UI design trends for 2021

1. Unique illustration and animation

Digital or hand-drawn, 2D or 3D, custom illustrations, you name it. The free forms, unaligned elements, components, and vast asymmetry, not only help platforms stand out from the generic but also, create a friendly and inviting environment that ensures a better experience for the users. Additionally, to make these pages stand out, these illustrations often come to life with complex motion design.

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This dynamism makes it easier to capture users’ attention and explain what the company or the brand has to offer at a glance. An enjoyable illustration can give websites or mobile apps their own personality, making them more memorable. 

Furthermore, the feedback for such dynamism should be kept in mind as well. After an event takes place, feedback should be given to assure that the intended action has actually happened.

Moving elements and unexpected animations make users curious, making them scroll further to see what happens next. Nevertheless, we have to be mindful of these bold solutions and take into account the industry that the website represents. 

Whenever a change is made it should be tested keeping the conversion rates in mind. But if used right, minimalistic with a touch of neat 3d illustration, a service website can still look professional, while up-to-date.

2. Glassmorphism

Glassmorphism is a modern UI design trend that’s steadily been growing in popularity over the course of the past year. Commonly being utilised in web and app design, it’s quickly becoming mainstream. But it isn’t necessarily a brand new idea. 

The style is heavily influenced by similar concepts that have been first introduced by Apple in 2013 with iOS 7. It re-emerged when Apple brought back the effect with its latest update, MAC OS Big Sur in November 2020.

It has since been used in Windows Vista and Microsoft as part of their Fluent design system. Those who remember the switch to iOS 7 and Windows Vista will recall how refreshing it was to view notifications popping up with blurred items in the background. Microsoft calls this effect “The Acrylic” and uses it on app surfaces to add depth and help establish a visual hierarchy. 

The style has lived on and developed over the years. It has reinvented itself with modern fonts, colours, and shapes to keep things fresh and new. Check out some of these examples to see why this trend is as popular as ever. 

How to Utilise This Trend

Whilst this effect isn’t all that difficult to achieve, there are a few things to consider. Glassmorphism should be incorporated at the designer’s best judgement. It’s very important to not overuse it. This style shines the brightest when it’s used on just one element or two. Regular contrast should be used for all others, incorporating UI design best practices. 

Glassmorphism can be incorporated in three easy steps:

Picking the right layers

Go through your website or app mock-up and select the best vantage point for this visual style – but remember a) do not over-use it and b) it looks best over light and colorful backgrounds. Icons designed in this style are still a bit controversial, especially from an accessibility point of few. Whilst they are becoming more common, we recommend using them sparingly and with great consideration. 

Source: Hype 4

Which background do you think works best for this style? Left side or right?*

Make it look glass-like

Glassmorphism aims to create the illusion of a glass-like panel floating over a background. 

Setting the right grade of transparency is relatively easy with common design tools such as figma. Just remember to not make the entire shape transparent, only its fill.

Give it dimension

To give your design some dimension, add a fine border to your object and lower its transparency to make it look glass-like. Add a shadow underneath to give it a sense of depth. Again, these are slightly more technical changes that will also need to be tweaked in your code. If designing and coding isn’t really your forte but you’d like to incorporate this trend into your own web design, get a little help from the pros.

If you’re still questioning whether you need to redevelop and redesign your website, here are some key signs to look out for that scream a change is needed.

Accessibility Challenges

Despite its beautiful and minimalistic look, this style does come with some disadvantages in regards to readability. The lack of contrast can be extremely inconvenient for visually impaired and colour-blind users. Transparency effects, first and foremost, serve decorational purposes. They tend to make everything look like an action button. 

For people with vision problems to understand the interface, any objects on screen should always be able to function without the background. To achieve a design that works for everyone, you need to have a clear hierarchy. Objects need to have enough contrast and the right spacing to define that hierarchy and help visually organise related objects. 

Time to Experiment With it

As design experts, we constantly need to explore new trends and creative ways of making products. In many cases and when used wisely, Glassmorphism can make websites and apps look more attractive to users. This is, if we can ensure a high user interface accessibility, so that even those with visual problems can navigate and understand it easily.

There is no strict rule book to follow when it comes to UI design and some of the best and most user-friendly websites are developed by creatives who play around with their designs. Remember that this is a trend, and mostly likely, this too shall pass. Now go and have some fun experimenting with what you’ve learned!

* It was the left background! One that is very similar to Apple’s colourful default wallpaper for Mac OS Big Sur.