5 Most Effective Design Trends

Not all trends are worth following. To help identify which design trends matter, join our top-flight designers as they uncover 2021’s most effective web design trends and explain how those top trends work to delight and engage your web users. Not all five design trends are new, but they are all widely used and for good reasons: They engage and convert visitors.

As we cross the halfway mark of 2021, now is an excellent time to analyze your website design, understand what can be improved, and begin designing your site in a way that helps your business meet its goals. To help you take the first steps, our expert designers explain five of the most effective web design trends they see this year.


1. Subtle Animation with Parallax Effect

Subtle animation with parallax effect is a relatively new web design trend, but this design technique is actually a combination of two well-known and widely popular design trends. Subtle animations – the trend within this trend – started in the early 2000s with GIFs. Unfortunately, the technology available back then could not support web designers’ ambitions. Adding short animation to a 2000s era website would significantly increase load times or eat up computer processing capacity. However, modern technology such as CSS Transitions, CSS keyframes, and JavaScript animations allows web designers to immerse web visitors through motion.

The other piece of the subtle animation with parallax effects is, of course, the parallax effect. In this style, a website’s background is designed to move slower than the foreground as a user scrolls down the page. The difference in perspective gives the user a 3D effect adding depth to the page.
By combining subtle animation and the parallax effect, a designer can guide visitor's eyes down the page, leading to increased engagement during their web experience. Extra engagement can boost key performance indicators (KPIs) such as time-on-page and click-through rate. The motion effect of this design tool combination allows companies to create visually innovative storylines that they would otherwise have to relay through static images or text.

subtle animation example

While the parallax effect is consistently cool, it has significant drawbacks to consider, such as longer load times, increased cost to build and design, and increased rates of user confusion. Parallax design is also not recommended for mobile users. While these seem meniscal at first, you should consider that 47 percent of all U.S.-based web traffic is from mobile users, and 40 percent of consumers will abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load. With statistics like these, conversion optimization may be a fundamental problem for the utilization of this trend.

Our experts advise thinking carefully about your brand and your website's purpose. If your website’s main objective is to tell a story or take users on an inspiring journey and have visitors willing to wait, this is one of the most effective styles available. However, if your website converts web traffic into a sale or educates users on a complicated topic, it may be best to try one of the other 4 most effective design trends.


2. Color Exploration With User Comfort in Mind

Designers have been exploring color for decades, and for decades the main goal of color was to grab or focus the visitor's attention. Through time designers change their strategy of gaining attention from dramatic red and neon calls-to-actions to more subtle tactics like subtle animation.

Tactics our designers use for our clients and believe are best for brand representation include building and using a color pallet that consists of complementary and contrasting colors. Having a color pallet ensures that designers can maintain their brand while also making language pop, creating interesting gradients, or building lively animations.

Here is an example of the Unleashed's website color palette. 

Unleashed Color palette

One newer trend within color exploration is the use of more “comfortable colors,” or colors that are comfortable for the user to stare at for a substantial amount of time. As the amount of time online grows across every sector, it is not uncommon for users to experience eye strain after staring at screens for extended periods. By avoiding overly bright colors, designers can provide users more comfort during their time on the site. If a more comfortable color scheme is not on-brand for your organizations, consider how your layout will look in light and dark modes. Another rising trend in user systems is the ability to toggle light/dark modes. This can be seen with new versions of Mac OS, the redesigned, and many more. Designers need to think about their design/layout with a light or dark color scheme.

Color exploration is shifting away from grabbing attention and more toward user comfort, satisfaction, and longevity. If you are not ready to convert your website into a comfortable viewing experience, ensure that the designs you currently have render well in light/ dark modes as users are increasingly able to make the switch themselves.


Disney bought and revived the Star Wars franchise, modern cameras are made to look like old Polaroids, and vinyl record sales surpassed CD sales in 2020. It is not surprising that retrofuturism is a trending web design style. Retrofuturism is modern-day graphic design that mimics retro styles and visions of the future technology or the other side of that, where modern or futuristic technologies are applied to a historic time.

The Unleashed team likes retrofuturism so much our conference room walls fit into the trend nicely.

Unleashed Office

Retrofuturism allows web artists to experiment with texters, colors, and be more creative, which can wow new users that arrive at your website. There is also an opportunity in retrofuturism to simplify complex concepts by putting a superficial or more classic image to them. While this trend needs the right brand or product to be effective, it can prove to be unbelievably impactful and provide excellent value to your business.

4. Interactive Data

Data is increasingly influential across industries. Data is the principal driver for a wide range of decisions, ranging from major corporate policies to the design of transportation systems to managing sports teams to how long the stoplight changes from red to green. Data is essential to the success of every organization and business, but how data is displayed is just as important.

However, If the data is too complex or too tedious, users of all levels will leave. Many users find static data displays uninteresting and are turned away from a topic they are otherwise engaged in.

Our design team suggests using data as an opportunity to interact with your user. Get them to click, drag, and play with what was once boring. Our team recently took a standard analytical journal and morphed the information into an interactive virtual cube.

By using interactive data displays, your organization can tell a more engaging and versatile story that will connect with a wider range of audiences and provide visitors a better user experience.


5.User Experience Micro-interactions

The final 2021 design trend you need to pay attention to is all about user experience (UX). Micro-interactions are a new and efficient design trend that conveys feedback to the user about system status such as load times, security requirements like password criteria, and overall help reduce errors and user frustration. A micro-interaction must be triggered by either a user's action or by a system's state and then will provide that user with some form of visual or auditory feedback.

Here are some examples of micro-interactions you see every day.

A loading bar: Let users know that their task is in process and reduce frustration during their wait.

Link underlines: Let users know that this element of the page they are visiting is clickable.

Automatically updating buttons (as seen on Twitter or Facebook): Let users know an action they have taken was successful.

UX micro-interactions are far from just a trend. Our experts believe that we will see increased use of this design element as more websites become more responsive to user needs. These interactions increase user engagement and decrease user frustration. This combination ensures visitors stay on your website for greater lengths of time.

All these design trends are popular among web users and should be given adequate consideration by your web and design teams. Each of these five trends are about delighting, wowing, or improving a visitor's experience. Ultimately, all your web design features and practices should revolve around providing your visitors with a positive user experience that will make them stay longer, interact more, and possibly convert to a buyer, member, or even a brand evangelist.