The 2021 ecommerce design trends are more important than ever, especially if the recent acceleration of online shopping subsists. But whether you’re trying to impress new customers or old, using the latest ecommerce design trends communicates that your brand is modern and cutting edge, setting you apart from your stale-by-comparison competition.
So what looks modern and cutting edge in the new year? We’re used to thinking about ecommerce design as static pages accommodating busy galleries, so by-the-book that there’s no room for creativity… but all that is starting to change. Based on our recent design requests and industry research, we’ve compiled this list of our top 2021 ecommerce trends.
The top ecommerce trends for 2021 are:
- Multidirectional layouts
- Vaporwave influence
- Navigation takes center stage
- Creative animations for page transitions
- Injecting product features into your design
- Fun filter functions
- Neutral background colors
- Pastel pops!
- Ovals everywhere
1. Multidirectional layouts
Ecommerce design by Tubik, via Dribbble
Last year’s trend of unconventional grid layouts has evolved. This year, we’re seeing brands experiment more freely in creating multi-product galleries with grids that don’t just go up-and-down, but left-and-right, diagonal and sometimes even forwards and backwards. This intuitive approach to navigation, allowing users to move in whichever direction they wish to, has come with perfect timing as it coincides with the increase of mobile-first design and, in particular, reports that mobile e-commerce has overtaken desktop.
Often, we’ve found multidirectional grids to be accompanied by flashy animated transitions, which itself is another of our 2021 ecommerce design trends and ultimately reflects the rising wants for interactive shopping experiences—even when you’re just browsing from bed.
Ecommerce design by tokitoshi, via Dribbble
Ecommerce design by Zhenya Rynzhuk, via Dribbble
Ecommerce design by Ruslan Siiz, via Dribbble
2. Vaporwave influence
The Vaporwave aesthetic is relentlessly trending into 2021 ecommerce design, having transformed from cult status into booming mainstream pop culture. Born in the early 2010s from an anti-consumerist music movement (think jazzy, loungey “sad elevator music”), Vaporwave has evolved to encompass nostalgia, futurism and surrealism as a visual art. In graphic design, it’s a hodgepodge of retro pop culture elements from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, all jammed together.
Visually, Vaporwave often incorporates these characteristics:
- otherworldly atmosphere (it stemmed from an electronic music subscene, after all)
- psychedelic typography from the 60s and 70s, with a sprinkling of Japanese text
- neon pastel color schemes from the 80s and a plethora of bubblegum pink hues
- gradient color blending from the 80s and 90s
- abstract shapes from the 80s and 90s
- grainy, low-res visuals (think early-internet era) and glitch art
- a splash of classical Roman sculptures
If this style feels “a bit much” for your brand, don’t worry. You can always pick and choose certain elements. As you’ll notice from our examples, the sheer richness to this style means that you can customize it however you like to indulge your brand.
3. Navigation takes center stage
The traditional school of thought for navigation menus was to make them easy-to-find while keeping them largely out of the way; this meant you could use the screen for home page features. But, lately, a new way of thinking is gaining steam, one that revolves around making the menu the main event.
It feels right, considering how using the navigation menu is almost always the first step for every customer. When done well, you can turn your menu into a visual attraction, employing branding elements like your chosen color scheme and characteristic fonts. Making this clearer, easier and more visually interesting, especially for first-time visitors, means creating a better, more memorable first impression and who wouldn’t want that?
Ecommerce design by tamashi, via Dribbble
Ecommerce design by outer, via Dribbble
4. Creative animations for page transitions
Every year, technological advancements influence what visual effects are accessible to brands. In 2021, it’s nifty page transitions that are having their moment.
They’re subtle and (technically) optional, but they create an extremely engaging user experience, which means users tend to enjoy them more when they notice them and more enjoyment means more time spent on-site…
A lot of the time they’re strictly cosmetic, but a creative designer can find some practical use for them, just as this breakdown of how the hand tool works below.
