Category Whitepapers and Guides
I’ve now been working as a full time UX designer for over a year, and recently, whilst between projects, I’ve been reading about the new design trends and specifically what the future of UX design may or may not hold.
Even in the time that I’ve spent as a designer, and especially in the last year, the world has undergone intense changes. We’ve collectively lived through a global pandemic, which in turn has seen the rapid rise of social media (which was already booming!). Now with space travel on the cards, we’re witnessing huge advances in technology and these increased abilities combined with the current state of the world has meant that design techniques and patterns have been working hard to keep up with the solutions for these new challenges.
So how does this affect the future of UX? How does the technology boom and changes in human experience affect design patterns?
Let’s take a look.
Don Norman coined the term “user experience” in the early 90’s. Since then, the number of UXers increased from one thousand to over one million by 2017 and is predicted to grow to 100 million UX professionals by 2050. This enormous growth (according to Nielsen Norman Group) is down to the PC revolution, the web revolution and great press coverage. Steve Jobs accredits the fact we have great typefaces to the fact that he learnt calligraphy at college, and ‘because Windows copied the Mac’, it is now a universal attribute of computers.
As the general public began to rely more on personal computers, the usability of these products had a greater impact on sales. The web revolution meant that users had to interact with a company’s site prior to paying for the product. Because of this, it was really important that businesses prioritised their online presence and the usability of their sites.
Finally, as UX became more well known, company executives, founders and managers could see the positive impact and press that good UX allowed and made room for more UX professionals on teams.
Paying attention to the user’s experience has now become a given. So much so that enjoyable interactions and high-quality designs no longer need to be sold to CEOs. However, because of the now advanced design systems, junior designers have access to a similar skill and ability of many senior designers which, from the outlook that I’ve seen online, has given rise to the worry that the UX career ladder is becoming stagnant.
Personally, I disagree with this outlook. The field of UX design is constantly adapting and evolving with technological advancements. Most importantly, the shift from just good UX design concepts is clear – UX designers must now have an all-inclusive approach to the users’ experience. This means understanding what technologies they’ll be using, how the products are coded and how they deliver, and the overarching business goals that make these good products really sell.
Some argue that this broadened approach – moving away from just pure design work – will ultimately lead to the dissolution of the role and that designers will be forced to specialise (UX Researcher, voice-guided UI designers, interaction designers etc.) It doesn’t have to be that way.
At ECS, we have been trained and allowed access to all aspects of the UX design process and I believe this makes us much more empathetic designers. Designers who understand the entirety of the task at hand. Having said this, specialisation is slightly inevitable in some aspects of UX design. It’s clear from job listings that roles are being specialised and so whilst keeping a broad focus enables a greater understanding and learning of the subject, taking time to practice specialised roles is also important.
AI is of course a worry for many designers – as it is for many professions – however, there are gaps that technology has yet to fill and the human aspect of UX design is still integral to the subject. UX thrives in rapid technological environments and so I don’t believe this is remotely detrimental to the future of UX design in any way (yet!).
The mark of a great designer has always been the ability to analyse and predict the user’s behaviours and needs based on past and present data. Although this can now largely be done by AI (in terms of the data), the sensitive challenges that someone who actually lives the human experience can understand is still lacking from AI. Empathy to challenges involving illness, disability, finances, and family for example cannot be solely relied upon AI.
In terms of the trends I’ve noticed online in 2021, motion design is becoming prevalent in UX design blogs and ideas. It’s a great way to keep users hooked on a product and make the experience as seamless as possible. Filling blank spaces with relevant animations and live transitions is appealing to user’s emotions and helps to keep users engaged.
Mobile devices are now the primary tool for users and everything that is achievable on a laptop or tablet must now also be achievable on a smartphone – this makes mobile design arguably more important than web design for many products. Smaller devices also mean less screen real estate and therefore gestures (swiping, pinching, tapping or tilting the screen) are key. Designing intuitive gestural interfaces allows more content within an app without overcrowding and overwhelming the user.
Altogether, the profession is evolving in new and exciting ways and the requirements and skillsets of UX designers are constantly adapting to our high-tech lives. New user demands, technologies and greater specialisation may make UX evolve faster than it otherwise would have done, but it is a discipline that provides an incredibly solid base for product development, physical interaction design, and coding.
About the author:
Lucia Gore has worked in the Digital Engineering Practice at ECS for 3+ years on a number of client site projects, including The Times, HSBC and Vodafone. After 2 years working as a developer, she trained as a UX/UI Designer and has since been working to improve her skills in this field and deliver outstanding user experience for ECS’s clients.