Microinteractions create tiny bursts of excitement and magic to your mobile app and website and serve to drive user experience to new heights of appreciation and memorability.

Microinteractions add a tasteful amount of dynamism and interactivity to your pages, turning the ordinary into the memorable. They are unique ways to show your brand’s identity without forcing a sale or product down their throat. Microinteractions are used solely for the enjoyment of the user, and it is this attention to detail which makes all the difference and will continue to do so well into the coming years.

Summary

There you have it, our top 6 UX and UI design trends we see making a considerable impact in the digital world in 2021. Of course, some items on our list are not very new but are instead poised to add more value in the years to come as they continue to evolve and serve digital audiences. It is important to remember that creating the most memorable user experience possible is at the heart of all of these trends and predictions, as each element is designed with the user in mind. 

Are you looking to add any of these trends to your business’ website or mobile app? Get in touch with us today to see how WeAreBrain can help.

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Last modified: July 6, 2021
Author info
Samantha Wolhuter
Sam is in charge of writing a big portion of WeAreBrain’s creative content. She is a digital nomad always on the go, inspiring us with her words from some of the world's most beautiful locations.
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