Design is one of the key elements that define a product’s success. Design is everything, from the way a product looks to the way it makes people feel when they’re using it. Each year we learn something new about design. Now, with 2017 almost over, it’s the perfect time to reflect on the most influential UX trends of the year.
In this article, I’ll overview 14 of the most significant changes in both the visual and technological aspects of design.
1. The Rise Of Minimalism
In 2017 many big brands switched to a simpler, minimal design. Clean lines, generous whitespace, and minimal graphical elements became the basic characteristics of many apps and services, and it’s not a coincidence. Minimalist design aims to address user’s problems through clear visual communication, by bringing forth what’s really important: the content. This design emphasizes content, and a minimalist user interface combined with great usability is really impressive in action. If it’s easy to navigate, a simple app or website can be a very powerful form of communication.
Simplistic layouts became a mainstream trend both for websites:
Web version of YouTube (2015 vs 2017)
And mobile apps:
Facebook for iOS (2015 vs. 2017)
2. Video Everywhere
Sight is said to be the strongest of all human senses. Imagery has long been a staple of user interface design, but in 2017 we saw that its success had slowly paved the way for its natural successor: video. They say a picture paints a thousand words, but a video does that tenfold and there’s a good reason for that– while traditional imagery is static, video is dynamic. By 2017, online video will account for 74% of all online traffic.
Video became a popular option for landing pages. The video showed on the page can be short and broadcast in a loop, displaying a product in a way that will keep the viewer interested in the story.
Video serves as a means of visual storytelling. It’s able to bring a sensual notion of a product or technology that still photography struggles to match. Tesla gives customers an idea of what it feels like to drive an electric car by using video.
Video’s natural ability to attract visitors’ attention right from the start made it a preferred method of content delivery for many information resources. In 2017 many popular news sites started using embedded videos for their articles.
Video can be a desirable addition to text information. Image credits: CNN
Last but not least, 2017 saw a lot of video content generated by users. The fact that a decent video camera now lives in every pocket made live streaming (Facebook Live, for example) and creating micro-videos (through Instagram Stories and Snapchat Snaps) accessible for almost for every user.
3. Tailored Images And Illustrations in HD Quality
Tailored imagery is a powerful form of communication–it’s able to clarify messaging by boiling down concepts into easily-understandable visuals and establish a stronger personal connection between a product and a user. This year we saw much more interesting photos and illustrations in digital products.
An increased number of devices with high-resolution screens (Retina) forced designers to use only high-quality images and illustrations in design as imperfections will now stand out.
In 2017 users expected to see pixel-perfect images and illustrations. Image credits: Basecamp
4. More Functional And Delightful Animations
Focus on details was really important this year. Animations now play a vital role in UX design, especially on mobile devices where users engage in thousands of interactions and micro-interactions every time they use an app. Carefully choreographed animations are used to increase simplicity in digital experiences and enhance digital interactions.
Functional animation generates engagement, making interactions exciting and meaningful. Image credits: AntonSKV
5. Emotional Experience Beyond User Interface
In 2017 we saw a turn towards emotionally intelligent design. Emotions play a significant role in our decision making; they guide every single decision we make. All experiences create emotions, whether or not you design for them, but emotional design consciously tries to create an emotional connection between the product and the user. Emotional design has come to mean humanizing technology with delightful micro-interactions.
Great design isn’t just about making products that are attractive and usable; it’s about facilitating human-to-human communication. Image credits: Snapchat via Wired
6. Vibrant Colors and Gradients
2017 was the year when bold, bright colors and gradients made a comeback. Designers used vibrant hues to make design more memorable:
To breathe new life into flat design:
By using one of the bright, saturated colors associated with material design, designers evoke a feeling of modernism. Image credit: Ramotion
Or to focus people’s attention on important elements:
When a visitor arrives on the Airbnb homepage, the brand name and the “Search” call-to-action button immediately catch their attention.
Gamification was one of the most important UX trends in 2017. The term ‘gamification’ stands for the technique of incorporating game mechanics into a non-game environment. Some apps used simple elements of gamification such as challenges that encourage users to interact more with an app. But for some apps, gamification became a natural part of the user flow. For example, Duolingo, a language-learning website, and app, makes the user feel as if they’re a real player starting a personal journey of product usage.
Gamification is poured into every Duolingo lesson.
Just a few years ago, the vast majority of apps presented on the market were static in their design and content. They offered the same experience to everyone, regardless of how the user interacted with them.
Recent progress in Machine Learning and AI made it possible for apps to learn about their users’ preferences. This made it possible to deliver the most relevant content to each individual user. Today, users expect to have individual experiences when they interact with products. Users want apps that seem to know them.
There are a few great examples of personalization on the market. One of them is Spotify. Spotify has proven how good machine learning can dramatically increase user engagement. Not only does the app store and play music that a user likes, it also helps that user find new songs or artists they may have missed related to what they’re listening to right now.
We’re all different, so why should the apps we use behave the same towards everyone? Personalized content from Spotify is based on a user’s preferences.
