Designing the Future: 2021 UX/UI Design Trends

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10 UX/UI Design Trends to Follow in 2021

 

1. Imagine Physical While Designing Digital

While millions of people worldwide continue to distance themselves from each other due to the pandemic, digital experiences and online communication channels have become more vital than ever. This situation has sparked a new urgency to expedite online experiences to close the gap between available products and the consumers still stuck at home. One example of an effective pivot that occurred during the pandemic is from a clothing company, Diesel, with their digital showroom. Diesel encouraged remote buying through digitally recreating the try and buy process. 

2. Frictionless Proximity Interactions

Usage of our personal mobile devices has risen ever higher during the pandemic, while our willingness to touch surfaces in shared spaces—such as ATM machines and gas station pumps—has plunged. Even after vaccines have been widely distributed, people’s collective trust in public experiences will be broken for quite some time. Proximity interactions will become more contactless, and a new series of frictionless experiences will be called for in order to give back the comfort and confidence consumers seek.

3. Design for Everyone

One in five people live with a form of disability. Remote work and forced isolation have increased our reliance on digital tools, provoking an even greater urgency to ensure that the platforms we all use are visually, cognitively, aurally, and physically accessible to everyone. Designers must carefully direct more time, attention, and expertise to create adaptable and inclusive experiences for all.

4. Break the Grid (Responsibly)

Since the days of movable type, designing on a grid has been the best approach to fitting all elements of a layout together, both in print and on screen. Grids have made web interfaces faster and responsive across browsers and devices. However, grids have also arguably played a role in diminishing the unique look and feel of digital products and services. Designers of the future will embrace opportunities to create asymmetrical designs and, when appropriate, responsibly break the grid in order to invent new ways to display content and products on screen.

5. Much More Than Just Pixels

Design tools such as Adobe XD, Figma, and Sketch have democratized UX/UI design skills and fostered a new generation of designers around the world. However, the top designers of the future will not only be masters at molding pixels into crisp, visually compelling interfaces. More designers will strive to be curious researchers and compelling storytellers who can uncover user needs via qualitative research, write clear narratives and rationales, wrangle pen and paper to sketch low-fi concepts and deliver excellent UI design as the icing on the cake.

6. Design for Digital Wellbeing 

The pandemic took many people’s mental health on a rollercoaster ride. On top of that, we now know that some of the most popular apps and digital services are designed to make us spend as much time using them as possible—maximizing advertising revenues for their shareholders. In the worst cases, these services are designed to be addictive. Designers should be more conscious than ever of the mental health consequences of what we create. We should design with empathy, respect, and integrity for the people who use these tools.

7. The Rise of the Social Media Mall 

As health risks and government restrictions will prevent many of us from visiting physical stores and shopping malls this year, social channels will increasingly become the main way we discover, browse, and purchase products. It will feel even more natural for consumers to buy items on the same platform that they receive recommendations, either from friends, influencers, or ads. Social e-commerce will continue to explode in 2021, and retail brands will invest tremendous energy and capital into meeting consumers where they are—online social platforms—by developing digital retail experiences.

8. Fewer Apps, More Browsing

After years of suggesting to consumers that “there’s an app for everything,” many brands are shifting focus away from apps to lighter platforms such as progressive web apps. Native apps can be difficult to convince consumers to download and expensive to develop and maintain, requiring frequent updates and diplomacy with ever-stricter OS requirements. More and more digital experiences will take place directly on the web, no matter the user’s device of choice.

9. Build User Playgrounds

Today, so many digital services are designed with a relentlessly transactional lens, focusing exclusively on consumer demand and fulfillment in the name of boosting revenues. This methodology can come at the expense of users, who may develop digital fatigue and apathy. Designers have the power to herd users like sheep along the path to purchase, but they also have the creativity to invent playful, engaging experiences that treat users as active, empowered participants. As digital platforms continue to mature, there will be an ever-higher bar for the quality of experience that designers must strive for.

10. Reinvent Rituals to Share Together

As we’ve grieved the in-person rituals we used to share with friends, family, and acquaintances, we’ve also craved new habits and coping mechanisms to help us make the best of our new circumstances. Products and brands in general are investing tremendous energy to devise ways to fill the empty space that those in-person rituals left. In 2021, designers will be tasked to create new experiences to replace in-person ones—an incredible opportunity to create experiences that are healthier, more sustainable, and most importantly, allow everyone to feel closer together—even while distancing.

This post was originally published on Designlab