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2020 was a year of uncertainty and unexpected circumstances for all of us.

Millions of people were forced to adapt their lives to working from home and shopping online.

Thousands of companies suffered great losses.

Hundreds of businesses entered the e-commerce world trying to survive during these unprecedented times. 

The digital universe expanded rapidly. With competition stronger than ever and users browsing with the habit of finding exactly what they need with a few clicks on their mobile devices, the web became a challenging place where success is possible only when your brand meets and exceeds extremely high expectations. 

Just like before but mostly today, web design speaks volumes and is The key to attracting visitors to your sacred part of the vast e-commerce world. It is the very first thing they notice, the factor that drives their decision on whether to stay and take a look around your store or exit and find another one. 

The fact that 94% of first impressions relate to your site’s web design takes this statement even further and proves that having a voguish and pleasant-to-use store should be amongst your top priorities and marketing objectives. 

In this article, we will quickly mark the difference between UI and UX design and draw the parallel between them as they are ultimately linked to one another. With a simplified explanation of what distinguishes them provided, we will focus on the so-called user interface (UI) design trends for 2021 and share the 5 very best practices for creating modern and bespoke online stores.

What is the Difference Between UX and UI Design? 

Did you know that online shopping is officially one of the most common and frequent activities people perform on a daily basis?

As users are purchasing repeatedly within a few minutes, they are becoming more and more accustomed to finding the very best option of whatever they need.

Their pleasant web experience is imperative.

And this is exactly where UX and UI design join the picture. Although very different for the UX/UI specialists, they are usually not differentiated by store merchants and users as every exceptional storefront is always a result of perfectly blended UX and UI design decisions that work in flawless synergy. 

The difference between UX and UI design is masterfully described in an article by the Interaction Design Foundation –  ‘One analogy is to picture UX design as a car with UI design as the driving console’. 

Let’s dive a little deeper into this by defining both terms. 

UX stands for ‘user experience’ design and is primarily focused on shaping the way people are experiencing the product (be it a storefront, a mobile application or a physical product). It takes into account all possible needs and desires of the user together with the strengths and weaknesses of the product thus strategically structuring the user experience. 

UX designers are the experts constructing ‘the car’ in a way that ensures people will love and enjoy ‘driving’ it. Their job is to track and solve all potential problems users can run across and to create a pleasurable experience with the product. 

As the core of the design is already built by UX experts, the ball goes to the UI’s court. 

UI refers to ‘user interface’ and is the visual part with which the UX wireframes are brought to life. UI is the tool that creates the looks, the interactivity and the aesthetics of products and experiences. 

Essential parts of UI design are all visual elements, color palettes, used fonts, button sizes, spacings etc. The ultimate goal of UI designers is to create intuitive and responsive web experiences by bringing all UX solutions to the interface of the digital products. 

To sum up, we will use a simple example from the e-commerce world: Let’s say we have a Shopify store that performs quite okay but after tracking our analytics for a while we find that the checkout is an area that needs improvement. We start planning how to refine it. So, what do we need? A professional UX or UI designer? Well…most definitely both. 

The UX designer should:

  • Identify the hitches users are experiencing while proceeding to the final gate way
  • Determine what can be improved and how to eliminate all issues
  • Create a UX design for an optimized checkout page that ensures users are easily finding how to finish their purchase and make a successful payment 

Then the UI designer should:

  • Align all strategic UX decisions with the brand identity and the style of the store
  • Create a new, interactive interface for the checkout page that guides the user through his user journey 
  • Ensure that the refined checkout is aesthetically pleasing and intuitive

As you can see, UX and UI are integrally connected to one another. By synergizing, they result in the final way your store performs, attracts and satisfies online users. 

With all this said, let’s put the ultimate UX design trends for 2021 aside for now and focus our attention on the UI design tendencies. The following 5 practices are a reflection of our experience combined with a non-stopping analysis of the rapid digital transformations and powered up by the expert opinion of one of the best UX|UI designers we have the honour to work with – Daniel Dungyov. 

Now…It’s time to explore the UI design wonders that 2021 offers.  

1.Natural & Soft Color Palettes 

Colors are a cardinal part of every brand identity. The palettes chosen for your website are one of the key factors that determine the extent to which your store primarily attracts new visitors. For what is more, by being one of the main brand elements ever since marketing was born, colors hold the power of building significant amounts of credibility and brand awareness. 

Lately, the comforting, natural colors started to dominate. Various statistics prove that customers prefer soft palettes over the vivid ones. It is so simply because these colors naturally bring a soothing feeling of peacefulness and relaxation. 

UI designers are starting to rely on pastel, warm and soft tones more and more as they are not intrusive and greatly add up to one of the main UI design goals in 2021 – being as minimalistic and simplified as possible while delivering unforgettable user experience. 

This is especially true for the e-commerce niche. The simplicity of your store and the soft colors let you highlight your products as the stars. A neat, minimalist design can do wonders for your conversion rate if the store is optimized with well-performing functionalities, simple navigation and highly engaging visuals.

When we look from the perspective of our users and think about their emotions, we see that pastel colors make them feel calm, not overwhelmed and joyful. That’s why the vivid color palettes, that were a massive trend in the last few years, are slowly being replaced by more natural tones.

Daniel DungyovExperienced UX/UI Designer
Shopify storefront with pastel colors

2.Finely Blended, Blurred Gradients 

A few years ago, gradients had their peak moment in UI design after which many people started considering them outdated for the following periods. Contrary to this belief, gradients are still and will continue to be widely used by designers. 