Ecommerce design by Adencys, via Dribbble
Ecommerce design by 00.032, via Dribbble
Ecommerce design by Steelmonk, via Dribbble
Ecommerce design by Shakuro, via Dribbble
Ecommerce design by Outcrowd, via Dribbble
5. Injecting product features into your design
Of course, using your best-selling products in promotional media is not new. But this 2021 ecommerce design trend takes it to an entirely novel playing field, involving the creation of artistic hero images and background effects that wholly embody your prime products.
Ecommerce design by Buzzworthy Studio, via Dribbble
The idea is to take the recognizable look of your best-sellers and inject it into the website’s overall design. This could look like a cut-and-paste of product photography to merge into the background or provide structure for the layout. It could also mean using the product’s key features, colors or shapes as motifs to inspire the shapes, palette and even typography of the whole site.
6. Fun filter functions
Filtering product searches has always been an obstacle for ecommerce, especially for fashion and apparel. Imagine you’re searching for a pair of men’s shoes on the internet, would you look in the “men’s” section or the “shoe” section? This conundrum of logical categorization leaves many feeling stumped.
Yet, leaving choices like that up to your customers does more than just spare you a headache. It allows them to easily find exactly what they’re looking for, even if their search method is… different. So the trend of ample filter functions comes from a place of practicality and efficiency, designing them in a fun way is just a bonus.
This 2021 ecommerce design trend is more than just a generous helping of search filters, categories and product tags—it also involves an intuitive and memorable display. Generic drop-down menus might aid navigation, but they won’t impress anybody. Try presenting your filters in a way that’s both entertaining and effective.
Ecommerce design by Tony Pinkevych, via Dribbble
7. Neutral background colors
Not all of the 2021 ecommerce design trends are flashy and futuristic. Light, bright and bouncy: neutral background colors are making a comeback, perhaps in response to the vibrancy of other trends.
Plain old white was yesterday, now we’re seeing unique neutrals like cool greys, warm cream and sand tones, soft browns, pale yellows and taupes.
The advantage of a pale background palette is that they keep the attention on your other visuals, particularly product photos and videos. They also provide a softer, more pleasant user experience for the audience. Neutral colors are the ultimate support act so keep in mind that adopting them means going all-out on your main visuals to ensure your site isn’t overly passive.
8. Pastel pops!
Brightening us up somewhat are pastel colors. Traditionally linked to happy, optimistic emotions, pastels grant a fresh feeling to any design. They work well with minimalist designs when there’s only a handful (if that) of visual elements, as this keeps things light and bouncy for the reader without overwhelming them… let the positive emotional connections between your brand and readers commence!
Try a soft approach and complement your chosen pastels with a neutral background. This allows buttons and call-to-actions to pop whilst creating a really nice user experience.
9. Ovals everywhere
Circles have been a graphic design staple since the beginning, but a lot of the 2021 ecommerce trends use traditional design elements and take them just a little further. So how do you design with circles in a way that makes them seem a little edgy and modern? Just stretch them a little. Ovals are a new aesthetic design trend that takes a post-modern approach to the classic circle. Designers like to use them for focal points, namely buttons and image frames. This creates that perfect mix of familiar and fresh—the name of the game for design in 2021.
Ecommerce design by Clay Boan, via Dribbble
You don’t even have to use complete ovals. It’s common to use oval-rectangle combinations, such as a box with rounded corners or a “chapel window” shape with a rounded top and squared bottom. Ovals and curves in general are a graphic design technique for making an image appear friendly and more welcoming, so perfect for brands who don’t want to stray too far into a formal atmosphere.
The new face of ecommerce trends 2021
Ecommerce is more popular now than ever before, opening the doors for new ideas and new styles. Many of the 2021 ecommerce design trends break from or challenge the traditions of the past, and online retailers now have more chances to show off their creativity and personal styles, which ultimately improve usability, branding and the customer’s shopping experience.
So, don’t pass up on this opportunity. Design your ecommerce site differently than your competitors and win over the slew of new visitors who are visiting your site for the first time, if all goes well, it won’t be their last!