4 Hot UX Trends to Watch — and How to Gear Up

What’s coming up in UX, and how can you get ready for it? We asked the Filterati who are leading the way.

New kinds of digital user experiences have already changed the way we learn, communicate, shop, date, drive, and engage with the world around us — and today’s capabilities are just a start. The concept of UX is expanding every day as design-led companies pursue revolutionary ways to help and delight their users.

From strategists to researchers and designers, UX professionals have been instrumental in leading this evolution. Already a forward-thinking bunch, they’re growing their skill sets, learning new tools, and tackling unprecedented problems to help pioneer the next era of user-focused technology.

The future of UX is now, and savvy companies and talent are getting ready to thrive in it. Here’s what the new world of UX looks like to four of Filter’s subject matter experts — and how they’re preparing for what’s ahead.

1. Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality: Gaming is Only the Beginning

The VR industry has grown dramatically over the last several years, and shows no signs of slowing down: more than 12 million VR headsets will be sold in 2017, and experts predict that the global market for VR technology will be worth $40 billion by 2020. Top companies and professionals are jumping aboard, and fast: job ads requiring VR skills have increased by 800% since 2014.

Filterati and Motion Designer Lou Ward is a longtime VR enthusiast and a co-organizer of the Seattle Virtual Reality Meetup group. He believes that this technology is hitting its stride – and is about to skyrocket to new levels of accessibility and versatility.

Even though VR/AR tech has been around for a while, we are in an age where the technology has become easily accessible for the everyday consumer and designer. This has allowed artists and designers like me to have the chance to create amazing content that can help formulate a new perspective on what will become part of our everyday lives in the future.
— Lou Ward, Motion Designer and Filterati

Filter Talent Solutions Partner Stephanie Hill explains that while VR has primarily been associated with gaming and entertainment, there are infinitely more applications on the horizon. A wide range of industries including real estate, travel, health care, and education are harnessing this technology to improve experiences and lives.

“I’m particularly excited about how this technology will change the current landscape in terms of education,” Stephanie says. “Our client FishyTale is a great example; they’re creating high-production immersive experiences that enable children to interact with their learning material in new ways.”

With so many VR/AR/MR roles to fill, where are companies finding this talent? Stephanie explains that professionals from a number of neighboring fields are successfully transitioning into the VR space. “These roles are excellent matches for UX/UI Designers, Programmers, Developers, 3D Artists, and Prototypers seeking fresh ways to apply their talent and creativity. Their skill sets translate really well to this work, providing opportunities to grow with a field that’s still new and developing.”

2. Product Design: Creativity and Business Strategy, United at Last

Product Design is becoming better understood and incorporated among top companies — and that’s great news for professionals like Filterati and Senior Product Designer Isaac Weinhausen. “For many years, Design has been downstream from product management,” he says, “but now with the rise of Product Design, it finally sits at the riverhead.”

This growing discipline addresses one of the biggest obstacles to effective UX: the conceptual and organizational divide between “value to the end-user” and “value to the business.”

Product Design is about forming a symbiotic relationship between product management, which is generally more analytical, and design, which is more creative. By integrating these two often-separated (and even competing) mindsets, Product Designers don’t just ensure the execution of a cohesive, user-focused product; they also help drive better business-oriented product decisions.
— Isaac Weinhausen, Product Designer and Filterati

Because it calls for a combination of UI/UX skills, strategy, research, design, and product management, Product Design attracts seasoned professionals who can wear many different hats. This role comes with a lot of responsibility and ownership,” Isaac says, “and it’s not for the faint of heart.” For these reasons, he explains, Product Designers tend to be fairly senior; a Senior Product Designer at Uber, for example, could easily be a design lead, principle designer, or even a design director at another company.

If you’re a versatile UX expert who thinks in terms of the big picture, Product Design may offer you a unique opportunity to help determine what the company should be designing in the first place. To learn more about this field and how to break into it, Isaac suggests checking out Airbnb’s design blog (including VP of Design Alex Schleiffer’s post on defining Product Design), as well as the articles posted by Julie Zhuo, Facebook’s VP of Product Design, on Medium.

3. Motion Design: The “Physics” of Interactive Experiences

If you’ve used Facebook recently, you’ve likely come across a sleek new feature: once you click on one video, you’re seamlessly guided to another, and another — until you realize you’ve just spent 20 minutes watching a series of cat videos, ads, and other curated content. The magic behind this experience, Isaac explains, is Motion Design: “the ‘physics’ of digital interactions and the nuances that make an experience smooth, intuitive, and addictive.”

Traditionally associated with film reels and highly interactive websites, Motion Design is changing fast in response to the rise of touch screens and other technologies that focus on “micro-interactions”. The key to great Motion Design, Isaac says, is understanding the largely unconscious expectations that users bring to the table:

“Motion Designers study the details of user behavior and preferences very closely. By learning how users expect an interface to respond, they can choose precisely the right speed, flow, touch features and other subtle factors to make the experience feel natural.”

Isaac advises UX professionals who want to look deeper into Motion Design to brush up their coding skills, as well as prototyping tools such as Framer JS, Pixate, and Origami.

4. Design Beyond the Screen: Weaving UX into Everyday Lives

In the coming years, the screens we currently use to interact with technology will become just one part of a larger, more interrelated approach — one that focuses on anticipating our needs in real-time. “Designing beyond the screen is about experiencing something in the context of what you’re doing,” Isaac explains. “It integrates different services and products in ways that can save users significant time and effort.”

Isaac is particularly intrigued by products like Amazon’s Echo and Alexa, which take Apple’s Siri a step further: they’re always listening, using the information they “hear” throughout the day to better curate and streamline the customer’s experience. Ushering in unprecedented opportunities (as well as interesting questions about consumer privacy), designing beyond the screen is a hot topic — and a hot job market — for UX professionals.

“Research is key here,” Isaac emphasizes. “ To succeed in this field, it’s crucial to be in touch with real users’ everyday needs.” Somewhat ironically, he explains, this cutting-edge technology relies on relatively low-tech research methods:

“To get this right, you have to get away from the screen. This type of design requires a lot of interviews and field research — talking to people and observing them closely in their homes, cars, offices, and backyards as they go about their day-to-day activities. Because there are fewer quantitative metrics available here, you really have to watch and listen; going by your own intuition won’t work.”

Full Speed Ahead

VR/AR/MR, Product Design, Motion Design, and design beyond the screen are just a handful of the developments that are shaping the UX landscape… and that the Filterati will help lead in the years to come.

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