The Future is Already Here

rocketair product design team blog author fuel for thought
RocketAir Crew
February 17, 2020
product design trends 2020 and beyond cover

A look at the big design trends for 2020 and beyond

As we enter a new decade, it’s hard not to feel as though the product designer’s role is going to continue to change in very profound ways over the next 10 years. If the last decade was one in which we saw immense innovation in how products are built and designed – and how these innovations vastly improved the user experience – it seems likely that there will now be even more pressure on designers to exert greater control over these innovations, ensuring that the user experience is not just better, but also safer.

There is the sense among many that the 2010s were the decade when tech lost its way – when Big Tech, specifically, put profits over ethics – and it has caused people to become more distrustful of the products they are using on a daily basis. What this means is that in the 2020s, the user experience is going to have to be designed, in part, with the idea of restoring this trust; to assure users that their data is protected, that they know when and how they’re being tracked, and can therefore feel a little less like they’ve become the product itself.

And it’s not just data; the spread of misinformation on the internet has made everyone more cynical about the products and platforms we use every day.

“In 2020, UX designers and teams will encounter a greater number of clients desiring to make ethical design a top priority,” designer Micah Bowers notes. “In turn, more designers will become familiar with ethical standards while learning how to examine design decisions through the lens of ethical frameworks.”

And so, as we look at 2020 and beyond, we expect to see an even greater priority placed on transparency and data protection. But, of course, the roles of UX and UI designers will continue to be mostly creative, utilizing both older and newer technological tools to innovate the user experience. 

Let’s look at what industry experts see as the biggest trends to watch in this new decade. 

Multiple Realities

Not surprisingly, the industry should expect to see continued advancements in how augmented reality and virtual reality are utilized in product design. The former is at the moment more relevant to what UX and UI designers are doing with product development, but designers are going to have to think seriously about expanding their skillset and knowledge base in order to gain a firmer grip on both AR and VR technologies. 

“We need to forget UI fixed to screens,” suggests designer Andrea Fabian, writing about augmented reality. “Instead, we should emphasize interactions which feel like they take place within the real-world environment.”

Dmytro Dvurechenskyi, CEO of openGeeksLab, points out that a number of large corporations across multiple industries are already utilizing AR in their digital products. This includes Gucci’s app, which allows users to digitally try on their products, and Toyota, which offers an immersive AR experience that lets people look at their vehicles as though they were at the dealership’s showroom.

“Implementing augmented reality and virtual reality technology allows integrating the fictional digital elements into the real-world image by offering users an entirely fresh look at the daily routine,” Dvurechenskyi explains.

Intelligent and Accessible

Designers are already making significant strides in utilizing artificial intelligence, but AI has only really scratched the surface of its potential. Designers will be tasked with finding new ways to implement this technology in their products – and beyond making the user experience more seamless, AI could be used to make products more accessible to all users.

The accessibility issue is already a big deal for website design, with an increasing number of legal cases putting pressure on companies to ensure the inclusivity of their products. However, Micah Bowers notes that the process for getting a website accessible “is time consuming, costly, and plagued by a major flaw,” which is that websites “that have been modified for accessibility immediately become non-compliant once an update occurs.”

But Bowers points to AI services that now “scans sites at regular intervals, and when updates occur, the site is modified and made compliant,” which saves both time and money.

“The accessibility requirements of motor, cognitive, and visual impairments (along with epilepsy) are all accounted for,” he explains. “Expect to see accessibility soar in 2020 as more teams and organizations integrate these AI services into their design process.”

A Need for Speed

We are all hearing a lot about 5G these days, especially as it relates to the performance of the mobile technology on our phones. And while 5G is just now starting to be deployed, expect to see its implementation begin to ramp up this year; Apple, for example, has confirmed that all of its iPhones released in 2020 will support 5G. 

The upgrade to 5G means that you will have to design your products with these faster speeds in mind, as noted by a report from UIUXTrend.com.

“Data transfer speed and latency time will improve significantly,” he writes. “What this means for you is that slowness on any page, any function, any moment is not acceptable to users anymore.”

In fact, the 5G network will be ten times faster than its 4G predecessor, as a report by Value Coders points out, so you have to make sure that “any mobile services, be it an application or a website, optimize it for mobile to support the speed and full capabilities of 5G networks.”

Let Your Voice Be Heard

While we’re not quite ready to consider Alexa another member of the family just yet, carrying on a conversation with a small cylindrical speaker has become a lot more normal today. It’s clear that Amazon’s virtual assistant has done a lot – along with Apple’s Siri – to help us reconsider how we interact with and use our digital devices, with AI and voice user interfaces (VUI) allowing us to now speak our commands.

It is almost certain that we will continue to see an expansion in the utilization of voice control features on digital products, with eMarketer forecasting that over 1000 million smartphone users will be utilizing voice assistants in 2020. 

“Brands are incorporating voice search technology as more and more mobile apps are beginning to incorporate vocal user interfaces (VUI),” as the report by Voice Coders explains. “At least, the companies are trying to integrate VUI in some capacity to meet the changing expectations of smartphone users.”

However, the report notes that “many roadblocks” remain for voice search experiences, including accessibility challenges. Thus far, “voice technologies have shown difficulties in accurately identifying instruction where heavy accents or background noise is present.”

But the continued push by brands to increase the use of voice search experiences will require designers to broaden their approach to building products.

“Changing interfaces requires mobile app designers to abandon old techniques and mindsets for what it means to design a mobile app experience,” the report notes.

Story Hour

The industry continues to improve how it uses design to tell a story as brands continue seeking out designers to help them with storytelling. This is one of the reasons why UX and marketing copywriting are being blended together at the best firms, incorporating both into the design process.

“The ability to tell great stories around a digital experience will continue to trend among the best,” according to Andrea Fabian. “Typography itself can build a strong visual hierarchy. An extremely crucial element of UI, it plays a major role in bringing about an excellent user experience.”

Fabian notes that copywriting “has become one of the most important elements for a great user experience and it will hold its ground in the upcoming year” because if it is effectively utilized, it will help guard against having users just scan past all the content on your site.

“While the style captures the users’ attention, the narrative engages them with a brand because it makes them feel like they’re part of the story,” she adds.

There’s No ‘I’ in Team

As UX and UI design becomes inseparable from business success, companies across industries are expanding their budgets to hire talented designers. And as more money gets allocated to product design, it means there will be an increase in the demand for specialized UX professionals, according to Emerson Schroeter, writing for InVision.

“As design teams grow in the new year, it’s clear we’ll see even more demand for UX professionals who can thrive in an increasingly-integrated product development experience,” Schroeter writes.

Looking at the positions that companies like Airbnb, Google, Microsoft and Amazon have recently been looking to fill, Schroeter points to a need for UX designers that have experience working with style guides, or have “an ability to communicate on highly technical levels with data scientists and engineers,” as well as UX writers and researchers with a background in project management.

But while there is a greater demand for individual designers with specialized skill sets, designers Fabricio Teixeira and Caio Braga are encouraging a movement toward making design more of a “team sport,” rather than having a team made up of individuals working in silos. Writing in their State of UX in 2020 report, Teixeira and Braga note that product design is a “horizontal discipline,” but designers often find themselves isolated within their product teams and see very little collaboration with other teams.

“Our natural ability as designers to empathize with others and understand their motivations can work in our favor within our companies as well,” they write. “In 2020, being an enabler in our organization means bringing the team together towards a common goal, checking your ego at the door, and creating a safe space for collaboration regardless of titles or departments.”

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