There’s no denying that user experience was big in 2017, with everything from product interfaces and onboarding process to the content that’s available for consumption via various digital platforms. There are many Web-based and mobile creations that have already come and gone within the past year. And most of these failures likely had something to do with flaws or miscalculations involving UX. Designing with user experience in mind will continue to be a top priority as we roll into another year.
It never hurts to be prepared to embrace upcoming trends likely to enhance end-user satisfaction. Even so, it’s not always easy to predict what design trends will dominate and drive the user experience for the upcoming year. But it’s inevitable that changes in technology will play a significant role in how design trends evolve in the future. With that being said, here are some of the top mobile and Web UX design trends to keep an eye on in 2018.
1. Content-Centered Experiences
Sure, there are plenty of bells and whistles that can make a product look awesome. But the one thing that should be a big part of design in 2018 is content. It’s well-curated and easily accessible content that makes a mobile or Web product appealing to its intended users.
There’s nothing wrong with creating a fantastic interface and adding an assortment of features and capabilities to a product — as long as the CX (content experience) isn’t sacrificed in the process. Ultimately, finding the right mix of content and technology is what can make a product a go-to destination for users beyond that first-time use. Designers can keep content front and center in 2018 by:
• Having a clear order with how visuals are presented to make content comprehension easier
• Removing unnecessary “design clutter” to keep the attention focused on product content
• Making good use of white space to give content some breathing room
2. Smarter Personalized User Experiences
Whether it’s in the form of emails based on knowledge of previous website interactions or text messages delivered according to geographic location, the personalized UX trend is everywhere these days. Not surprisingly, app and Web product users will continue to demand a personalized experience in 2018.
Users already appreciate conversational interfaces in the form of chatbots. Facebook makes use of Natural Language Processing technology to work chatbots into its user experience. The drawback is that there are several taps required, so it does create some friction for users. An emerging trend is hybrid conversational interfaces that combine NLP with graphical UI elements like images, videos, buttons, and menus.
Personalization extends to tapping into universal human needs. Based on trends seen today, this means paying attention to things like transparency and security. There’s also a psychological component here. People get emotionally attached to their devices and the apps they use on a regular basis. Therefore, they expect some level of human-like tendencies, such as knowing their likely pain points, and even identifying potential sources of stress associated with the UX.
Creating personal experiences now and in the future will involve regular monitoring along with a keen eye for what type of interactive technologies make sense for a particular product. With mobile and Web applications, personalization might include:
• In-app chat features for interactions with other users or access to instant assistance
• Age-responsive capabilities that adjust things like font sizes and colors based on the age of the user
• Login memory features that help users quickly get into the application
• In-app messaging based on how users typically interact with an app (e.g., offering promotions based on what purchases an user makes with their app)
• Push notifications timed to be delivered when users are most active to encourage consistent engagement
3. Time-Saving Design Features
With the average attention span being less than 8 seconds, it’s easy to understand why app users are inherently impatient. Ideally, the best interface is none at all, but this isn’t likely to be a trend that’s popular in the design world anytime soon. Instead, the focus in 2018 will be on any UX design features that reduce friction and save time for users.
The trick is to find ways to save time without actually making the user experience worse in the process. For instance, it’s possible to put all instructions for an app’s use on a single page. However, doing so can quickly overwhelm new users. Here are some more practical ways to help users save time likely to be a crucial part of future design endeavors:
• Designing with common user navigation patterns in mind
• Context-specific features (only visible when users are only to need them)
• Gentle nudges in the form of pop-up suggestions that can help app users save even more time when performing specific functions
• Designing with anticipated user actions in mind
• Creating a linear design experience (UX with a specific beginning, middle, and end that allows users to complete one action with each step)
4. Voice-Activated Interfaces
In 2016, Google stated that roughly 20 percent of all mobile searches were done with voice activation. Factor in the rapid explosion in the use of virtual assistants and it’s easy to see why the next big thing for 2018 will be voice-activated interfaces.
Just look at the success of Siri, Alexa, and Google Now and the potential becomes clear with this type of interactive design. Voice activation boosts the user experience by eliminating the type, which also eliminates another potential source of friction for app users. This technology is likely to continue to be adopted by designers and embraced by users because it has now reached a point where more than 90 percent accuracy is the norm, not the exception.
5. Augmented Reality
The ability to customized real-world imagery isn’t just useful for gaming applications like Pokemon Go. Mark Zuckerberg is among the industry insiders predicting that all screens will eventually be replaced by lenses for what the Facebook founder describes as “the ultimate AR experience.”
Expect innovative app designers to find creative ways to incorporate augmented reality into their products in 2018. There are already plenty of AR-based apps that have successfully found ways to do this. Outside of the gaming world, AR is being used to do things like let customers see what product would look like in various rooms before making a purchase. With camera and display technology improving, AR will become increasingly appealing to users.
6. Biometric Authentications
In concept, biometrics isn’t exactly a new technology, but it is becoming more accessible. In 2018, we’ll see more use of biometrics for authentication and identity management purposes. It’s something that can also boost security for both end-users and businesses that incorporate this technology into their applications.
Since it’s a distinct and unique form of personal identification, products that include biometric-based technology can bypass the need for a traditional login requirement. With biometrics, all that’s needed is a specific physiological or behavioral characteristics, such as facial recognition, fingerprints, voice recognition, or an iris scan.
7. Getting Rid of Common Annoyances
There are certain deign features that tend to frequent sources of either confusion or frustration — and sometimes both! Let’s start with the hamburger menu (those three lines in the corner of screens). Designers embraced them because it was thought to be a smart way to make more room on screens by hiding menu options.
However, not all users are familiar with what this design feature is or what it’s meant to do. So, you may have users endlessly searching for a menu. Case in point: Spotify took away their hamburger menu, and navigation usage jumped 30 percent. YouTube saw similar results when switching to a tab-based menu.
People use an average of 30 apps per month and about ten each day. When you add in passwords required for various websites, that’s a lot of login info that needs to be remembered. It’s predicted that 2018 could be the beginning of the end of passwords. The “new norm” could be verification codes, which can involve entering a code that’s sent by text message or completing a simple captcha.
Anyone who uses both desktops and mobile devices knows that typography and colors that look amazing on PCs don’t always translate well to smaller mobile screens. Expect designers with an eye for detail to be more careful with color selection and font size in 2018. The goal is to create clarity that extends to all devices. Some other annoyances that will likely be addressed on a larger scale in 2018 include:
• Page load times
• Storage space on devices or PCs that run multiple applications (already being addressed with more cloud-based apps)
• Transitioning from one device to another when completing transactions or purchases
And One More…
Android will continue to be preferred over iOS for designers. While Apple is the king of product promotion, Android is preferred by nearly 80 percent of mobile developers. Google says there are approximately 2 billion monthly active Android devices, meaning users clearly like this OS as well. Vendors also appreciate an increased focus on security as the Android operating system continues to improve. If you get a comparison of Android and iOS UI/UX differences, you can find some compelling reasons why the preference for this OS is likely to continue into 2018.
As far as other design trends go, there may be some surprises to come shortly, primarily as some emerging technologies develop and become more accessible and practical. However, savvy entrepreneurs, designers, and developers should have no problem embracing relevant trends as long as they keep the focus on the user experience.