The UX design field is highly dynamic, with more and more of our surrounding objects and daily activities becoming digitalised, and transformed into apps, smart home devices and more. In turn, new theories, tools and methodologies are constantly being developed to help UX designers create effective interfaces that are intuitive, simple and efficient, while simultaneously meeting business goals. With the new year just around the corner, we’ve taken this opportunity to review this past year, analyze our findings and bring to you our thoughts on where the future of UX is heading. Here’s a look at the major themes, shifts in thought, and the most prominent UX design trends of 2019:
1. Gearing towards more inclusive design
We all know that user research and usability tests are an essential part of any UX design process. But are we doing this in the best possible way, testing a realistic, truly diverse range of users? In human-centered design, we put ourselves in the shoes of our users, but clearly, we are not our users and don’t necessarily represent our average user demographic. More often than not, we end up testing our products with people who are easy to get hold of, rather than focusing on the more marginalized groups of our society, or reaching out to users from different age groups, genders, backgrounds and cultures. As explained in this piece by Hareem Mannan advocating all-humans-centered design, it’s time to take inclusivity a step further and steer our designs towards a wider range of people by implementing better practices into our UX processes.
One way of doing this is by adapting the way we conduct usability tests. Although physically meeting users has many benefits, it doesn’t always allow us to reach the full range of our users. Contacting a diverse audience from around the globe is now much easier than it may have been in the past, thanks to the many online tools. A recommended one is usertesting.com that enables you to contact the exact users you need for your product, out of a huge database of diverse consumers. An additional way to get to know a wider spectrum of users is simply to call them. Phone interviews offer a somewhat intimate, one-on-one situation in which you should ask questions and encourage the user to do most the talking, while simultaneously sharpening your listening skills. Another valuable method is to align with the support department of your company, if you have one. As they are in touch with users on a daily basis, they will most likely be able to provide you with valuable information from which you can draw conclusions.
2. Bridging the gap between designers and developers
As the variety of devices we design for grows and develops, our websites and mobile app designs are also becoming increasingly sophisticated, with many interactive elements, unique navigation flows and more. In turn, it’s getting more challenging for UX designers to explain their exact intentions to developers. Until now, our goal as UX designers was to communicate to developers how we envisioned our designs, using multiple online tools to assist us. But the new line of thought questions how we can actually implement the designs ourselves, by becoming more involved in the code itself. Naturally, many of the tools we use are heading in this direction, giving designers the freedom and independence they need to create without restrictions.
Simultaneously, a fairly new mutant breed is entering our UX design teams – UX prototypers, whose roles lie somewhere in between UX designers and developers. Their job is to create models that simulate the final product, so that each element acts as it will in the real app or website. The idea is to implement code to enable more efficient work processes. By being able to create multiple versions relatively quickly, conclusions can be drawn and decisions made at an earlier stage in the design process. With the help of prototypes, designers can convey their ideas in a much clearer and more effective way, avoiding any misunderstandings and ultimately leading to a much smoother process and better communication between designers and developers. If you’re a tech savvy UX designer who isn’t afraid of entering the world of front end engineering (or a design-oriented developer), you may have the skills needed to become a prototyper. This emerging new role is becoming increasingly important in a world that requires a more seamless transition from design to code.
3. Utilizing AI to create products better suited to your users
Artificial Intelligence is slowly dominating the digital world, with more and more products adopting this technology. It’s time to further explore how it can be used to provide customers with quick, easy and tailored results to fit their needs. We’ve already seen AI being used to create ADI (Artificial Design Intelligence) websites and logos for users within minutes, as they simple enter a few fields, pick their preferred designs and hey presto, a custom-made design appears before their very eyes. We can expect to see more creative implementations of AI, such as it being used to create products that better suit our users’ needs and requirements, as the products learn to adapt themselves according to user feedback.
4. Taking design systems to the next level
The last few years were all about design systems. We’re seeing more and more brands using them to ensure consistency throughout a whole interface. But now that we’ve gained experience implementing this methodology, how can we use design systems to improve the way in which we work? How can we best utilize them to create amazing products and interfaces in the most efficient way, especially in this rapidly developing climate? And what new possibilities do they bring to both design and development teams?
One popular method that could help us reach new peaks is Atomic Design, an approach conceived by Brad Frost, in which components of an interface are broken down into five categories – atoms, molecules, organisms, templates and pages. Atoms are the smallest components and cannot be broken down any further, such as buttons for example. Then, the molecules are small groups of components that have merged to form new functions, like search bars. Organisms are whole sections within the interface, for example a website’s navigation menu or a gallery on an online store. Finally, the templates define the various pages’ layouts, and the pages present what the actual product will look like, along with representative content.
By implementing this system of reusable components, we can make changes and adaptations to our UI more easily without harming the whole system, which is beneficial for both designers and developers. This method also helps us efficiently deal with any new situations or exceptions we may come across in the design. Ultimately, a good design system will enable us to build and design interfaces faster and more easily.
5. Incorporating illustration and animation in web design
Similarly to how voice command interfaces are now often given personalities, cracking jokes and more, this same sense of a “human touch” is being increasingly used in web design, in the form of illustration and animation. In fact, this UX design trend is gradually becoming an almost inevitable part of any user interface, as we see a growing use of geometric illustrations, vectors and 3D visuals. Illustrations and animations can help enrich any web or mobile design, by helping explain complex ideas in a simple way, enhancing a brand’s visual identity, adding microinteractions to any button or loader, or simply acting as delightful additions that help engage the audience. See how Awwwards have included illustrations in the website for their upcoming conferences, setting the tone for the themes the talks will cover, as well as creating stunning visuals with the feel of a human hand that created them.
Awwwards website featuring their upcoming conferences.
6. Introducing more use of video in web design
Another element that’s taking over our screens big time is the use of video. In an increasingly multi-sensory digital world, designers are finding more ways to draw in their audiences, battling their short attention spans with mesmerizing uses of motion that make you want to dive into your screen. As a result, UX designers are now starting to work more closely with video and motion graphics designers to create visual storytelling experiences, with videos that go beyond the classic rectangle shape. It’s time to ditch the traditional ways of using video, instead utilizing the medium to create more immersive experiences.
Sani Resort have merged a fullscreen video with a subtle soundscape, creating a true sense of tranquility.
Videos are no longer just about passing on information. A major UX design trend, they’re an integral part of any website, and we should be using them in the same way that we use images, type, buttons or any other design element. They now take an equal part in the digital storytelling effort. See how the websites below seamlessly merge movement into their designs, creating an overall striking effect.
Outside TV Show have layered text on top of breathtaking shots of wildlife, using minimal movement to bring their Wix website to life.
Graphic designer and Wix user, Zvina Luke, seamlessly merges a full screen video with typographical elements, images of her works, plus her animated logo on her portfolio’s homepage.