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Top 5 design trends for 2021

By Jenny Stanley, Managing director

Appetite Creative


The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

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November 11, 2020 | 6 min read

2020 was marked by innovative ways to approach UX and UI web designs such as immersive 3D elements, soft shadows and floating elements. As the year comes to a close, we want to explore the trends marketers should look out for in 2021 to create compelling and engaging ad campaigns.

Design Trends 2021

Design Trends for 2021

1. Minimalism takes over the user interface (UI)

Minimalism has come and gone as a UI design trend throughout the years, but it looks to retain popularity in 2021. Website visitors look for simple, sleek, easy to use interfaces. They have little time or patience for dozens of pop-up windows and irrelevant notifications – and anything that slows down the process of finding relevant information.

An effective way to establish which parts of the website you should focus on and optimise it is to conduct an eye-tracking test. This shows which parts of the website users look at and interact with the most.

Once you have this data, remove any excess information – all text that isn’t directly relevant to the content shown. Also, make sure no unnecessary pop-ups and notifications are included in the design, which would limit easy and seamless navigation.

Ensure the user journey is purposeful by opting for simple and time-saving design features so they can easily search for items of interest.

2. Storytelling approach is a must for product design

We have all heard about brands delivering personalised content to consumers. This is also true for user experience (UX) designers and products since more than ever, consumers are looking to buy from brands they can relate to, that feel approachable, relevant and authentic. To achieve a genuine connection, designers and marketers should use storytelling.

Indeed, creating stories around a product is a fantastic way to captivate the user because it gives your brand the opportunity to immediately engage with the consumer by touching the emotional side and creating a personal connection. Some tips:

  • Personalisation is key. Utilising the digital tools currently available allows you to really understand your consumers, so take some time to deliver tailored content to your audience.
  • Focusing on the value that your product delivers to the consumer also increases your chances of engagement and customer retention.
  • One way to achieve a great storytelling strategy is through videos. It is arguably one of the most engaging content formats in the digital world.

3. Mobile-first design will be the way forward

When you wake up in the morning, what’s the first thing you do? If you’re being honest, you most likely check your mobile phone. On average, millennials check their phone a whopping 150 times per day.

More than half of all searches are performed on a mobile device, and nearly 95% of those mobile searches happen via Google. So, if you haven’t already prioritised a mobile first approach to your business, it’s time to jump on the bandwagon.

A mobile first approach has seen an incredible growth for obvious reasons, but it is interesting to note that in July 2019, Google rolled out mobile-first indexing. According to Google, mobile-first indexing means “Google predominantly uses the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking.” Historically, the index used the desktop version to evaluate the relevance of a webpage to a visitor. Since the majority of users now access Google Search via a mobile device, Googlebot now primarily crawls and indexes pages via the smartphone agent.

4. Dark Mode is here to stay

Dark mode has been a popular trend in 2020 as we increasingly see people sharing screenshots of their phones with black backgrounds. Websites offering this feature and social media apps, such as Instagram, also allow users to switch to dark mode. Here are some benefits of dark mode:

  • It is modern, sleek, sophisticated and allows designers to be creative and explore new options that would not have worked in the regular light mode.
  • The dark background can allow designers to play with design elements in different creative ways compared to the white background.
  • It can also save battery power depending on the screen being used.
  • Some users prefer it because it is less harsh to the eyes at night and it may be better for people with visual impairments.

5. Hand-drawn adds a human touch

2020 has been a strange and difficult year for all of us, some more affected than others, but still the situation has cast a dark shadow on the entire world in one way or another. As designers, it’s great to consider ways to bring a little warmth into someone’s day.

Today, with texting, emails and social media, it is so rare to get a handwritten note from someone that when we do, it feels extra personal.

With this in mind, it’s a good initiative to add handwritten elements to your designs. This adds uniqueness, character and a personal touch often missing from digital interactions.

There are many ways for UX and UI web designers to take advantage of the new digital data and channels available to directly interact with consumers, to better inform their work. As a multi-award-winning creative technology studio, at Appetite Creative we encourage our designers to test and learn with new technologies to optimise experiences and regularly evolve them to ensure we’re always delivering the best results for both clients and their customers.

Jenny Stanley is founder and chief executive officer of Appetite Creative


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