The Top 7 UX Design Trends of 2021
Here are the 7 fastest-growing UX design trends this year. And the companies paving the way forward.
Whether you’re a designer, developer, or just interested in technology, these are the key tendencies in user experience design (UXD) to look out for right now.
1. Motion Design & Interactivity
“Hotjar” searcges are up 92% in 5yrs.
App users are getting more impatient by the day. Keeping them engaged is tricky. But designers are stepping up their game to meet the challenge.
Tools like Hotjar, with its renowned heat maps, provide crucial analytics. There is no longer any mystery about how users interact with your website.
You can see where users are clicking, and even their scrolling behavior. Which makes it easy to see where they're getting lost. Or just plain losing interest.
How are UX designers responding?
Well, one solution for 2021 is motion design.
The idea is to “grab down” the attention of the user. You can save their time and direct them to a remarkable experience.
Some of the courses available at motiondesign.school.
Motion design is now in high demand. Designers (and employers) realize that it's often the best way to hold user attention and improve comprehension.
Another way to tackle short attention spans is increased interactivity. Every use case will be different, but expect more micro-interactions and animated scrolling.
2. Simplified User Experience
“Flutter” searches took off in 2018 and haven’t looked back since.
Usability testing increasingly shows that less is more. That the best UX comes from getting the basics right.
Which is why designers are striving to only implement essential features.
Developers are able to keep it simple through the likes of Flutter. Flutter is Google’s portable UI toolkit that allows developers to create beautiful apps from a single codebase.
Flutter is making its name by offering complete control over every pixel on the screen. Many see it as the future of custom design. And with 49.5K Google searches each month in the US alone, that momentum is showing no sign of slowing down.
Few things illustrate the trend towards leaner user experience as much as the increase in single-page applications (SPAs).
SPAs aren’t a new phenomenon for 2021. But developers are starting to turn to this option more frequently.
They're are easy to use, thanks to less jumping around. And we should expect to see them more and more in 2021.
Searches for “React” over time.
Who uses React?
Companies include Netflix, American Express, and (unsurprisingly) WhatsApp.
3. Added Authenticity
Searches for "deep fake" regularly spike when one reaches cultural prominence. But the overall trend is clear.
According to the BBC, the number of online deep fake videos doubled between January and October of 2019.
And the MIT Technology Review described 2020 as "the year deep fakes went mainstream".
Users are bound to have trust issues.
Without user confidence, all other UX design developments become irrelevant. That makes authenticity a primary consideration for designers in 2021 onward.
The way forward involves making adequate provisions for fact-checking. And more emphasis on ethics across the board.
For example, social networks are adding disclaimers and warnings:
Instagram has rolled out false information warnings in some parts of the world.
But progress on this has been inconsistent so far.
UX designers and data scientists are working hard to combat fake news. And features like Instagram's false information warnings became much more commonplace during the 2020 US election.
But we’re unlikely to see any perfect solutions in 2021.
4. Designers Have Upskilled
Searches for “UX design” haven’t yet returned to the heights of 2019.
UX expertise means taking and prioritizing input from a wide range of stakeholders. The design process now, more than ever, requires a rigorous feedback loop.
But that doesn’t mean the role of the designer has been downplayed within corporate strategy.
Far from it.
Instead, we are starting to see the rise of "business designers".
This emergence is happening in two ways.
First, strategists are seeing how much they can improve their personal resumes by learning design skills.
Flip that around and there are also established UX designers looking at the big picture. They’re now willing to spend less time on code. And more time on corporate strategy.
Here is the ideal mentality of a business designer, according to Beyond Users:
That's one way for a UX designer to "check all the boxes" and advance their career: master all six of those mindsets and become business designers.
Business designers dissect the viewpoints and information provided by all collaborators. That may include data scientists, illustrators and content creators. But one person is tasked with bringing it all together for a coherent strategy.
All this may explain why “UX design” searches haven’t yet surpassed the 2019 high watermark. Job titles are evolving.
5. Content Specialists Are Finding Their Niche
Google searches for “UX writing” are growing each year.
As you just saw, designers are now expected to tie a lot of different strands together.
In 2021, there is increased appreciation for text.
Content is seen as a critical part of the design process. Painstaking creative processes are too often damaged by disconnected copy.
With that now broadly accepted, the status of UX writing is rising along with Google searches for the topic.
And pay has followed suit.
Glassdoor estimates that an average UX designer salary is $85K.
And UX writers? According to Neuvoo, they can expect an average of $128,700.
What's more, this is one area where businesses are reluctant to turn to AI.
That’s because of an emphasis on "humanly writing". A level of personal connection is seen as vital to how users interact with and relate to a product.
6. AI Remains Part Of The Solution… In A Controlled Way
“Robotic process automation” searches over time.
AI isn’t a great solution for content creation yet.
But it would be strange to look at current UX design trends without mention of artificial intelligence.
Computational design is the transition from people designing things for human consumption… to devising programs to do it for them.
To put it another way, AI is being utilized to speed up mundane tasks where the chances of controversy are minimal. Clear parameters are set with the objective of mimicking the human decision-making process. The goal is not for machines to reach different outcomes.
Many image-conscious companies remain wary.
They know product users may see it as a threat. (And that’s without returning to the thorny issue of truth validation.)
But, beyond the basics, AI is also dictating progress in the UX design world when it comes to iteration. For example, creating numerous versions of a single landing page.
This leads us nicely into our final trend.
7. Inclusive Design + Design Auditing
“Trustpilot” searches haven’t seen any significant dips over the past 5 years.
How does using AI to create multiple landing pages change things?
Because it makes every user feel like the app has been designed just for them. And that's revolutionary.
Customizable layouts are created off the back of huge data samples. Users don’t always know exactly what they like and why. But they certainly know how they feel.
That's where review sites like TrustPilot come in. They let users publish their undiluted feedback. Feedback that plays an important role in design audits.
Smart UX designers listen hard to the straight-talking criticism, and take their next steps accordingly.
Inclusive design is another hot part of this trend.
You can't make people feel like something has been designed for them if they don't see themselves IN the design.
The makers of a survival game called “Rust’’ made headlines back in 2016 for their decision to randomize each player’s character’s skin color.
That may have been controversial four years ago. But UX designers are still working to represent everyone today.
There is ongoing pressure from tech influencers to solve UX challenges for all members of society. Many are stepping up in response. Accessibility and inclusion are now central to many design briefs from the very beginning.
That can only be a good thing.
Wrapping Things Up
There you have it: the 7 biggest UX design trends in 2021.
The strategic importance of getting it right is more significant than ever. But the opportunities are bigger than ever, too.
Any way you cut it, 2021 is bound to be an exciting year for UXD.