10 UX Trends and Predictions for 2016

In my last article I explained to you Why understanding Customer Experience makes you a great UX Designer.

Today I will tell you my predictions about the User Experience in 2016.

I am not going to bore you, the web today is full of articles about trends and predictions for 2016.

I am also not going to help you to figure out where 2015 went. Neither will I talk about trivial topics. You already know that a slow application is already a broken one, responsive is necessary, and that Flash is dead. Those things are not predictions, they are obvious.

Without further ado, here are my 10 predictions for 2016.

1. Anticipatory Design

To simplify is the key to design processes, and it is an idea from Aaron Shapiro. He believes that User Experience has to anticipate the user’s behaviour and be one step ahead of the user’s decisions.

I’m pretty much agree with this idea; many years ago technology was built to help humans during difficult times and, therefore, to make things easier.

But since the personal computer was born, the concept has been starting to change from “I need a machine to do difficult stuff” to “The machines can help me in my ordinary life”.

Today the technology is around all of us. Notebooks, smartphones, IoT (Internet of Things) and wearable devices changed again that concept to: “I really want to clear my life, reduce mental efforts, so I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve what really matters”.

facebook-m

Artificial intelligence (AI) will visibly penetrate the web and the next challenge is to make it human. We want the AI to feel so much like you’re talking to a human that you won’t even notice the difference.
Designing contextual information has made great progress over the past few years. Now, AI can help you to take action.

Examples: Google Smart Reply, Facebook M, GoButler, Pana, Siri, Alexa, Cortana, Google Now, JiboClaraAmy and S Voice.

2. User-Centred Design

UCD

From understanding user needs and iterating designs based on user feedback, the best UX come from understanding users. User-Centered designed product may choose to focus on a very small subset of a larger audience to satisfy their particular needs.

Designing processes is moving forward to innovation and the user feedback mechanisms that are used might change, but the core user-centered design process will be a key for the future.

3. Be Persuasive

persuasive-design

A digital product, even if easy to use and with a nice interface, needs to be very persuasive as well.

This design area is born from SEO (search engine optimisation) techniques first and evolved today with the conversion rate techniques. Designers need to know how to use psychology techniques to be persuasive and carry out desired actions.

We can consider Booking.com as the “father” of a product that use all of the persuasive design techniques and encourage people to book.

For those who want to know more about this topic, take a look at these links: theatlanticreciprocitysocial proofing.

4. Wearables Fever

wearable

245 million wearable devices will be sold in 2019.

Crazy eh?

What began with the wearable fitness devices (sleep monitor, pedometers and the heart beat tracker) is now moving into bigger territory (Apple Watch).

With smart watches you can manage emails, meteo, calendar and reminders. You can receive a call and ask info from a personal assistant with your voice.

Now just think that kind of technology is still in the early stage.

From a user experience point of view, there is another consideration.

Using a personal computer the user is expected to spend long periods of time on the PC. Medium periods for tablets and smartphones are expected.

For wearable devices we should design apps that will be able to deliver just the right content and at just the right speed for the user to digest in a quick glance, even out of the corner of the eye.

Elements like typography, colour contrast and context are very important.

5. Embrace Interactive Prototyping

prototyping

Prototyping becomes smarter day by day.

Even 90% of my portfolio was a prototype first.

Prototyping was limited because it was static: Idea->Mockup->Prototype.

That’s it.

But in 2015 there was a “boom” of the interactive tools for prototyping. Invision and Marvelapp are two good examples.

2016 is the year of “interactive prototyping”. UX design is riding on new technologies; designers can’t let the users (clients) imagine animations and the entire user experience.

We need to deliver a prototype that represents our idea of UX. Mainly because the “wow” factor is not the cherry to put on top of our cake at the end of the process anymore. The “wow” factor in 2016 will be the cake itself, and it will be the key to the success of your product.

With smart prototyping you will have great benefits:

  • a user experience very close to the final release;
  • improved time of development (the final prototype can be done by designers without the help of the developers); and
  • a clear understanding of the product, a smart prototype does not need a documentation.

6. Swipe is natural. Swipe is easy.

gestures-tap-swipe

I remember with clarity when the iPhone, with that amazing multi-touchscreen, first arrived on the market in 2007. We were fascinated about how to zoom-in using two fingers and how cool the double tap was. Then, more or less a year later, designers from all over the world started to think about improving the UX.

Swipe was born.

Why is it amazing?
Swiping is a much more natural way to use mobile devices: it is something you can do with only one hand while you are walking. Tinder’s swipe (left/right) has been a great trend in 2015, which simplified the very complicated nature of dating.

In the last quarter of 2015 macro hand gestures, like swiping, grew a lot in the user experience design for mobile devices.

For the big screens, it is especially necessary. Did you check the last update of the photo app from Google and Apple? Now you can close a photo, and come back to the album, with a simple swipe-down gesture. I am not going to stretch my thumb anymore to tap on the top-left arrow.

About this point, I want to give you a piece of advice based on my experience: making an intuitive interface can be an issue unless you explicitly reference a particular user group (personas).

Example: Swiping might be much more intuitive to a younger audience that grew up with touch and gesture interfaces, while pressing buttons could be more familiar to an older audience.

7. Layered Flat Design

layered-flat-design

In the eternal debate between flat design and skeuomorphism, I believe there is a middle ground based on flat design with natural physics. This is the aesthetic side of flat design mixed with a few principles borrowed from skeuomorphism.

The Material design from Google is basically that. It brings the usability of skeuomorphism together with the look of flat design to create an elegant user experience.

I love to call it: layered flat design.

