Web Design Trends That Surfaced in 2021

8 December 2021
Web Design Trends That Surfaced in 2021

The fundamental principles of good web design are relatively constant. However, some web design trends come and go. Some of these trends are driven by advances in technology. And others are driven by consumer needs, the general mood in the population, and the economic climate.

The years 2020 and 2021 were, of course, dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic. And that global crisis certainly influenced some of the changes in how websites were being designed. We will have to wait and see what 2022 has in store for the world and web development trends. In the meantime, here’s a look back at some of the significant web design trends of 2021.

Calming Color Palettes

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a trend towards loud and bold colors on websites. Indeed, some sites shouted out their messages in colors, typography, and the written word. But in 2021, colors became far more subdued and soothing.

The toning down of colors was likely to have been a direct response to the pandemic. After all, everyone had more than enough drama in their lives at that time. However, some of the pre-pandemic loud web design had become a bit over the top. So, softer colors might be a trend that sticks around.

Slicker Online Shopping Experiences

The massive surge in online shopping focussed the minds of eCommerce website developers. The increase in visitors to eCommerce sites provided a welcome boost to sales for existing sites. But the online shopping surge also brought many new players into the market too. So, online shopping experiences had to be slick to compete.

Some of the larger online retailers simplified their checkout processes. Some sites simplified product descriptions and moved critical information above the fold. In essence, online stores had to improve the user experience to compete.

The increase in the numbers of people shopping online and eCommerce competition is not going away. So, eCommerce sites will need to continue providing top-class online shopping experiences way beyond 2021.


Subtle animations triggered by a user action were a feature of many sites in 2021. These micro-interactions can take many forms. An image might subtly change when hovered over, for example. Banners could have animated backgrounds. On some sites, calls to action were animated to attract more attention.

Too many animated effects can look messy and degrade the user experience. When used sparingly, though, micro-interactions can increase user engagement without distraction from the content’s message.

Blending Physical and Digital Imagery

Many people found themselves spending far more time online in 2021. More people worked from home, for example. And, with many hospitality venues closed, more people turned to the internet for entertainment, too. That shift in internet usage might explain the following web design trend in 2021. Perhaps the trend of seamlessly blending physical and digital imagery reflected the blurring of real and online life that people were experiencing.

This blending of real-world and digital imagery included combining photos of people with graphics and transiting between physical and digital imagery. The effect is a bit like the movies that blend animation and live-action. Implemented well, this type of imagery can be highly effective and add to the uniqueness of a website.

Modular Design

Most websites are designed on a template basis. Anyone who has used the old WordPress editor will be familiar with the template concept. And they will be more than aware of how restrictive page templates can be.

However, 2021 saw an increase in modular web design, which significantly simplifies and improves page creation. And that move to modular design was, to some degree, pre-empted by the 2018 release of the WordPress Gutenberg Editor.

When a modular web design strategy is adopted, modules are developed rather than entire pages. Then, those elements can be used on any page. This modular approach allows website owners to create custom pages without the need for professional web developer input.

Asymmetric Design

The next trend of 2021 might come as a surprise. For years, web developers have been striving to create beautifully symmetrical websites. But, in 2021, symmetry took a backseat to a more free-flowing format.

Of course, this new trend does not spell the end of the grid format. And websites still need to be ordered and easy to follow. But, forcing content into fixed-length containers gave way to proportional but asymmetrical layouts.

User-controlled Content

User-controlled content was prolific in 2021. So, no more auto-play on videos or slideshows, for example. This trend in handing control of content to users has been growing for some time. But 2021 will go down as the year that auto-play finally died and user-control became the norm.

A Move Away from Realistic Images

Realistic, high-definition photographs have been a feature of most websites for some time. But in 2021, the emphasis shifted from real photos to stylized sketch-style images or a combination of picture and sketch art.

Of course, quality images on product pages are not about to disappear. Even so, sketch art can provide more opportunity for creativity and is less resource-hungry than high-definition photos. So, the move towards fewer realistic images could be a web design trend that continues.

Stripped-Down Headers

Similar to the last point, 2021 also saw the gradual demise of the extra-large header or hero image. Up until now, hero images have been getting larger and larger and more detailed. But these, sometimes massive, images slowed load times and did little for search engine optimization. So, there is now a move towards more basic, text-only banners that load faster and can be read and indexed by the search engines.


Many of the web design trends of 2021 were relatively subtle. And some were driven by the COVID pandemic. But none of the trends was particularly tricky to implement.

Trends come and go, and, of course, it is not best practice to blindly copy other people’s ideas. Still, keeping up with trends helps ensure that a website looks up to date, and you can use design trends to inspire your original ideas.

So, what can we expect to see in 2022? Some designers predict more original artwork will appear on new websites, including line art, abstract designs, and art-deco-inspired images. So, 2022 could be the year that web designers get to let their creativity run wild!