UX Trends to Watch Out for in 2021

While this year has been an unprecedented one for us all, what it has done is shine a light on the importance of digital technologies. In a time where physical contact isn’t possible, we have been able to demonstrate just how far digital can reach. Websites and applications have been instrumental in keeping businesses afloat and keeping people connected. And the result is that there is a new wave of users who are embracing digital solutions. Now, more than ever, user experience (UX) design will play a fundamental role in ensuring that users’ needs are met and that they have a positive, fulfilling and engaging experience.

The question, of course, is how do you keep up, stay relevant and make your solutions stand up to the competition? Creating designs that are visually appealing, easy to use and deliver great experiences is no mean feat. However, it’s all about focusing effort in the right areas and ensuring that every pixel matters. With all that in mind, now is the perfect time to reflect on how UX design has moved forward this year and the trends to watch out for in 2021.

Minimalism Will Help us Declutter

Minimalism doesn’t come easy to UX designers who are keen to impress with clever features and functionality. However, after a year where we have been bombarded with information, it is just what we all need. Instead of making designs look bare, it often gives them a much-needed refresh. With a minimalistic approach to design, you can focus on the bare essentials, the elements that actually make the biggest difference to the user. And, by doing that, you remove unnecessary blocks and stressors and make your solutions easier to use.

To embrace minimalism in your next design project, consider removing unnecessary notifications and pop-ups, implementing design features that aid the user journey and focusing on common user navigation patterns.

AI Will Take Personalisation to the Next Level

AI is so much more than robots and futuristic technologies, it actually gives you an opportunity to provide an advanced level of personalisation in your applications. More than customisation, it enables you to deliver content that specifically matches user needs, without them having to ask for it. And it has far more to do with user experience than technology, by creating a more personal connection with users you can build trust and engagement.

Fortunately, building more personalisation is easier than ever, thanks to machine learning doing the heavy lifting. You don’t need to imagine every possible user outcome, instead, personalisation can be developed as the user engages with the product, and the user experience can improve with time. AI should reduce time for both users and designers, making it a trend that is surely set to continue.

We’ll Be Hearing More Voice Commands

After a year where a lot of us have spent a lot of time at home, voice searching devices such as Alexa and Siri have seen huge success. The result is that we are becoming more used to these technologies and the accuracy that they deliver. It’s predicted, in fact, that over half of internet searches will be done without a screen or keyboard by 2021.

To include voice commands in your next design project, consider using voice assistants, combining voice technology with pre-set commands and using voice to build your brand.

Mobile-First Design Will be More Important Than Ever

We’re all aware of the importance of responsive design. In fact, more than half of all searches are performed on a mobile device. However, mobile is set to become even more important in 2021. One of the big drivers is Google, which now uses mobile-first indexing, using your website’s mobile version to index and rank your content. Google states that if your site’s mobile version has less content than your desktop, then traffic will be affected.

When it comes to your next design project, responsive design isn’t an option so much as a priority. It is vital for services to be responsive, feature-rich and functional on mobile interfaces if you are in any chance of competing in searches. After all, if mobile is your users’ favourite interface, you’d be crazy not to design with that in mind.

VR is Going to Make an Impact

While VR isn’t a new entry to the design department, it hasn’t as yet taken off to the extent that we thought it might have. Next year, however, it’s set to make more of an impact. Of course, that is likely to start in the gaming industry with the market due to be worth 22.9 billion US dollars by the end of 2020. Where Facebook’s Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive started, the Half-life Alyx is going to continue, addressing many of the issues that have stood in the way. Meanwhile, Apple is working on new VR glasses and plans to dedicate an entire AppStore to the VR platform.

And while the spotlight will clearly be on the gaming industry, the innovation in that area will start to make an impact elsewhere. If you’re wondering how you could use VR in your next design project, consider the use of VR in the likes of video conferencing. It has the power to bring us closer together and to make users feel even more engaged. It seems certain that we will all be designing interfaces on VR-based platforms in the future.

Great Storytelling Will be Key

For some time now, we’ve known that we need to do more than understand the customer journey, we need to build content-focused experiences. And that trend is set to continue into 2021. Great storytelling has and always will have the potential to make your brand more memorable and to make users feel directly involved in what you do. UX writing will become crucial, enabling you to use human language rather than technical jargon to make your solutions more meaningful.

To build stories around products, designs need to get more involved in the marketing side of your business. They need to transfer emotions in the most informative and creative way if they are going to build real connections with users. Build strong copywriting skills alongside the ability to incorporate various media to tell stories, and you will see a huge difference in user engagement.

How To Design Great Solutions for Your Business in 2021

While design will always be an ever-changing entity, it’s worthwhile taking note of new and evolving trends on the horizon. You’ll want to be careful of getting caught up in the latest fad, but incorporating solid ideas like incredible storytelling, a mobile-first approach and minimalism will certainly improve your output.

In summary, here are some of the UX trends to watch out for in 2021:

  • Minimalism – when it comes to design, less is often more. Get rid of the clutter, remove unnecessary notifications and pop-ups and focus on features that add to the user journey.

  • AI – deliver content that specifically matches users needs without them having to ask for it, and you will build a stronger personal connection. AI can do this, and it can take away a lot of the heavy lifting too.

  • Voice commands – make experiences as easy as possible for your users. With over half of internet searches predicted to be done using voice commands in 2021, voice assistants are sure to become more commonplace.

  • Mobile-first – with more than half of internet searches now performed on mobile devices, their popularity continues to surge. Responsive design is no longer an option; it is vital if you want to compete and live up to user expectations.

  • VR – with VR finally coming to fruition in the gaming industry, the innovation is looking like it will start to make an impact elsewhere with the potential to bring you closer to your users than ever before.

  • Storytelling – sometimes the old ones are the best. To build content-focused experiences, great storytelling is key. You need to transfer emotions in an informative and creative way if you are going to build strong connections with your users.

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About the author

Michael Ridland is the Co-CEO and Founder of Xam Consulting.

Design-led problem solving delivering digital solutions.

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