The time around the turn of the year is traditionally the time of looking back and making forecasts. In our fast-moving, digital industry in particular, everything is now about discovering trends and adjusting to them as early as possible.
So it is all the better that companies, experts and interested parties deal intensively with the topic of trends and make their forecasts accessible to us in a consolidated manner. But the more opinions and statements in the room, the more difficult it can be to keep track of things and to decide who you want to believe and who you don’t want to believe.
If you feel the same, this is the perfect article for you. Because I didn’t just read the most important forecasts for user experience design, I looked intensively at them, questioned them and came to a conclusion: ‘Real UX trends’ can be identified and they have one thing in common. You can find out what that is by reading on.
Person looks at hologram in the room
One Decade Ends – Another Begins
The end of last year also marks the end of an entire decade. A decade in which aesthetics and technology have entered into a symbiosis like never before. In which the term Mobile First has turned everything upside down. Little bots were slowly becoming more helpful than frustrating. In which first cell phones, then cars and finally our home (including our vacuum cleaners) started to get smart.
A decade in which we felt – if only occasionally – like superheroes when we shouted things at our devices and listened to them. In which our wildest science fiction dreams of pop culture began to come true as the boundaries between reality and virtuality began to blur. It goes without saying that the question of what 2020 will bring and where it will go not only in the next year but also in the next decade is extremely exciting.
User Experience Design – A Little Digression
From the point of view of user experience design, the fourth decade begins in 2020, in which we deal with how we can make new technologies accessible and as pleasant to use as possible for people.
In the 1990s, cognitive scientist Don Norman started working for Apple California. Here he created the all-encompassing term user experience design.
In doing so, he expanded the topics of user interface and user-friendliness to include aesthetic and emotional factors such as attractive design, elements of building trust and fun in use (joy of use). Since then, it’s no longer just about making technology usable, but about taking a holistic view of the user experience.
As a UX architect, Don Norman became the first person to ever use the term UX in his title. Since then, the field of user experience design has continued to develop and with new technology, the behavior of users is also changing. If you want to deal with terms such as user experience or usability, you should also take a look at our UX glossary. Today’s UX designers face new challenges and opportunities every day to let computers and people get in touch with each other.
Trend 1: Content First
In recent years, there has been a term that hardly anyone has been able to avoid: Mobile First. This approach has long fought for online offers not only to be accessible on the go, but also to actually be operated. What started with simple websites quickly expanded to more complex offers such as online shops or financial management. This required largely breaking up and rethinking interactions in order to be able to display them on the smallest screen formats. This development was particularly valuable because it had a positive effect for everyone – a consequent simplification of digital processes.
According to the BVDW, up to 69% now use the Internet via mobile devices. However, mobile does not necessarily mean on the go. At the moment when the smartphone is no longer the most practical or obvious device to carry out an action, we are increasingly using other devices that offer a connection to the network. And this is exactly where Mobile First reaches its limits.
Already this year the focus on smart has increased significantly: with smart home technologies like smart TVs, smart assistants like Alexa or smart speakers like the homepod there are more and more offers that meet this demand.
The fact is that we can access content from the Internet with more devices than ever before. However, in order for them to not only be accessible but also usable, as in the early days of the smartphone, we have to rethink: a very clear starting signal for Content First.
The challenge from 2020: make content available across all devices.
Trend 2: IoT – Internet of Things
The Internet of Things has led us to interact with our technical devices in a new way. With the growing popularity of these smart devices, more and more industries are interested in the topic and approach it with different approaches.
In this respect, the IoT development is not a new trend, but: this market will continue to boom. What has not yet been achieved in this decade and is particularly interesting from a UX perspective: to acquire a reasonable and relatively uniform operating pattern for these products.
The fact that this has not yet happened is mainly due to the fact that they have a wide variety of interfaces. While some are voice-controlled, others use their own apps or native systems. Others can be controlled via an integrated display. A comprehensive and pleasant solution has not yet been found.
We are sure that this will happen from 2020. One way of doing this has been going its own way for some time now: voice control. And this is also part of our next trend: conversational interfaces.
Trend 3: Conversational Interfaces
Conversational (User) Interfaces, CUIs for short, are user interfaces that emulate a natural dialogue with a real person. This makes them more and more heroes of our everyday life. The reason for this is obvious: language, especially in the form of dialogues, is the most natural form of interaction for us humans.
If we apply these to user interfaces and give the user the opportunity to initiate actions through a dialog, it is almost a matter of course that CUIs reveal enormous potential.
Conversational interfaces can traditionally be found in two forms:
- As a language assistant.
- As a chatbot.
Both forms of CUIs are already very popular and are being used more and more by companies.
As a voice assistant, they offer the option of making input much faster and more convenient than using the keyboard. This form of human-computer interaction generally does not require any training or previous experience. We have observed that, due to its simple handling, even more people initially trust themselves to try them out than with other interfaces.
This not only has the effect of addressing potential users more broadly, but is also more accessible. They allow operation without the need to be bound to written text, which means that they can also be used by illiterate people or people with visual impairments.
And as always, greater accessibility also brings advantages for people without restrictions, because they too come into restrictive situations in which they benefit from voice inputs, for example when driving or when they have to multitask in the office.
Not only the voice assistant, but also chatbots are becoming increasingly popular. This is due in particular to their practicability. You can also score with the user through a natural dialogue. As they are used around the clock and can usually have several conversations at the same time, they are extremely efficient. For example, the service quality of companies can be greatly increased, while customer service costs can be reduced.
