UI/UX trends in 2021. Part 1.

For us, design is not only pretty graphics, but more importantly useful features in aesthetic forms. Out of great passion for design, we created a compilation of UI/UX trends that reign in 2021. In the first part, we present only UI trends.

3D instead of product photos and classic illustrations

Using images to make websites and applications more attractive is already a standard in design. Recently, however, we can see a strong fatigue with flat design, which is slowly being replaced by 3D design. It is one of the hottest trends of this year, which popularity growth was strongly influenced by VR applications. In addition to the purely aesthetic use, they allow you to present a product or service in a much more interactive and engaging way, for example by using 360-degree presentations.

An example of this solution is the Apple website.

Despite advances in technology, the disadvantage of 3D objects remains the load on users’ computers – the more complex the graphics, the larger it is. Modern frameworks and front-end libraries are able to significantly reduce the page load, allowing 3D objects to be more detailed and larger, but here too we will face limitations. The trend is developing in parallel with the technology, which should allow for feature expansion in the near future.

The sheriffs are back

For the past few years, bold typography has been keeping up with design trends, replacing illustrations or photos, giving pages a unique look.

This year we could see a move away from simple bold typefaces, towards more elegant serif or avantgarde so-called “ink catchers”. After a long time of helvetica overuse, this is a breath of fresh air that was much needed.  For example, in the fashion industry, the rebranding of ZARA was the beginning of these changes, also through the use of controversial kerning. Today, many product pages are not considered modern if they don’t infuse original typography into their headlines. Friendly serif fonts are coming back into favor, especially 70s-inspired typefaces in their more minimalist simplified versions.

We are experiencing a renaissance of serifs and all kinds of terminals, but simple typefaces, because of their usability, will never stop being trendy. 

Glassmorphism – frosted glass

Glassmorphism is a derivative of another trend from the previous year -nuemorphism, which shared its fate and, despite its popularity among designers on the Dribbble, did not take hold in the world of applied design. The trend features a background reminiscent of frosted glass, uses edgy elements and is often paired with pastel colors and gradients. 

source: dribbble Md Mohin Uddin & HeiMaUX

This all looks beautiful on a portfolio presentation, but for websites and mobile apps that display content in full-screen mode, the effect is practically useless. 

Definitely more use this trend can have in smaller elements like icons. Furthermore, the lack of contrast in this trend may be uncomfortable for visually impaired and daltonian users. Transparency effects are primarily for decorative purposes and have little utility.

source: dribbble Marshall

In order not to completely write off this trend, it is worth mentioning that it successfully worked in Apple’s operating system – Big Sur.

Darkmode

Darkmode features a dark user interface. It was designed as a complementary mode to the default (or light) theme. The first thing that comes to mind when hearing about this mode is white on black. However, darkmode is not only a strong contrast (using it may be harmful for some users, as we will discuss below).

Let’s focus on the benefits of darkmode. Darkmode allows us to highlight colors that even shine on such a background and photos that are more visible thanks to better contrast. A good example of using darkmode for your product is the Netflix platform.

Apart from the fact that it looks phenomenal and modern, it also gives a respite to screen-weary eyes by reducing the luminance emitted by the device screens and also saves the device battery. Unfortunately, it is not ideal in terms of accessibility. People with dyslexia and astigmatism may have trouble reading light text on a dark background. Many dark themes use total contrast, making white text on a black background difficult to read, especially for dyslexics.

Despite this, more and more sites and apps are introducing the option to switch to dark mode. It started with big brands like Facebook, Instagram, Apple and Android.

Gradient – a hit in design?

Gradients come back to trend once in a while. Once treated as not trendy, but a few years ago again returned to the popular after being bored with flat and conservative Material Design. There is nothing wrong with minimalism, but it makes many projects melt into an identical mass. This pattern lasted too long and users felt the need for something fresh. That’s how the hated gradients came back.

source: Datalands
source: MyMind

The new trend has become extremely visible especially in the use of them in logos (Instagram) or subtle flashes of color in the background of pages and apps. As already mentioned their comeback is due to Instagram, whose logo in 2016 gave gradients new life. Moments later, gradients were popping up everywhere – Spotify, for example, used two-tone gradients on photos as a branding element. The aesthetics of the 1980s and the early days of web design from the 1990s are back (in the case of typography, it even goes back to the 1970s). This revival gives us multi-colored retro gradients and two-tone Vaporwave gradients. 

Beyond aesthetics, the practical functions of a gradient are also important – they help direct the user’s eye to a desired part of the screen and create focus points. Gradients also add freshness to a page and add depth to headlines. In 2021, gradients have become more subtle and emphasize the harmony of background colors with the rest of the design elements.

Brutalism, the modern avant garde

After a few years of the trend for minimalist and clean sites, there has been a shift towards unique designs. It started in 2020 with pages with unconventional layouts, galleries full of scattered images.

In the world of UI/UX design, symmetry mostly means classic designs with great responsiveness and accessibility. Unfortunately, because of this, many sites, especially startups and ecommerce sites have started to look identical.  The lack of uniqueness affects both the site’s promotion in search engines and its ability to stand out from the competition.Brutalism will grow, although it won’t take over the entire design scene. However, it will allow many designers and companies to be more bold in creating their branding page.

source: Mono X7

In the next part, you will read about UX trends in 2021!

30.12.2021

Paulina Miracka

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