Web design best practices in 2021: How to make web design trends work for your business

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In 2021, anyone can launch a website in minutes with minimum coding knowledge, but just because something can be done fast, doesn’t mean it’s also done right or that the design that took five minutes to pick will best serve your business goals.

When launching a website, web design is something you should stop to think about for at least a few days because it’s an important element in your branding strategy. Your website is like a virtual storefront; it’s representative of your business values, and it’s what sets the first impression when customers interact with you. We’ve known for a long time that customers decide whether or not to trust a company based on the way its website looks and that a bad user experience will damage your credibility. But, in 2021, web design is even more important. 

COVID-19 has jump-started digital transformation. More people are living and working at home than ever before, and physical interactions have made way for digital ones. Now, your website may not be just another channel for customers to find you and get in touch with you. It may be the only channel for interactions, so every design decision you make, from fonts to animations, could affect your conversion rate.

As with every year, 2021 doesn’t lack its web design trends. Neumorphism, negative space, 3D illustrations, asymmetry are just a few of the web design trends to follow, but it’s important to point out that these trends are relative. While having a trendy design can help you stand out, the first requirement for a compelling business website is to follow the core principles of good website design and be consistent with your brand’s values.

The return of audio on the website

Website designers have advised against using audio on websites for years because it was one of the most annoying website features. No one misses the days when we had multiple tabs open, and we didn’t know where the music was screaming from. Now, audio on the website is slowly making a comeback, only this time it serves a clear and valuable purpose: to boost accessibility. For example, if you have a news website, you can give users the option of listening to the article instead of reading it – like the New York Times did with this article. If you implement this feature, remember to put the user in control: audio should be off by default, and they should be able to decide when to play it.

The dark mode is here to stay.

Dark mode has been so popular in the past few years that, at this point, having a dark mode for your website is no longer a trend; it’s a best practice. Even Google is testing a dark mode for desktop Search, and the White House has already implemented one. The dark mode is easy on the eyes, it emits less blue light, and it reduces battery life, which is why most users want to have this option, especially on mobile. However, when implementing dark mode, you should discuss a few things with your designer first: is your dark mode clear and legible enough, or does it cause more problems than it fixes? Is the color palette harmonious? Is the contrast just right? Is the transition from light to dark mode seamless?

Consistency is key

Choosing an effective website design for your business should involve both IT and marketing. A good design means more than sleek fonts, nice color palettes, and buttery animations. A good design has eye-pleasing visuals that are also consistent and work well together. The aesthetic elements should maintain the same tone throughout the website and be in tune with the other customer touchpoints that your company uses, including its physical location. Your website is not separate from your brand; it’s an extension of it. Therefore, every little element included in the web design should remain loyal to what your brand is all about.

Use minimalism, but with caution.

A minimalist website is not only easy to browse but also easy to maintain. Applying the ‘less is more’ philosophy in web design helps you speed up loading times, makes your content stand out, creates an intuitive user experience, and even helps with SEO. It’s no wonder minimalism is one of the most enduring web design trends. It’s hard to go wrong with minimalism, but not impossible. Zara’s website is a common example of minimalism taken too far: while the combination of white space and bold visuals is definitely impactful, many users have complained that the website is unusable, the graphics actually get in the way of shopping, and that the website looks more like a lifestyle photography portfolio than a store. In other cases, people try to compensate for a minimalist design with out-of-the-box features, such as horizontal scrolling. But while this may sound interesting in theory, in practice, it only hinders the navigation and becomes too confusing.

Design with a purpose

Website design trends are a great way of staying up to date with the latest standards. Having a general idea of what’s in and out helps you make sure your website isn’t outdated and that your products and services are presented in an appealing way. However, website design trends should not be followed just for the sake of it. One of the core UX principles is that web design should serve a purpose. Most of the time, users will not browse your website only because it looks nice but because they want to learn something, buy a product, or schedule an appointment. Your web design choices should help that purpose, not hinder it. For example, adding vibrant illustrations to your homepage can be a great way of engaging visitors, and they’re definitely better than stock photos. However, if they’re used everywhere and don’t add any kind of utility, they may actually prevent the user from getting the information they want. Remember, a clear purpose sets the foundation of good website design.

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