Unfortunately, conversational interfaces are still negatively affected in most people’s minds. Why it is like that? This is mainly due to bad previous experience from older experiments, for example with “interactive” answering machines. Technically, however, a lot has happened in this area, such as:
- Natural Language Generation (NLG), a special form of artificial intelligence for the generation of natural language by a machine.
- Speech Synthesis Markup Language (SSML), which enables speech output to appear naturally through effects such as pauses, stresses or whispers.
- Intelligent language systems such as Natural Language Understanding (NLU) learn the colloquial language and can also process implied statements.
These innovations mean that conversational interfaces can be used more effectively, efficiently and comfortably. A very good prerequisite for an optimal user experience.
Trend 4: Augmented Reality
Augmented Reality (AR) describes the computer-assisted expansion of the real environment with virtual components.
At least since almost every smartphone has been equipped with adequate cameras and processors to process AR in real time, augmented reality has enjoyed great popularity among adolescents and young adults worldwide.
Thanks in particular to the famous AR filters for Snapchat or Instagram, the technology has fought for a large platform here. They offer a completely new way of interacting on social media, set almost no limits to creativity and have been effortlessly created by users since the publication of Spark-AR.
But not only here, but also in marketing and trade, AR can shine through its strengths. How exactly, my colleague Norbert Bader writes in his article on digital trends in 2020, which you can find here.
Why this technology will be particularly interesting in user experience design is its diverse application options:
With the AR kit, Apple has given a few good examples of useful applications. Such as through the Measure app, which enables distances and sizes of real objects to be recorded with a smartphone, or more precisely with a camera. Applications from other providers, such as Livemap, also bring AR into the privacy shield of motorcycle helmets in order to be able to display live navigation.
These examples show how augmented reality can be used effectively and empowers users to perform actions simply by moving a device in the room.
This trend will mean that we can increasingly do without external devices and information carriers in a wide variety of industries and will perform tasks more efficiently, since we no longer have to rely on switching between them.
Trend 5: Virtual Reality
While augmented reality complements the real environment with virtual elements, virtual reality describes an entirely virtual environment with which a user can interact. No wonder that this topic is particularly exciting in the UX design area.
With the end of the 2010s, it overcomes one last hurdle. What was easy for augmented reality through smartphones turned out to be correspondingly difficult for VR technology: distribution. VR glasses are now affordable and prices are expected to continue falling, making this technology far more socially acceptable than it was a few years ago.
Of course, virtual reality is predestined for a successful career in the gaming industry. But this technology also has extremely interesting potential for trade, culture and digital learning. Various interesting examples are already being offered in these areas:
Commercially shows Macy’s, a large American department store as it conquered without a new store to open the Chinese market. You can find out more here.
The example of virtual twinning shows how VR can be used sensibly in the cultural sector. This process creates virtual twins from valuable, historical objects. These twins can be used, for example, for preservation of objects, as well as for the scientific examination and monitoring of objects and artifacts in a safe environment. Museum4punkt0 places a further focus by working with virtual installations that serve to mediate through the experience of objects and cultural-historical backgrounds. This opens up completely new ways for visitors to experience art and culture.
Industry and businesses are also experimenting with VR in digital learning. Fraunhofer IGD is setting a good example and introducing the Machine @ Hand assistance system in numerous industries. It is a virtual training world in which trainees can digitally learn complex action sequences and thus acquire the highest level of certainty. The system was initially developed for engineering. Using VR glasses, assembly, maintenance and repair work can be simulated for the trainees. These processes are often complex and could previously only be taught through exercises on real machines. In some cases, this is not only dangerous, but also costly. In short: this approach is no longer up to date.
Many ideas around virtual reality are slowly getting out of their infancy and are being used seriously in various areas and industries. So that the user can also concentrate on what they have experienced in the virtual world and does not fail to use it, more and more UX designers are dealing with this technology. Stay excited!
Trend 6: Human-AI Interaction Guidelines
The support of different technologies through artificial intelligence (AI) is spreading more and more. This creates many advantages and opportunities that would otherwise not exist.
At the same time, the use of artificial intelligence represents a challenge for the design of user experiences. A good example of this is the behavior of AI. Good user experiences usually live from their consistency, among other things. Consistency is a classic and desirable design guideline that ensures that user interface behavior remains predictable and that unexpected changes occur only minimally. However, AI continuously learns and lives from changing and adapting its behavior in certain situations.
Microsoft has therefore been dealing with this topic for over twenty years in order to develop new design principles that meet the requirements of the user experience and the flexibility of artificial intelligence. This resulted in the Human AI Guidelines, which Microsoft published in 2019.
Research and evaluation of these guidelines will continue and will become an important issue for all of us in the coming years. From a UX perspective, this is a definite trend that should be observed in 2020.
Every year ideas and trends come up again and again, which usually disappear just as quickly as they came into being. Not every company wants – or should – to blindly follow every trend, but to get an idea of which ones are sustainable, fit the company itself and offer added value.
It is helpful to get an idea of which trends represent “Real UX Trends”. As already mentioned, during my research I came to the observation that they have one thing in common – or more precisely three:
- Not only do they have to be technologically feasible, they always have to be combined with affordability and useful benefits.
- Visualization of the connection between feasibility, affordability and utility using a triangle
- If technologies meet these requirements, they have the best chance of being accepted by users and thus develop into valuable, real trends.
In order not to bet on the wrong horse, you have to look at changes in the digital industry over a longer period of time and evaluate them with a view to their sustainability. It’s about the big picture. This task requires a lot of effort. But you do not have to do this yourself – you have us for that. Code Creators Inc. is well-reputed in the industry for providing high-quality and affordable website and mobile app development services to its clients all over the world. Get in touch with us and let us advise you.