- UX Design
Table of Contents
UX design is an umbrella term for a range of elements: interactivity, utility, simplicity, usability, and even users’ emotions. To satisfy increasingly impatient audiences, it’s essential to take all these UX design aspects seriously and keep up with the current trends.
Tomer Sharon, Google’s Senior UX Researcher, says that “UX design is the art and science of generating positive emotions through product interactions.” In other words, UX is what someone feels when they use the product. Clients come first, interaction comes second. And it’s buyers’ motivations, emotions and preferences that shape the latest trends in UX design.
The Foundation for Future Trends
If we stick to the definition of UX design as the ongoing process of user experience improvement, we could say the driving force behind new trends is the desire to automate all user actions and save time. The idea of a single-window interface is one of the major trends that demonstrates this. It has been around for the past few years, and still gaining traction in 2021. Users prefer to complete all actions on one screen only, as it speeds up their interaction with the system and reduces the load. So, heavy multi-page applications are now rapidly losing popularity and becoming a declining trend.
Automation as a driver for UX penetration
Automation speeds up processing, which is beneficial for those engaging with the app. 71% of users say loading speed is a crucial factor. To meet the need for speed, UX aims for faster results and more positive emotions generated.
The expanding UX scope
In many cases, UX is geared toward websites and smartphones. However, the list of apps developed with UX in mind is relatively short. Some applications can’t be used simultaneously because one of them is not optimized for a particular device. A lack of applications for some services also creates difficulties. Fortunately, this aspect is likely to shift in 2021.
UX as the attention grabber
Attractive visuals is a must-have, but their impact is secondary. UI grabs users’ attention first, but it’s the UX that plays a decisive role in the end-user experience. The key factor here is time. To cut down on the load time, the UX should reduce the number of interactions. This provides greater satisfaction for users and they will be more likely to come back.
UX with focus on wearables
It’s no longer about smartphones or smartwatches. The focus expands to the Internet of Things and beyond. Take, for example, advanced clothing. Self-lacing sneakers from Back to the Future might be a good case in point here.
2021, with its IoT technological advances, is the prime time to scrap the idea that UX is tied to gadgets only. User experience is all about client satisfaction and applies universally.
Major UX Trends for 2021
This year, we’re likely to see new ways of interacting with user interfaces. So what exactly is trending in UX for 2021?
Microinteractions create pleasant moments by making users interact with the UI/UX design. These interactions help users understand how the system works, guide them to their tasks and leave a positive impression from a user-friendly interface. Small animated elements, such as buttons changing color when you hover over them, or blog headers rotating as you scroll, attract users’ attention and improve their perception of the digital product.
These little UX delights exist in almost every application or website. Whether you know it or not, you see them every time you run your favorite app. The ‘Like’ button is perhaps the best-known microinteraction on Facebook or Instagram. As a rule, they are so common, natural, and well-built into the user interface that we don’t realize they exist. At the same time, should someone remove these microinteractions from the product, we’d quickly feel something important is missing.
2. Zero UI
This year, the drive for minimalism will continue. The simpler the design, the clearer it is for users, which results in a pleasant user experience. Many industry experts predict interface simplification or Zero UI will dominate this year. The idea is, nothing should distract the user from the product. Functionality comes first. More space between elements, brighter and cleaner colors, and simple geometry are hot trends taking the place of complex graphics and illustrations in 2021. And it goes without saying, UI follows the UX minimalism approach correspondingly.
Predictability and simplification also match this minimalist approach. Designers will continue looking for new forms of interaction with users. For example, when proceeding to the “Next” button, users will be given a heads up if any info is missing. It allows them to avoid taking extra steps.
The continued pursuit of “all things simple” also finds its expression in neumorphism — another hot trend of 2021. Somewhat controversial, it’s still prominent in this year’s interface design, as seen on Dribbble.
The trend gets its name from the fusion of two words: “neo” and “skeuomorphism.” Skeuomorphism — a curious term by itself — is a technique in the interface design where elements resemble life objects. For example, a calculator on the computer screen looks just like its analog model.
Neomorphism is the rebirth and evolution of skeuomorphism. The style highlights the objects with the help of blur, intensity, and angle of its shadow. Soft shadows make the design realistic with a futuristic touch. To gain more options, neomorphism can be mixed easily with other styles.
There’s one drawback – this design is not exactly practical. Fancy features make it confusing. A simple example: neumorphism is built on the interplay of volume, light and shadow, so some users might struggle with what is clickable and what is not. This design can limit users with disabilities, which is important considering 57 million Americans have some kind of disability, and 54% of them are online.
4. Animated illustrations
In 2021, animation will be a new sexy in user interface design. UI animation, with an emphasis on user experience, adds power to illustrations and helps users grasp the idea. Small animated elements encourage targeted user actions, while more explicit ones draw attention to just one or two calls for action.
Popular messengers, such as Whatsapp or Telegram, widely use vector images – stickers animated with a tool named Lottie. Other products are now riding this animation trend, as well.
