5 Key UX/UI Trends for 2021
As technology and user expectations continue their relentless evolution, so too does the bridge between them.
If 2020 taught us one thing, it would be that digital technology is not just an important tool – it is what much of our world is built on, and relies on in order to function.
As more and more businesses continue to embrace digital and find new ways to engage with customers through a variety of platforms, understanding and adapting to emerging trends is one of the most powerful ways of staying ahead of the curve and succeeding in an increasingly competitive digital marketplace.
There have been many interesting developments in how User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) are designed and developed over the last few years. We’ve previously discussed how UX and UI impact online businesses, and whether these two concepts should be considered a design or a development question.
Today, we’ll be taking a look at 5 UX/UI trends we believe will hold center stage in 2021.
VUI and Voice Design
Voice UI – or the use of voice commands to navigate digital tools – has been simmering in the background for a while, gaining prominence in recent years with Apple’s Siri software and Amazon’s Alexa Virtual Assistant.
Powered by AI software that progressively accumulates an understanding of a user’s voice and preferences, and links to the IoT to satisfy commands, these software systems have begun to show us how technology might feel in a post-keyboard and touchscreen world.
While it may seem that voice command functionality may still be limited to products offered by world-leading technology companies such as Google, Apple and Amazon, if experience is anything to go by, it’s precisely these companies that set the trends of what people come to expect from technology as a given in the long run.
That means that UX and UI designers should already be planning for ways to better integrate VUI in their digital products and platforms, so that they are better prepared for a future where typed commands are considered dated and/or cumbersome.
The process has already begun, and we won’t be surprised to see more companies adopting a VUI approach in their own digital platforms as the year progresses.
Behavioral Design is a complex, sometimes-controversial dimension of marketing that seeks to understand and influence behavior through the use of wide and diverse datasets – from human psychology and sociology to economics and market research.
More specifically, implementing a Behavioral Design approach in the development of a product – whether it is a marketing campaign, a website or a smartphone app – involves intentionally altering human behavior through physical or digital persuasion points.
Although the approach has its critics, who argue that large tech firms – in particular social media companies – are gaining too much power over their user’s emotions and beliefs, there is also a growing movement to instill the field with an ethical framework that will guide it towards better understanding what people want and need, and to serve them.
Whatever the case, companies with a strong digital presence and philosophy will be increasingly looking at how Behavioral Design theory can allow them to create more attractive and engaging digital products, and UX that can be seamlessly navigated in line with the true psychological desires of their users.
In 2019, there were around 2.7 billion unique smartphone users in the world – more than a third of the world’s population. According to research from Techjury, last year, more people ran internet searches using a smartphone than with a desktop for the first time, while 40% of all people who conduct internet searches do so only on a smartphone. Over the course of just a year, the share of mobile users using the internet jumped 10%, while desktop usage dropped a similar amount.
What this all means is that mobile has become the tool of choice for people using the internet.
While we used to just use smartphones for browsing and social media, we now increasingly rely on them to make purchases on e-commerce platforms, to order food, book transportation, and for a whole host of other functions that we previously completed over the phone or on our laptops. And the movement to mobile is only accelerating.
The problem for many companies, is that they have configured and designed their entire digital presence for desktop access, while mobile accessibility has been an afterthought, commonly managed through automated, Responsive Web Design (RWD). This might do the job, but in order to fully take advantage of the unique characteristics – and opportunities – of what mobile can offer, a more careful and nuanced approach to RWD is necessary.
UX designers looking to make a mark in 2021 and beyond will be rewarded for paying heed to this large-scale change in the way people globally are accessing and navigating the internet, and to implement a Mobile-First approach in the design of their digital platforms.
VR & AR
While Virtual Reality (VR) has taken a long time to take off and truly enter the mainstream, it seems that the process is finally happening. The launch of products such as Facebook’s Oculus Rift and the booming popularity of VR-based games such as Half-Life Alyx have led analysts to predict that the VR-based games industry will be worth around $2.4 billion by 2024 – an exponential rise over the previous years.
However, the transition is not only occurring in the realm of gaming. Developers designing innovative apps for the telemedicine industry are also beginning to explore uses for the technology in bringing richer and more advanced virtual experiences and interactions between remote patients and health professionals.
Augmented Reality (AR) is also gaining traction as a powerful tool for UX developers, who are constantly evolving the ways they are producing graphic interfaces and platforms to be AR-capable, while designers are creating new ways to market products and services in immersive AR.
With major tech companies such as Apple also reportedly investing in AR-capable smart glasses, UX designers and digital marketing strategists should be considering how they will take advantage of these technologies in the coming year.
The idea that “less is more” has been a tenet of artists and designers for centuries. When it comes to contemporary UX and UI for digital technologies, the concept takes on an added dimension, due to the overabundance of information that internet users are constantly bombarded with.
While minimalist design in web interfaces is not exactly new, UX and UI developers will be rewarded with increased user engagement and immersion if they are able to blend minimalist design aesthetics with simplified UX and UI functionalities, creating a holistic, streamlined experience for their users.
This can take the form of simplified logins and checkouts for e-commerce, personalized offerings, and any other functionalities that can make the life of users easier and simpler.
In a world of information-overload, users will reward the companies that respect their attention spans by only making them think about and do what is absolutely necessary.
Are these UX/UI approaches something you’d like to see in your own digital project this year? Bocasay can make it happen – contact us and we’ll be happy to start a conversation on how we are going to achieve it together.