Some apps take personalization beyond just tailored content. One perfect example is the Nike+ Run Club app for iOS. It allows users to choose a workout plan, which then adapts automatically depending on the progress the users makes. Basically, users choose what they want to achieve and the app tracks their progress, tailoring the workout routine for best results. It feels like a real fitness instructor living in your pocket.
Nike understands that each body is unique, and there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all workout routine.
Personalization will remain an important trend in 2018.
9. Mobile Payment and Data Security
The mobile payments space has been touted as the next big thing for some time now. Industry experts have predicted that the ubiquitous nature of mobile devices will lead to the end of the traditional wallet. In 2017 we saw increased evidence suggesting credit cards will soon be replaced by mobile payment systems. Some regions around the world have switched almost entirely to mobile pay. For example, cash is already pretty much dead in China as the country lives the future of mobile pay. Chinese stores and services are increasingly centered around mobile pay apps like WeChat Pay and Alipay.
Cash and credit cards will soon give way to new technology embedded in our mobile phones. Image credits: Apple Pay via Gizmodo
A large number of online payment methods has made security an important trend in the mobile app world. Security in mobile apps will definitely remain an important trend in 2018.
In 2017 wearables became even more sophisticated. With the recent release of Apple Watch Series 3, users are able to make a phone call using wearables alone. This means that wearables have the full potential to replace smartphones for some groups of users in the near future.
An Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE has the potential to be a true iPhone replacement. Image credits: thenextweb
11. Conversational Interfaces
Both 2016 and 2017 were standout years in the development of conversational interfaces (user interfaces that mimic chatting with a real human), driven by developments of chatbots and voice-interaction interfaces.
Chatbots have found popularity in mobile apps, with popular chat clients such as Facebook Messenger and WeChat. There is lots of opportunity and interest in creating holistic conversational solutions. A study by ComScore reveals that the average smartphone owner typically uses only three apps frequently, and at least one of them is a messaging app. Chatting is a very natural interaction to people since that’s how we primarily interact with each other. This makes the use of chatbots much more intuitive and easier than clicking a bunch of buttons and navigating complex menus in user interfaces.
Facebook M is using this seemingly natural approach to make everyday tasks as easy as sending a few text messages.
Voice interfaces became popular with virtual assistants such as Siri, Cortana, and Amazon’s Alexa. Voice interaction technologies are slowly but fundamentally changing the way users interact with interfaces–instead of relying on touchscreens, mouse clicks, and keyboard commands, more users are gaining an appreciation for hands-free computing for everyday needs such as getting the weather forecast or finding a recipe.
Amazon’s Echo, a voice-controlled system. Credits: ibtimes
Both chatbots and voice-interaction systems will continue to grow in 2018. Conversational interfaces have the possibility of becoming the major type of interface people interact with.
12. Augmented Reality
Besides conversational interfaces, another direction which promises to completely change the way we’ll use apps in the near future is the emergence of augmented reality (AR). In 2017 both Apple and Google released augmented reality platforms for developers–ARKit and ARCore. New frameworks allow developers to easily create augmented reality experiences for both iOS and Android.
While both virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are promising new mediums for development, one factor that will put AR ahead of VR is the practical value of it. The biggest benefit of AR technology is that it allows seamless integration of a digital product into a user’s life. The possibilities for integrating the virtual and real worlds are endless. For example, one of the most impressive, useful tools on the AR platform released in 2017 was Measurekit–a simple AR app that can be used to measure almost anything using just an iPhone or iPad camera. It can be helpful for almost any user.
13. Virtual Reality For Entertainment
VR is fast becoming the future of entertainment. In 2017 we saw a few great VR experiences such as Beauty and the Beast in VR. It’s predicted that the number of active VR users will reach 171 million in 2018 (almost double the number of users as 2017). However, the vast majority of users will be KT&T and gamers.
Disney brought the magic of Beauty and the Beast to VR. Image credits: Disney
Beyond games, we’ll certainly see VR creep into other aspects of everyday lives in 2018. The fact that VR can now be experienced in the browser means that e-commerce giants like Amazon, eBay and Shopify will be acutely aware of the need to diversify their platform and embrace VR when it comes to online shopping.
14. Design Sprints And Boom Of Prototyping
In 2016 and 2017, design sprints became increasingly popular among product teams. Championed by Google Ventures, the concept has been adopted by design teams all over the world to improve their UX design processes.
A design sprint gives teams a shortcut to learning without building and launching. Image credits: Google Ventures
As well as working together on design sprints, many creative teams realized the importance of prototyping when crafting digital products. New prototyping tools significantly improved the workflow for designers, enabling them to spend more time thinking about end users rather than starting from scratch every time.
Adobe XD allows designers to go from wireframe to interactive prototype in seconds and test the design.
It’s clear that 2017 was as much about the technology as it was about interface design. In the tech world, 2018 will continue to see many changes day by day. As designers and developers, we must adopt these trends if we want to create good user experiences.