In 2021, blurred gradients of finely blended colors are not only enhancing the web design but also supremely pointing out the key areas of the interface. Therefore, UI experts use them to highlight the most important elements of websites and applications. The sharp transitions are substituted by masterfully blurred effects that synergize with the general trend of bringing realism and minimalism back to life. 

Blurred gradients are often combined with another trend in the UI design – the geometric shapes. Some UI designers use combinations of neat blends filling different forms and add the so-called frosted glass effect to maximally enhance the user interface. 

Blurred, soft gradients are a gentle way to capture users’ attention on places where we want to emphasize our UI.

Daniel DungyovExperienced UX/UI Designer
Shopify storefront with blended gradients

3.Brave or Super Minimalistic Fonts 

Typography is a powerful tool for expressing your brand identity and for conveying strong messages. The right fonts can bring out the best of your stories, value propositions, best offerings and product highlights. On top of that, they can help you further engage users by amplifying the visuals you use. 

The fonts UI designers are counting on in 2021 are various and specifically chosen to align with the brand identity. Therefore, the trends in typography are significantly different for each niche. 

For example, the fashion industry is adapting simplified fonts in small sizes more than ever before, heavily counting on visuals, high quality images and engaging videos.

Fonts used by Amiri for their storefront

At the same time, the evermore loved Serif fonts continue to be widely and successfully used by UI designers. The power of bolded headlines highlighting key messages is also enforced in many vogue health, wellness & beauty stores.

Fonts used by NaturAll for their storefront

As you can see, bolded letters are adding great value to the message shared in these segments thus enhancing the overall user interface of NaturAll. 

fonts used by NaturAll for their storefront

Nowadays, we have 4k resolution in our hands. The capabilities of our devices allow us to use serif, handwritten and aesthetically beautiful fonts, which closely align with our brand without affecting the readability.

Daniel DungyovExperienced UX/UI Designer

4.Parallax or Horizontal Scrolling Transformations 

Scrolling transformations are probably the biggest trend we are currently observing. These functionalities engage users with the brand and with the shared content in a unique way by creating exciting and memorable customer experiences. 

Parallax scroll animations 

Parallax scrolling has been around for some time. UI designers realize its power and apply it to all kinds of web pages. The result – users are drawn to the interface, captivated by the interactivity and curious to see what is yet to be presented to them. 

The parallax scroll transformations applied to the product highlights of Bite are a truly inspiring example of this UI trend. Masterfully executed, they boost the credibility of the brand – after all, no one would assume that a mainstream company would invest so many resources in such an impressive user interface and store design. 

These animations take the store interface to another level. The promising and trendy combination of parallax scrolling, high quality visuals and engaging videos is ensuring unforgettable user experiences.

Horizontal scroll animations 

Horizontal scrolling is another UI trend that e-commerce stores are using in 2021. It encourages users to interact with the website by letting them navigate through different content pieces and visuals in various alternative ways. 

When implemented correctly, horizontal animations could be impressively engaging for users. This functionality, however, should be used for certain content pieces. Product galleries, for example, are one of the segments that could take great advantage of this functionality. By adding horizontal scrolls there, users can either take a closer look at a certain product and its greatest features or scroll down, skip exploring the item further and continue browsing other parts of the store. Important texts that should be presented in their wholeness, on the other side, are not something you would like to add a horizontal scroll to. Simply because you risk users missing some of the information. 

Professional UI designers are fully aware of what these micro animations are capable of and where exactly to enforce their power. 

We have to be very careful when using horizontal scrolling, since it is not super intuitive. However, if we do it properly, we can gain a lot of benefits like adding a lot of information in a responsive manner. This is especially helpful for e-commerce stores with lots of products. For what is more, we can use horizontal scrolling to emphasize on important sections by dramatically changing the path of the site, for example.

Daniel DungyovExperienced UX/UI Designer

5.Product Anatomy & Outstanding Product Galleries

It is no secret that visuals are a leading element in e-commerce. Today’s storefronts are using the power of video covers, 3D graphics and 360-degree product view options to enrich users’ impressions of the products they offer. These interfaces are letting online visitors literally feel the items presented.

product photography of OUAI Shopify store

Each industry relies on different options and approaches. Showing the product anatomy with high quality images, for example, is a common practice and a leading trend in the UI design. 

I’ve always wanted to have the opportunity to see products in various states, which normal photos don’t normally capture because of their limitations.
Nowadays, when our browsers support lightweight WebGL 3D models, the only thing our users can’t feel is the smell, but soon maybe that'll be possible too!

Daniel DungyovExperienced UX/UI Designer

Enriching your product galleries with multimedia is most likely a converting strategy as it immeasurably impacts the user experience while significantly refining the design. 

UI experts are starting to include more and more 3D visualizations in their web designs. And for a good reason. 3D images and graphics used in minimalist layouts are captivating and capable of providing user experiences in a way no other functionality can. 

3D visualization of a product

Final words

2021 lets online shoppers enjoy amazing multimedia experiences where video, audio, visuals and text are brought all together and blended into thrilling interfaces.

UI designs are more interactive and intuitive than ever before. The contemporary experts are embracing the opportunity to approach neatness, modernism and minimalism in innovative ways. Natural colors, blurred gradients, micro animations, 3D and frosted glass effects, shapes, bolded headlines and highly engaging visuals are amongst the finest and most stylish trends in UI design.  

The rapidly growing e-commerce industry is so competitive that UI and UX design have become crucial for the success of online businesses. Luckily, the extent to which web design has evolved, opens countless doors to creating meticulous, highly converting storefronts that provide unforgettable user experiences.