5 leading trends in UX/UI in 2021
One of the best ways to be on top of the game in the product design world is to follow trends in UX/UI. They are a great starting point for gathering inspiration and creative thinking. Ideation allows designers to merge seemingly unrelated pieces of information into original concepts. Those, in turn, lead to innovative solutions and cutting-edge digital products.
How can observing UX/UI trends help in product design?
Paul Rand, one of the most influential art directors and graphic designers, once said:
The designer does not, as a rule, begin with some preconceived idea. Rather, the idea is (or should be) the result of careful study and observation, and the design is a product of that idea.
Great designers don’t ignore trends, but search for them. Observing trends in UX/UI can help them improve their work. It provides inspiration and raises their awareness of how competitors represent themselves on the online market. It helps them obtain a broader vision of how a specific product feature or UI element can be designed. Therefore, it also makes it easier for designers to create products that stand out from the crowd.
So without further ado, let’s dive in and see what are the 5 leading trends in UX/UI in 2021.
1. Live collaboration
The COVID-19 pandemic has revolutionised the way we work, making work-from-home a global standard. According to Statista, only 16% of people worldwide worked from home before the coronavirus outbreak. Currently, it’s around 70%!
Keeping this in mind, there’s no wonder why so many products are expanding their functionalities with live collaboration features. Live viewing, editing, commenting, messaging, tagging, chatting — such functionalities are among the growing trends in UX/UI. We no longer can see them only in traditional “office” tools, like Zoom or Google Meets. They are now present in a variety of different products and fields, including design tools.
Figma, one of the most popular UX/UI tools at the moment, has recently introduced audio to chat with team members. Imagine we’re designing an application — we’re discussing its target group, look and feel, core functionalities. Figma allows product owners, project managers, designers, and developers to discuss ideas in real-time, while simultaneously viewing the application designs on their screens. Such live collaboration feature is a major improvement to remote teamwork.
2. Advanced microinteractions
Searching through eCommerce products, loading content, or swiping photo carousels are all examples of microinteractions. They usually incorporate simple UI animations — for instance, the way product cards are displayed, or how elements behave on scroll.
Although such microinteractions aren’t usually consciously noticed by users, their subtle details do make a difference and make a product more engaging, enjoyable, and easier to use.
Some benefits microinteractions can bring to a digital product include Nielsen’s usability heuristics:
- visibility of system status that provides immediate feedback based on the actions users take. For example, a subtle animation of adding an item to a cart or wishlist, or a progress bar loading during the checkout. A progress indicator shows how much time the user has to wait, so it allows us to keep him committed to the product while waiting.
- error prevention — a simple UI animation can guide users’ attention to specific areas, like small hints in registration forms that update dynamically as users fill out specific fields. Consistent feedback provides a smoother user experience.
Apart from this, animations can also play a vital role in brand communication. Every brand comes with a tone of voice and visual style that conveys this tone. UI interactions or animated illustrations can come to play and spice up your product. Google, for example, allows users to play a built-in browser dinosaur game when the user has no Internet access. This shows that the brand always takes care of the users.
3. AR technology
AR technology is a rising trend in UX/UI. With growing affordability and availability of this technology, more and more brands are starting to incorporate it into their digital products. AR is a great way to engage customers who increasingly crave personalised, immersive, and compelling experiences.
What is the difference between AR and VR? Simply put, augmented reality uses a real-world setting, while virtual reality is an entirely simulated environment. In order to experience AR, the only thing you need is a smartphone. VR, on the other hand, requires special goggles, equipped with sensors that allow users to experience the digital setting within 360 degrees.
According to a report by Goldman Sachs, by 2025, one of the most profitable industries with AR technology will include retail (with a market size of $1,6 bln).
AR can be a real game-changer when it comes to various fields, but it’s particularly helpful in eCommerce. Imagine you want to buy a couch for your living room. You simply focus your camera on the place where you want to put the couch and swipe products until you find the perfect fit. It’s as simple as that.
How can AR technology change User Experience? In the context of eCommerce, it enables customers to preview products in their own environment. This risk-free method of “try-before-you-buy” gives users the feeling of control. It gives them the opportunity to make smarter decisions when buying new and unknown products.
The growing popularity of machine learning and AI creates a perfect environment for voice recognition and NLP (Natural Language Processing) technologies.
More and more smart devices use these technologies, allowing users to search for information at the speed of speech. According to Statista, the voice recognition tech market reached close to $11 billion in 2019 and is expected to increase by nearly 17% by 2025.
VUI (Voice User Interface) enables users to interact with digital products through voice commands and poses unique design challenges:
- Device type — voice recognition is an inherent part of smartphones, laptops, virtual assistants (e.g. Siri), wearables, and other devices, like those we can find in smart cars. Each type comes with certain constraints and contexts of usage.
- VUI triggers — voice user interface sometimes can be triggered not only by voice, but also by haptic triggers (pushing a microphone-like button or setting volume controls) and motion gestures (waving or clapping your hands to activate your device).
- Conversation design — a separate field of voice interaction design. One of the key challenges here is to support recognition over recall, because it’s severely constrained in a voice-only interface. For instance, reciting a list of options requires users to store them in their memory while making a selection. Another thing conversation designers have to consider is the “personality” of the device. Begin with setting a tone of voice and use language that reflects this tone, so that the conversation seems more human than machine-like.
5. Dark mode
Dark mode is one of the most popular trends in UI design. As a supplement to light mode, it can seem more elegant and visually appealing. But, most importantly, it can improve UX:
Dark themes reduce the luminance emitted by device screens while still meeting minimum color contrast ratios. They help improve visual ergonomics by reducing eye strain, adjusting brightness to current lighting conditions, and facilitating screen use in dark environments — all while conserving battery power. — Google Material Design
When designing for dark mode, we should take into consideration:
- The context in which users will use our application — light mode can cause eye strain, especially when used during evening and night. If a website or application sees frequent use, it should consider providing dark mode. Especially if it is an application meant for long-term reading (a news website, book reader, magazine).
- Accessibility — always keep in mind who will be the main user of your digital product. Some people with visual impairment can do better with dark mode (especially with cloudy vision, such as cataract).
- Colours — avoid pure black (#00000) and pure white (#FFFFF). Too much contrast results in the halation effect, which means that we can have a glowing effect on the borders of contrasting elements. This can actually have a negative impact on readability. To avoid this, it’s good to use slightly less saturated colours.
Keeping track of trends in UX/UI helps designers to get a broader picture of how certain functionalities and UI elements are designed. This, in turn, helps to generate original ideas and create digital products that move with the times.
One of the key factors that had an impact on trends in UX/UI is the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to it, we can notice a surge in live collaboration functionalities — such as live chatting, editing, viewing — which can significantly improve remote teamwork.
Thanks to the technological progress within voice recognition and natural language processing, more and more devices use VUI. It allows users to quickly and comfortably obtain information, at the speed of their speech.
As users feel an increasing need for immersive and personalized experiences, AR technology is getting more popular. Brands can use it to engage customers and give users the ability to experience unknown products in their own environment.