The high-paced digital environment of UX & UI design is ever-evolving. In fact, change might be the only constant in the jungle of the design world. As cliché as it sounds, it’s true. For designers, staying relevant and up to date on the latest trends is essential for survival.
We’ve done the dirty work and browsed through hundreds of links, talked to AJ&Smart’s designers, read through allll the longform articles to pick up the hottest UX and UI design trends for 2020/2021. Curious to find out what they are? Then read on...
1. Minimalistic UI will take over
Minimalism is taking over and we're pretty happy about it here at AJ&Smart.
While this trend making a comeback has many designers' eyes rolling into the backs of their heads, we're actually all for the minimalistic trend. In fact we think minimalism is actually exactly what's needed right now in design. While the aesthetics of these products might look bare to some designers, we're sure most users will find them refreshing - especially in a year like 2020.
With the influx of digital media and data on a never ending rise, individuals are bombarded with information at every turn. Pop ups, targeted ads, full inboxes and phones ringing non-stop are just marks of a regular working day for most people. And it's really taking its toll. Products that are stripped down to the bare essentials are now the most welcome of the bunch. So say goodbye to big flashy colours and frills - the public officially wants simple. Why? Because users now need a break from the stressors of modern life.
The minimalist trend should encourage designer's to become even more selective. The shift into the minimalistic UI realm should do wonders for all users - hopefully making the start of driving down those anxiety levels and clearing out some of the clutter we've all grown so used to.
So if your focus as a designer has always been to rocket that engagement and push screen time, start making the move into minimalism on focusing what is most essential to the product.
And don't fret - simple doesn't mean primitive, less isn't vague and space doesn't mean empty. Minimalism can be very exciting if done correctly.
What to focus on? Try these:
- Remove the unnecessary notifications and pop-ups. Work to reduce information
- Implement time-saving design features to provide maximum value and make the user-journey purposeful
- Focus on common user navigation patterns and context-specific features
Read more on minimalism UI trend here.
2. Artificial Intelligence will be your friend
Data based AI will be integrated into almost every product that you can imagine.
Almost every product we worked on between 2019 - 2020 had an element of machine learning, artificial intelligence, and boosted interface elements which made the user interface easier to use and the UX overall better.
What was the biggest outcome of this implementation? Personalising the service.
Machine learning has cut out quite a bit of the work we had to do to tailor our projects to end users. Only two years ago, we used to have to think of every possible outcome that a user would want, and design onboarding processes that gave us a good amount of information and ensured we didn't lose them in the process. It definitely required a bit of brain power.
Now, rather than working out every possible option day and night, artificial intelligence can work to personalise the service the more the user uses the product. This personalisation process increases conversions for the clients and makes the UX experience much, much better, with a fraction of the work done.
This machine learning is being implemented wherever you turn. Some great examples of this implementation of AI are Spotify's weekly music picks and Netflix's movie choices. Both services have integrated machine learning to generate suggestions tailored for the user. This not only helps users feel closer to the product and builds excitement but it also cuts out a ton of time on both the designer and users part.
It's really a win for everyone!
3. Voice commands will become (even more) widespread
Now we know this ties in closely with step number 3. but it's just so in the drivers seat of tech innovation that we wanted to give it a special shoutout.
Voice command is getting biggggg. If we take a look at voice searching alone, we can see that the rise in smart home devices such as Nest, Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Siri is staggering. These technologies are becoming incredibly more prevalent everyday and the stats really do speak for themselves:
Voice commands are more in demand than ever and they're only going to dominate the space more and more. So we REALLY suggest jumping on the bandwagon now. How to keep up with the trend? Check these out:
- Explore the ways your product or service can interact with voice assistants. Just one great example is Google Assistant’s integration with Uber, Lyft and other similar services
- Look into combining voice technology and pre-set commands to make the integration even smoother
- Build a brand! When voice takes over brand awareness will become more important than ever (i.e. “Hey Siri, call me an UBER”, “Alexa, order more SHARPIES”)
Interested in more? Keep on reading about the voice UX trend here.
4. Compelling storytelling will be pivotal for products
Simply just understanding the user and their customer journey didn't cut it in 2019, it's not really cutting it in 2020 and it DEFINITELY wont be enough for 2021.
The trend of content-focused experiences is urging UX designers to roll up their sleeves and get involved with creating compelling stories around their products.
We preach this all the time here at AJ&Smart:
Stellar UX and Product Designers should know more about the business and marketing sides of the products that they are creating. Building connections with the users, transferring emotions from business and product in the most informative and creative way is now one of the main ways to set products ahead of the competition.
Good story telling is how to make the brand memorable, it's how to build desire - it's how to make a user feel as if they are a part of the product or service.
This can come down to all sorts of things, but strong copywriting skills that work to relate to the user will be a game-changer here. The aim is to show the user, not tell them why they need the product. Find a story that clicks, and that the user can relate to and you'll build desire.
Implement good storytelling and you'll see the wonders it'll do for your service (oh and it'll do wonders for your marketing too!)
To stay on top of your game:
- Focus on the value your product delivers and use that to create engaging content
- Explore the opportunities that video content offers to tell your story.
- Personalize! Whether it’s in the form of personalized emails, tailored messages or reminders – tailored experiences turn satisfied users into raving fans
Read more on how to create compelling stories here.
5. Virtual Reality is about to have its moment
Now stay with us here non-gamers - even if you don't care about video games you'll see VR impact your career - yes, really.
