5 predictions for UX design in 2019

There are very few industries as dynamic and fast-paced as UX, and every year seems to bring a fresh wave of trends, challenges, and talking points.

Throughout 2018, we saw an increased focus on data-driven UX, accompanied by the rise of the UX researcher role. Privacy by design was also something of a hot topic in light of the GDPR, and a brand new buzzword arrived on the scene: DesignOps.

Image: Twenty20. This story is by Emily Stevens of CareerFoundry.

As 2018 comes to an end, we can’t help but wonder what next year has in store. Will we still be obsessed with DesOps and design without interface? What’s in line to be the hottest UX job title?

To ring in the new year, we’ve put together our top five predictions for UX in 2019:

1. UX will continue to drive business

UX has long been recognized as a driver of business success, and this will continue to be a central topic in 2019. In recent years, there have been several attempts to measure the business value of good design — the latest being a comprehensive report by McKinsey.

Over a five-year period, McKinsey tracked the design practices of 300 different companies, awarding each company a McKinsey Design Index (MDI) score. They found that those with a high MDI score also performed better financially.

Up until now, the conversation has focused primarily on businesses; getting the boardroom to see that UX is crucial and to incorporate it on a strategic level. As we move into 2019 and beyond, designers will, in turn, start to develop more empathy for business — not just for users. More than ever, designers will strive to make data-driven decisions, to measure the effectiveness of their designs, and to optimize their processes in a way that makes sense for business.

As Jeffrey Humble, Head of Design at CareerFoundry, predicts: “2019 will see UX designers moving closer and closer to the boardroom. Every day, UX designers are asked to do more. We constantly challenge ourselves to go broader with our skills, but the problem is, we don’t tend to ask ourselves how we can use our existing skills in new ways. Prototyping, testing, and customer research are pivotal tools in starting new business ventures. I think UX designers will become a valuable resource for entrepreneurs, and many of them will become entrepreneurs themselves.”

2. Storytelling will ensure a competitive edge

From a consumer perspective, good UX is no longer considered a unique selling point. It’s gone from being a novelty — something that really helps a product stand out — to an expectation. We’ve reached a point where, if a product or service provides a sub-par user experience, the user will discard and replace it in a heartbeat.

Related: 5 things I learned about strategic storytelling from Michael Margolis

The question is no longer “How can we create a satisfactory user experience?” but rather, “How can we create a truly memorable one?” As brands seek new and innovative ways to differentiate, we’ll see a growing trend towards storytelling in UX.

Scientific research has shown that, as humans, we are actually programmed to be enraptured by stories. When we hear a story, the neural activity in the brain increases fivefold, meaning that we are much more likely to remember the story and the message it’s trying to convey.

As author, illustrator, and designer Julian Hector puts it: “Stories command attention. They can be deeply persuasive, and of course, enjoyable. A life without stories would be a life with only road signs, calculators, numbers, spreadsheets, graphs, and short sentences that would even bore Alexa, Siri, and Google Home.”

The same goes for products and services. It’s no longer enough to simply signpost a user throughout your product; more and more, brands (and UX designers) will need to tell a memorable story. In 2019, storytelling will increasingly be used by UX designers to translate user value into reality, creating products — and experiences — that consumers relate to on a deeper level.

Learning how to incorporate storytelling into the design process will be one of the biggest challenges for UXers next year. However, it also represents a huge area of opportunity for brands who want to stand out.

3. The rise of the UX writer

This time last year, we predicted the rise of the UX researcher — and the trend towards specialist job titles is one that will likely continue through 2019.

One particular role that’s garnering plenty of attention is that of the UX writer. The likes of Google, Amazon and YouTube already have UX writers on their design teams, and a search for “user experience writer” on Indeed.com returns hundreds of job openings in the United States alone.

Related: Who’s a UX writer?

There are several reasons why the demand for UX writers continues to grow. As mentioned above, brands are seeking new ways to stand out; looking for ways to fine-tune the user experience as meticulously as possible. In doing so, they are realizing that copy is as crucial to the overall design of the product as wireframes, prototypes, and UI elements.

Even the smallest of microcopy shapes the user experience — be it a CTA on a button or the message that pops up when a user makes a purchase. The voice or tone of a user interface is just as influential as the colors, typography, and information architecture, so it makes sense that writers and designers work closely together.

Not only that. With the rise of virtual assistants, chatbots, and voice technology (more on that later), the art of crafting the right message and finding the right words has never been more important. You can learn more about how to write compelling microcopy here.

4. Our obsession with voice UI continues

Voice continues to be a talking point, with rapid growth on the horizon for 2019. Deloitte Global predicts that the smart speaker industry will be worth US$7 billion in 2019 — signalling a 63% growth rate from 2018, and making smart speakers the fastest-growing connected device category worldwide in 2019.

So what does this mean for the design industry? At the moment, people are mainly using their Alexa and Google Home devices to play music and check the weather. However, if the market is to continue to grow and have a truly valuable impact on people’s lives, voice-first devices need to become more useful beyond these basic functions. More so than ever, the industry will need designers who can create useful, user-friendly voice applications; designers who can take the voice experience from mediocre to magical.

Related: You already know how to design for voice-based UIs

As a result, we’ll see more designers mastering the art of voice user interface design. At the same time, designers will find themselves navigating uncharted territory with regards to privacy, security, and ethics in voice design. As ever, new technology brings new challenges, and 2019 will be all about striking a balance between security and usability.

5. Device-agnostic experiences will take priority

Move over, DesignOps: there’s a new buzzword in town. The modern-day answer to responsive design, device-agnostic design is taking seamless user experience to a whole new level.

With the rise of wearables and voice assistants, it’s no longer enough to simply cater to mobile and desktop. The UX mindset is shifting, and in 2019 and beyond, designers will think in terms of the user journey as a whole — not just in terms of the devices being used.

As Marli Mesibov puts it: “Good design doesn’t force users to pick up the device that we designers want them to pick up; good design gives users the best of what a company has to offer on the device that the user wants to use at that point in their journey.”

And that’s exactly what device-agnostic design does. It creates a continuous user journey that can pass through different touchpoints — be it a smartphone, a laptop, or a smart speaker — without any friction.

Device-agnostic design is dynamic and adaptable. It lets you complete your user journey in the most convenient way possible. You might start with a voice command (“Hey Siri, order me an Uber”) and finish up on your smartphone (checking the progress of your driver via the app).

Much like storytelling, brands who focus on holistic user journeys rather than devices will set themselves apart in 2019. Thus, designers will need to adapt their approach in step with the direction the industry is taking.

On the whole, 2019 looks set to be another exciting year for UX. You can learn more about starting a career in UX design here.