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Experts Speak: 7 UX Design Trends to Watch

Posted on 1.06.2016

By Talin Wadsworth, Project Comet, Adobe

UX design took center stage in 2015. The technology industry began paying attention to design in a way it never has before.

In addition to a greater desire, if not a necessity, for responsive design, innovations like wearable technology and virtual reality drove designers into new realms, opening up doors that were previously not possible and, in many cases, not even imaginable. 

The narrative on the human experience and how we interact with technology, interfaces and brands evolved in 2015 as technology and screens continued to play a bigger role in our everyday lives. People began to expect experiences that felt more personal and authentic, and they wanted designs to be so good that no matter the intended objective, the transaction was seamless. 

We also found a renewed conversation in UX design around functionality and simplicity. In fact, in 2015, “flat,” “clean” and “minimal” were the three of the most common tags UX and Web designers used on Behance. Not only do consumers desire these types of interactions, but designers want to the ability to create these simple designs quickly. 

So where does it go from here? Let's look to several UX experts for their predictions on where UX design is heading. 

TREND # 1: UX Design Moves Off The Screen

"Digital is moving from something we use inside of screens and devices to something that lives in the everyday objects around us, and the places we move through. User experiences will play out across a bigger, messier ecosystem. Designing for this new reality will require thinking more broadly, considering how people touch a service across many points. We saw the rise of mobile shatter desktop conventions—this will be an even bigger transformation. In 2016, UX designers will have the chance to establish the interactions that make up this new world of digital products and connected places."

- Larry Johnson, Executive Strategy Director at Odopod

TREND # 2: Anticipatory Design to Become More Common

"Anticipatory Design is the ability to predictively design and serve up the best experience possible. We're at a point now where we as designers can create and give users what they want before they even know they want it. This plays a huge role when users are having experiences that span context and medium. I believe we'll see more of these anticipatory and ambient experiences in the coming future."

- Joe Johnston, VP, Experience Innovation at Universal Mind

TREND # 3: Responsive Design Expands to Included Reactions to User Behavior

"In the coming year and beyond, I'm anticipating a shift in what we think of when we say responsive design. That paradigm still largely refers to a site adapting to width and size with media queries, but I hope to see (and attempt) some leaps in how user behavior will literally trigger or inform responsiveness. The Grid boasts the ability to adapt presentation to content with AI, and that sounds intriguing and awesome. But I'm thinking of intuition technology that 'learns' a user based on their behavior on the site, the same way some apps do, and then immediately customizes itself using that information. Think A/B testing on speed. How a user is interacting with the content thus far, what they've clicked on and how quickly, where they're hesitating, their scroll speed, and even what they hover over but choose 'not' to click on will modify the site itself. It will constantly be responding to what it's learned, essentially, and present different content or even change the structure altogether in an effort to engage that user longer."

- Sarah Huny Young, Creative Director at SDCA

TREND # 4: The Development of Niche Specialties and Formal UX Design Education Programs

"UX is a vastly growing field, both in research and application. In 2016, we will start to see that growth fragment into subspecialties including but not limited to Web, mobile, product development, virtual and physical environments. As the traditional 'Web' fades away, UX professionals will find themselves in niche situations and will gravitate toward unique and divergent design practices that are laser focused on a specific user context. User experience design will continue to take its place as the heart of modern business and commerce, and because of this, we will see a shift in the academic community from HCI and Interaction Design to more focused UX curriculums. As of now, most UX professionals did not go to school for their trade; I believe this year we'll start to see an emergence of PhD programs in User Experience Design."

- Ron Edelen, Partner + Chief Creative Director, Myjive

TREND # 5: An Increase in Voice Recognition and Gesture-Based Design 

“2016 is going to be another exciting year for the progression of user experience. UX will progress not only visually but voice recognition technology will also start to emerge as a more accessible input. Visually with minimal design staying put, designers will continue to explore depth and layer for differentiation. As touch becomes more standard, we will continue to see not only a rise in the use of gestures, but also consistency in gestures across apps, devices and platforms.”

- Dave Benton, Founder/Creative Director at Metajive

TREND # 6: UX Designers and Entire Organizations Align

"In some ways, I hope that we don’t see too many dramatic changes to the user experience field in the next year. New design trends, new tools, and new processes can only go so far in making us more effective designers. I think the majority of organizations still have a long ways to go to master the basics of understanding customer needs and effectively translating those into useful and delightful products. Even design-oriented companies can struggle with identifying core user problems and prioritizing work that helps focus on these issues instead of building features for the sake of building features. 

"I hope to see a greater focus on getting entire organizations to be more user-focused, and getting everyone aligned on doing the right thing for the user. User experience is not the sole responsibility of designers, but rather of everyone responsible for building and shipping quality products. Until we gain this alignment across all of our organizations, we cannot effectively evolve the practice of user experience design."

- Catriona Cornett, Director of Product Design at SalesforceIQ

TREND # 7: Designing with Context will be Crucial

As customers interact with applications at a time, location and device of their choosing, it will become increasingly important to incorporate real-world context. Designing in the abstract will only result in the learning happening later, when the application is available to customers, at which point it can be costly and disruptive to make adjustments.

Design tools can play an important role here in a few ways: helping bring in real-world data into the visual and interaction design phases; providing device-specific design-time previews; or enabling simulation of on-device inputs such as user location, so that the designer can get ever-closer to reality without ever leaving their design tool of choice.

- Andrew Shorten, Director of Product Management at Adobe

Where do you think UX Design is heading? Let us know in the comments below.

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