The gaming industry often brings about innovation and new technologies into digital product design and VR is super hot on the trend list right now. Virtual reality is growing exponentially - with the global VR gaming market size expecting to be worth 22.9 billion by the end of 2020.
We've been watching the VR market ourselves over the last few years and we can assure you that it has definitely been exciting and it has definitely been a rollercoaster.
It was a slow start when headsets first hit the market in 2016. Speculations blamed high prices and a shortage of must-have exclusive content but then VR gained traction with more releases.
We watched the launch of Facebook's Oculus Rift, then turned our attention to the HTC Vive which was a collaboration between HTC and Valve (one of the most famous game making companies in the world), and our ears pricked up when we heard of Sony's headset for PS4.
None of these had VR going mainstream, but we're sure we're on the cusp of it now. Why?
Well, the release of much anticipate Half-life Alyx just this March has prompted a significant uptick in headset sales. Half-Life Alyx was the first AAA game in VR and due to its release, developers and platform owners have been addressing many of the issues that have hindered VR's growth. The success of Half-Life Alyx is having a cascading effect and it won't stop anytime soon.
So how does this impact you as a UX designer?
Well, once virtual reality becomes mainstream, it's pretty likely that UX designers will find themselves designing interfaces on VR based platforms to up presence.
VR from what we can tell will most likely hit the enterprise environment first so if you're wondering about the first port of call, it'll most likely be designing meeting software - imagine Skype or Zoom, except in VR to increase presence. Pretty cool, huh?
If you've been dismissing your connection to VR since you have little to no interest in the gaming world, we're here to break the news that the uprise of VR will still affect your career. We predict that this will happen over the next two years.
So for those of you who thought VR was dead in the water, think again.
6. You'll see a lot more Augmented Reality
Augmented Reality made its debut in 2000 and became a household term in 2013 when Google launched Google Glass. The thing is, the launch of the Google Glass was a total fail and left everyone unimpressed.
We've seen big progress in the AR realm since then. AR is now gaining more popularity and ubiquity. Companies are working to rebuild and restructure AR into products that are much more accessible. As noted by Industry Week, Apple is working on several AR products, including digital glasses that would connect wirelessly to an iPhone and beam content.
The global market for AR products could surge up to 85% to $165 billion in the next four years, according to Global Market Insights. Which is creating sizeable opportunity for companies including NexTech AR Solutions, Microsoft Corporation, Snap Inc., Alphabet Inc. , and LivePerson Inc..
Because of this steady uprise in AR, prominent companies are going to be searching for designers that can design for Augmented Reality interfaces and create graphical overlays.
Mark our words - AR will be huge in the next 5-10 years and if you want to future-proof your career, picking up on some skills in AR will do you the world of good. A lot of UX designers are ignoring this right now - so do yourself a favour and get ahead of the competition!
7. Mobile First Design will be the way forward
Today, more than half of all searches are performed on a mobile device, and nearly 95% of those mobile searches happen with Google.
In 2015, Google announced their “mobile-friendly” algorithm update, which meant that they would prioritise responsive, mobile-friendly websites in terms of SEO for better user experience.
This became famously known as "Mobilegeddon" and web administrators prepared for the shift which was facilitated by Google's mobile-friendly testing tool which helped designers check the mobile health of their website.
While mobile first design isn't a revelation - it is about to get much more important. On July 1st of this year Google rolled out mobile-first indexing.
This means that Google predominantly uses the mobile version of content for indexing and ranking setting mobile-first design as a priority in all UX designer's eyes.
The race to make services responsive, feature rich and functional on mobile interfaces will be bigger than ever before. As Google is the powerhouse for search, following the shifting demands they're facing is one of the smartest things a UX designer can do. Google is taking strides in meeting the demand of mobile searches so it's been laid out clear where the users are. Now you just have to meet them there - on their chosen interface.
How to get started with mobile first design? Read more on A Hands-On Guide to Mobile-First Design
8. Seniority will be re-invented for UX/UI designers
If you’ve been in the design industry for a while you'll know that up until recently the trend has been to generously award UX designers with Senior and Lead titles. What that has caused is a top-heavy structure in the product design world, which is everything but sustainable.
The trend for 2021 is to reconsider seniority for UX/UI designers in terms of impact rather than title. Much simpler, and frankly – better for everyone!
How to implement it in your company? Create clear position guidelines, specifying the scope of work and responsibility of each employee, as well as progression plans detailing how each employee can expect to grow into the next level of seniority.
Read more on why not everyone should be a Design Lead here.
9. Material design will take over flat design (say what?!)
Tale as old as time: some designers are in love with the simplicity of the flat design, while others think it’s too sterile. It’s a heated debate even here at AJ&Smart! While some sources predict material design will take over, we are not jumping on that bandwagon right away.
If you’re feeling more adventurous on that one, we advise you to combine the best of both worlds at first: a bit of flat with a sprinkle of material ;) ...or maybe that’s a terrible idea?
Curious to find out more? Read this article on flat vs material design.
10. A pinch of critical thinking will go a long way
To round off the parade of UX and UI design trends for 2019 we are sharing an oldie but a goldie: a piece by our own Tim Höfer, who is a Product Design Director at AJ&Smart.
Our main takeaway: take all trends with a pinch of salt and don’t rely on them too heavily. After all, all trends are based on the current knowledge of the market, not on the author's ability to see the future. Give the article a read, and tell us what you think about the current trends in the comments below!