UX design is always evolving. From dangerous trends like bright colors and experimental layouts to delightful design like GIFs or microcopy, there’s always something new to try. UX design trends also benefit from the fast-paced technology industry, with innovations like augmented reality and bigger, frameless devices pushing designers to think about UX in new ways.
With all the exciting advances made in 2018, here are the five latest trends in UX design:
1. The rise of voice-first design
More and more consumers are turning to Alexa, Siri, or Google Home to find information, control their day-to-day tasks, or simply to be entertained. In fact, 35.6 million Americans used a voice-activated assistant at least once a month in 2017, a year-over-year increase of 128.9%.
This voice-first evolution has naturally led to design without interfaces. And it’s up to UX designers to help consumers understand (and appreciate!) this new experience by eliminating friction points.
For voice design, you need to walk the delicate balance of adding personality and context to the AI without cognitive overload. You also need to modify your current user flows to accommodate customers who want to use their voice.
For example, if your company offers a skill on Alexa, how much core functionality do you want to add to that skill? Do you want users to be able to complete the entire onboarding process via voice? If not, how do you connect both the traditional computer or smartphone experience with voice? These questions will only become more complex as voice technology matures.
2. Frameless experiences
With the release of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and iPhone X, full-screen, frameless experiences have become the norm. Users expect apps to take advantage of this screen space and provide immersive, richer content experience, complete with high-quality visuals like photos or videos (after all, who wants a pixelated image to take over the whole screen?).
UX designers need to adapt to these user expectations while also maintaining comfortable and functional design. For example, as the full-screen experience continues to dominate, perhaps in-app navigation and interactions change from finger tapping to gestures.
3. Augmented reality
Frameless design complements another trend: augmented reality. What started off in gaming has now extended to retail, offering a richer, more varied user experience.
Pokémon Go is the most classic success story. Its wild success comes from creating unforgettable user experiences that focus less on the user and more on the experience. By including the user and his or her environment into the game, Pokémon was able to meet its users needs in a completely new, delightful way.
IKEA followed the same approach and applied it to furniture. Its augmented reality app, called Place, lets you see exactly how furniture items would look and fit into your home. It uses your iPhone camera and 3D furniture to create the interactive experience (even letting you walk around the virtual space!).
Both these examples open up exciting, new territory for UX designers. If UX is all about optimizing how things work to make customers happy, then augmented reality creating a new playing field without boundaries.
4. Emotional design
Animojis aren’t only good for laughs. Turns out, they also speak to a broader design trend.
Apple’s animal-like emojis use your own voice and mirror your facial expressions, allowing users to more accurately convey their emotions. This emphasis on emotions also carries over to voice interactions and chatbots. Think about it: there was a time when we all acknowledged that chatbots were meant to communicate in a sterile, robotic way. But now, chatbots and AI have a personality. They make jokes, ask you questions, or converse in small talk.
“Animojis aren’t only good for laughs. Turns out, they also speak to a broader design trend.”
All of this to say: it’s easy to see the importance of emotions in every design interaction. This kind of technology (à la animojis) create a natural way for users to interact with interfaces, making the overall experience more engaging and authentic.
5. Increased demand for UX researchers
There’s another shift in the UX job market — more specific job titles are emerging, especially that of UX researcher.
It’s been a long debate over who should conduct design research: UX designers or UX researchers. There are pros and cons to both, and it ultimately comes down to whether you want the person who is closest to the design to conduct the research or the person with the pure research background.
While this shift in the market doesn’t necessarily place more importance on the role of UX researcher, it does indicate that more businesses are willing to invest in specialized UX roles.
UX is always evolving
In just a few months, these trends will evolve or be replaced with entirely new innovations. And that’s the fun of UX design — it’s constantly changing and presenting different, exciting challenges that push our creativity and ultimately make us better designers.
Emily has written for some of the top tech companies, covering everything from creative copywriting to UX design. When she's not writing, she's traveling the world (next stop: Japan!), brewing kombucha, and biking through the Pacific Northwest.