The user has a more intuitive understanding of how elements work. Objects borrow metaphors from the natural word, like weight and inertia, when you manipulate them on your device. They may seem to have weight when you slide them around the screen, and they have shadows and light effects enabled.

8. UX for Home Entertainment

AppleTV

Websites, mobile Apps, tablets, smart watches… What else can we add to complete the technology eco-system and make us (designers) crazy?

Home entertainment is growing fast. Smart objects (IoT) and SmartTV will join to our houses. The domotics revolution won’t happen in 2016, but it will be the year of the transaction from “beta” technology to mature.

The new Apple TV welcomed apps into the home. There will be millions of apps that will soon connect people to the TV.

All the companies want to be there. Can we say that companies like Google, Amazon or Priceline are not interested to join on TVs and to join the excellence of the entertainment devices?

Of course we cannot. They are very interested, and they are ready to invest money in it.

But the question is: Are we ready, as designers, to design products, interactions, animations and experiences for those devices? Are we ready to design seamless connections between the TV and other devices? Are we ready to consider new remote controllers and sensors?

I am not sure about that, but I can say that designers are actually not paying the same amount of attention to TVs as they paid to smart watches one year ago. And that is a mistake we cannot afford. TVs are amazing devices and companies can quickly deal with a massive range of people to sell more products.

Here are good examples: Link.

9. Design micro-interactions

facebook-live-comments

Considering the limitations with bandwidth and power, we will see a lot more movements on mobile apps in 2016.

Animations offer many benefits to UX:

  • it helps to focus to a specific item;
  • it can move the user to the necessary action;
  • it enables the best management of waiting time (i.e. “your friend is writing…”); and
  • designers can simply create a nice and surprising UX.

This part is very important.

I am not talking about only mobile devices. In UX for the web, there are many elements like sliders that will be removed.

In 2016, UX designers will create smart and digestible content that won’t distract the users from the main focus of the product.

10. Storytelling will drive emotions

ui-storytelling

I feel like Steve Jobs when he brought old technologies to the market as elements of advantage. The mouse and touchscreen have been “wow” elements of products that disrupted the market years ago.

I am not really feeling like uncle Steve.

But I really believe that there is an area of UX design that we didn’t consider too much until now: storytelling.

While having amazing content is always key for your product, being able to tell a story through your content will be a huge plus.

User experience design in 2016 will likely focus around helping tell a story to users.

The creation of a story during the product design phase is often difficult to do, it requires good skills, such as creativity and attention to the details. Great stories, though, don’t just happen randomly; they are designed.

There is a pattern at work here. In order to be entertaining, have the right dramatic cues, and tap deep into our collective psyche, a specific method is used to build the story. A story that fails to pull the audience emotionally and keep their attention may not have used enough of these patterns as a guide, as shown in the typical story arc below.

This type of emotional investment is something that brands strive for every day. Starbucks doesn’t want to just sell us a cup of coffee; they want customers to become invested in their story — the ambience, the aromas, the community. The goal is to become the “third place” for people (work, home, and Starbucks). They say, for them, “It’s really about human connection.”

Source – Smashing Magazine

Apple does the same with its stores concept, they built something different from a computer store, they built a cult place where people come to “adore” the products, like a church. So the challenge for 2016 is to bring this concept (Apple, Starbucks and others) to websites and applications.

Jerry Cao wrote about storytelling techniques in order to improve the UX of website and mobile apps. Here is a short summary of his article:

  • Make users a character in the story;
  • Gamify your product;
  • Supplement common actions with interactivity;
  • Make your visuals respond;
  • Hide secondary elements for an “easter egg” effect; and
  • Keep the bigger picture in mind: a beginning, middle, and end.

Here is a nice example of Photo-Storytelling in App Experience: Link.

Conclusion

There are no doubts that improving the UX will be a key priority for companies in 2016. The role of the UX designer will be more as product manager for tech companies.

Here is the list of the 10 topics I identified as trends and predictions for 2016:

  • Anticipatory Design;
  • User-centered Design;
  • Be persuasive;
  • Wearable Fever;
  • Embrace Interactive Prototyping;
  • Swipe is natural. Swipe is easy;
  • Layered Flat Design;
  • UX for Home Entertainment;
  • Animation Design;
  • Storytelling will drive the emotions.

The role of the User Experience is only just taking off and the future is nothing but exciting.

Please leave a comment, I’d love to know what are your thoughts about this topic.

Luca Longo

Luca Longo

8 years of experience in User Experience. Mobile Specialist. Expert in UX/UI, Customer Experience Solutions, Prototyping and Product Management.

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  • Mina

    Great article! With the changing of design trend, the prototyping tools such as Mockplus.com or any other tools will confirm the times and make difference accordingly. More and more smart interactive is needed. That’s a challenge, also an opportunity for these tools.

  • Luca, great article. Totally agree, nothing to add. Thank you!

  • saianjuma1

    Really interesting stuff. With great links, to boot (thanks for showing me/us the google material design site!) One thing I’ve noticed on techcrunch, here, and a few other tech sites… on this day, January 7, 2016, is unproofread grammar. Is this just a symptom of the end-of-year holidays, or are articles going to be posted without editing on sites more and more in 2016? No grammarian myself, I wonder if this points to speedier insights being disseminated, or some other reason?

  • Just a new release of today about Storytelling:
    https://canvas.facebook.com/
    https://standout.adobe.com/voice/

    It seems my prediction was correct!

  • goldpaid777

    Great!

  • Elita Barteaux

    This is a very meaningful insight. Thank you for sharing, you might also like this: http://bit.ly/2fCbDOt