More powerful than text, animation is a great storyteller. Advanced technologies like TweenMax and WebGL let the UX designers express the essence of the product through motion.
5. Voice UI (VUI)
2019 has seen a significant increase in the use of voice-enabled actions performed by users. This revolutionary trend includes the development of speech recognition technology, as well as the emergence of applications and plugins that can read typed texts aloud. Voice assistants such as Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant have become quite popular. Recent analytics, published by 99firms, says 20% of all search queries are done through voice. Also, 31% of smartphone users worldwide use voice technology at least once a week. The same article predicts that by 2021, 50% of all online searches will be voice-activated. Sounds promising, doesn’t it?
Many of those who watched the Google I/O conference were delighted to see how clever the Duplex voice assistant had become. Amazon Alexa, Databot Personal Assistant, Voice Typing Keyboard are three other solid apps with convenient voice interfaces.
Voice control is expected to develop even further this year, as this method of interaction is not only convenient but also socially significant, making products accessible to people with disabilities.
What’s more, this technology has few drawbacks except for the voice input speed, which is a bit slower compared to text entry. On the other hand, voice UI — despite the time it takes– is a lifesaver for users with visual disabilities.
Large corporations and emerging companies alike are making voice-input capabilities part of their strategy. UX for VUI was growing quickly in 2019, so it’s only natural that even more methods, practices, and excellent designs will appear in 2021. A gradual shift from graphical user interfaces (GUI) to VUI could open the door to technological advances in the artificial intelligence industry.
6. Emotional Design
Clients’ satisfaction is the ultimate goal of UX design, and one of the best ways to gain approval is by providing positive emotions. Good UX designers analyze the behavior and feelings a user experiences when using the product, and ensures the design generates good vibes.
Emotions can be evoked in a variety of ways. Some UX designers trigger positive emotional responses with abstract illustrations, some with vivid animation or colors, and some prefer an empathic approach.
The challenge for UX designers is to develop and deliver a digital experience that will put human emotions first. Once this technology is perfected, the Internet of Things will reach a new level. Good examples of this trending tech include Apple Music and Spotify. These services provide users with personalized playlists, largely adding to customer loyalty and a great user experience.
Great design tells a story. As technology advances and designers gain incredibly powerful tools, the technology culture shifts the focus from emotions and sensations to meaningfulness and storytelling. Each product tries to weave a compelling narrative for its audience while considering its particular preferences.
A good story helps users better understand the product and caters to a smooth user experience. To construct the narrative, a UX design might create a character with an attributed identity and background, take them through a conflict, and apply the product to resolve the issue – via the user interface design. This is the basis of a typical product design narrative.
As a great tool helping users navigate products and platforms, design storytelling will surely be a main focal point in UX design 2021.
8. New Navigational Elements
2019 has seen a less traditional approach arising, as well as navigational elements triggered by the changes in displays. Ever since iPhone X was released, designers have had to adapt to the new conditions. For example, the recent trend of frameless devices removed the once-popular home screen button, which overhauled the approach to interface design.
UX designers find themselves in dire straits. Familiar with certain navigation styles, users might be afraid or simply reluctant to experiment with new, sometimes confusing methods. Vertical navigation panels are one of the new elements designed to provide user-friendly navigation.
Another trending UX design linked to navigation is touchless gesture control. Users no longer need to touch the screens to perform an action — a simple gesture will keep the movement going. A key aspect of gesture management is sensitivity, which must be very high to ensure a rapid response. The air gesture is another new trend that will continue to improve over time.
To sum it up…
Let’s briefly recap 2021’s UX trends :
- Microinteractions help users understand how the system works and improve the perception of a digital product.
- The tendency for minimalism and simplicity will only increase, making room for the concept of Zero UI with brevity and functionality as a solid foundation for UX design.
- Neomorphism can give the product a stylish and futuristic look but should be used carefully not to confuse users.
- Animations and animated illustrations will liven up the website content and draw users’ attention to the target action.
- The industry is moving away from GUI toward VUI, so using voice controls in UX design is one of the most promising trends.
- Human emotions come first in 2021, and the emotional UX design will take the IoT to a whole new level.
- As the technology culture shifts focus to storytelling, UX designers should craft narratives to help users better understand and navigate the product.
- Traditional interface design approaches are evolving, welcoming new navigational elements with advanced gesture controls – a powerful trend not to underestimate in the near future.
Most trends take a few years to fully develop, landing in top-ten lists year after year. Virtual and augmented reality are good examples. The trend of minimalism can be traced to Bauhaus, dadaism, or Swiss design. Other trends, like animation, large typography, or background videos, have already morphed into traditions.
If we focus on more specific approaches, the main thrust of UX design development in 2021 can be defined as the drive to save time and effort on every user interaction – even if for a fraction of a second. And finally, to make sure each of those interactions generates a positive vibe creating the ultimate user experience.