From year to year, design doesn’t change all that much. However, when you look back five
years or 10 years, you see the leaps and bounds the industry makes over time. Although some
of the trends we’re watching aren’t necessarily new, they are being used in new ways and more
In a report combining studies from Forrester Research and the Society of Digital Agencies,
researchers found that 51% of client-side leaders increased their budgets in 2020. Some 76% of
respondents felt technology impacts the way companies design for customer interaction,
particularly artificial intelligence (AI) advances.
Although there are dozens of trends for any given year, we’ve narrowed down the selection to
six key changes we see in design that make a meaningful impact on customer experience. We
also offer some examples of our favorite trends so you can learn from websites already
embracing the new methods.
1. Dark Mode
Dark mode isn’t anything new. Apple introduced dark mode for iPhones on September 19, 2019.
However, with people spending more time at home and more hours on their devices, the screen
time is harsh on their eyes. Dark mode allows them to read documents, view videos, and absorb
content without the harsh glare of more traditional settings.
While not every person who visits your site will do so via mobile or use dark mode on their
phones, many designers are adapting to this look to make their content easier to read for
If you choose to design with dark mode, make sure you offer an option for a lighter background
as well. Some users may have difficulty reading the lighter text on a dark background,
particularly if they have a vision impairment. Pay careful attention to the contrast between the
background and body text.
Ferox uses a dark mode design with a black background and white text. They add pops of blue
to highlight their vehicles or to show your location in the navigational hierarchy.
One thing they do really well is to make an adjustment on the pages where there is more than a
headline of text. For example, their About page shifts from dark mode to light as you scroll down
and has black text on a faded image.
The lighter background makes the text pop and makes it easier to read. However, the
photograph has a soft gray hue and isn't as harsh on the eyes as a vivid white might be.
For a few years, people gave sliders a bad score. However, designers of 2021 use them in a
variety of ways to add functionality to websites. For example, instead of merely having an
automatic slider in the heading, they might add one further down the page to highlight a variety
One trend is to not make the sliders automated, but to have the user click on them to initiate
movement. This also engages the user and creates a scenario where they control the
information they receive.
Don’t rule out sliders as an effective way to showcase your products and services with images
The Roof Docs move their slider down past the fold. They use the sliders to showcase the
process they use when they come out to look at your property.
People absorb images much better than text alone, so the design incorporates both illustrations
and text. The user controls how quickly each section appears as they click the arrow to scroll through the options.
3. Minimalistic Design
While minimalism isn’t anything new, it is something designers embrace more and more. People
are in a hurry. They don’t have unlimited time to look at cluttered elements on a page. On small
screens, too much information seems overwhelming, too.
We expect more and more companies to streamline their pages and keep only the most vital
information. Even the images are simpler and zero in on sending a brand message.
Oboosho has a very clean, simplistic design. There is plenty of white space and only the
elements a new customer needs to schedule a cleaning appointment. Above the fold, there is
one graphic. It is fairly detailed but takes up only a small portion of the page.
The colors are limited to black, white, and purplish-blue with a small splash of red. Notice the
blank space around the headline, graphic and call to action (CTA). The scaled-down design
works well on mobile devices.
4. Enhanced Calls to Action
You already know the importance of a strong call to action (CTA) for your page. Not only should
the button and text pop, but you also have to pay attention to the language and placement.
Focusing on CTAs isn’t something that’s likely to change anytime soon. They impact your
conversion rates and drive users toward an objective.
However, one thing we’re seeing more and more is supporting elements and features drawing
more attention to the button, such as soft shadows. You’ve likely noticed some sites using
arrows or animation to draw attention to CTAs. You can also use a photo of a person looking
toward where the button resides.
The goal is to draw the user’s gaze where you want it to go. Every aspect of your design should
move the visitor toward the action you want them to take.
Casas Mallorca is a real estate agency in Spain. Their website offers two initial CTA options for
the first-time visitor: "Browse Properties" and "Discover Sóller." What makes these options stand out is the hover effect. When you hover over either button, the solid blue flips up and turns gold. At the same time, the headline “Soller” sits over the top of the first CTA button, drawing your eye to the bold text and immediately to what sits under it.
As you scroll down, they also utilize arrows to highlight the ability to gather more information on
any pictured property. The arrow invites the user to click and move forward through the buyer’s
Everything on the page has a visual hierarchy drawing the user toward an action. While the site
doesn’t use every possible technique to force attention toward the CTA, it uses several and
does so in a way that is aesthetically pleasing.
Many urban areas now have fiber optic broadband. 5G is becoming more commonplace. People
can access the internet at speeds they never could before. Screen resolutions on computer
desktop monitors and mobile devices also are much higher and able to stream videos and other
animated features in high definition.
Animation isn’t anything new, but it’s become much more sophisticated in recent years. Expect
to see some elements animated while others remain static. Videos help engage site visitors.
Animated illustrations pull attention where you want it to go.
Proto Homes uses a combination of parallax scrolling and animation to highlight the process of
building a home from the ground up. The animated elements tie into the user’s actions. As you
scroll, you’ll see a home take shape and then morph into a photograph of the finished build. Words they want you to pay particular attention to have a line appear under them from left to
right to grab interest. Even the call to action is animated.
The background is a bright orange, but when you hover over the "Talk to Us" button, it scales down until only the CTA is orange and the background is white. At the same time, the headline
text above turns from white to black to maintain contrast.
6. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Artificial intelligence should be a trend, even if it isn’t yet on many smaller brand sites. The
advances in natural language patterns and machine learning mean you can implement chatbots
and other features that interact with your customers, personalizing the experience.
Features such as smart speakers are starting to be a part of the majority of households in the
United States. If you want your site ready for the shifting use of cell phone voice commands and
voice search via smart speakers, you must consider how you can use technology to help your leads navigate your website.
Most people prefer live chat over email customer service. However, the cost of using a live
agent for every question is prohibitive for startups. Instead, utilize chatbots to answer the
queries that come up frequently.
Third-party chatbot software is much more intuitive than in the past. It even knows when to route
a customer to a live agent for in-depth responses the machine isn’t programmed to handle.
Ideally, the person will never realize they were speaking with a computer instead of a human.
Verizon offers an online live chat feature to get your questions and support concerns answered
immediately. Instead of trying to make their chatbot look like a live agent, they tell you up front
you’re communicating with a digital assistant.
You can learn a lot about how to program your own site by studying how they move the user
through various options. They start with some general categories. The user can also type a
This is a stellar example of how to use AI in the initial stages and then transition smoothly to a
live agent experience.
What Trends Will You Discover in 2021?
These are our six favorite trends. We believe these features stand the test of time and embrace
new technology. They improve the user experience. Keep an ear to the ground about new
advances as technology changes rapidly. Make adjustments to your design as needed, and
always conduct tests to ensure your customer experience is the best it can be.