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2020 UX Design Trends

Mary Carnes
January 21, 2020

2020 UX Design Trends

The new year is in full swing and practitioners of every kind are looking to see which trends are on the up and up. Fast-paced change in the tech industry is a given, and the design community is predicting some major shifts on the horizon. In this blog post, the Crema designers share what themes they see happening in the design world for 2020 and beyond.


Crema designers predict three main themes for the future of design:

  1. There will be a growing awareness of the impact of our design decisions.
  2. Designers will be expected to be more cross-disciplined.
  3. Major changes are coming in device form factors and how we'll interact with them.


In the following sections, we’ll break down these themes in greater detail. Let’s dive in!


The awareness of the impact of our design decisions

We know this first statement is a bit nebulous, so we've broken our discussion into past, present, and future states. In other words, how designers can learn from the past, what they’re doing now, and how they can apply that to the future.


Starting with the past, how do we better understand the design decisions already made that impact our lives and culture negatively?


We've seen this happen with Apple beginning to address how the increased accessibility and usage of mobile devices has had a negative effect on our brains, bodies, lives, and culture as a whole. In reaction, they’ve created Screen Time which allows users to monitor their device usage and set limits for what they want to manage.


People in the tech realm are realizing that some of the decisions that were made in the past to make technology more prominent in our daily lives are having obviously negative effects today. Tis why we’re seeing tech companies (such as Apple) providing ways to combat these consequences.


For designers, it’s hugely important to be able to look at the design decisions made in the past and understand how they influence our culture positively or negatively to know how to create experiences that understand and address those problems.


While features like Apple’s Screen Time (and Google Pixel’s Digital Wellbeing) seem like small steps in the right direction, the momentum could ultimately pick up to create greater change as future generations begin to demand more action. We predict that what we're seeing right now are just the first steps to a larger societal movement.


Looking at where we are today, what design decisions are we making now, and how are we considering our responsibility/impact in each of those choices?


When thinking about the present and what we're doing now, a big trend we’re seeing is form factors that are going beyond a simple slate phone and a desktop. At CES 2020, there were several concept foldable devices and concept cars (Sony announced a shocking concept car). The car industry specifically is diving deeper into the software/tech side of things.


However, just because we can put a screen in a car or fold a screen in half, do we need to? Will it actually be something we begin to incorporate into our daily lives? Until cars can drive themselves, is the tech/car combination just a distraction inside of a vehicle? Just because we can do something doesn't always mean we should. Consider design ethics! It's difficult to have a baseline of an ethic without knowing how exactly it will have an impact on the world.


Finally, looking forward, designers need to be aware of the kinds of design decisions they’ll have to make in the future. In the next few years, we expect to see new types of technology and devices such as VR, AR, Gesture Control, Voice Design and much more, prevalent in our digital culture.   The same way they adapted to smartphones, designers will need to be ready to design for Apple AR Glasses, more relied upon wearables, or fully gesture controlled screens.


Before designing for these new technologies that will shape the world we live in, you should understand what kind of change you want to set into motion. This way, when you're faced with new technologies and new contexts to design for, you can make strong, clear decisions about the way you're impacting the world. Just in 2020, we're going to see a rise of designers being called to be more responsible for their decisions and a trend of them being more careful and thoughtful.


The expectation for designers to be cross-disciplined

In the tech space, we've begun seeing an expectation for developers to become more cross-disciplined. A similar trend is happening within the design community for designers to have a more cross-disciplined mentality as well. This is one of the reasons open design has become so prevalent in 2020.


Working in cross-disciplined teams instead of being an individual designer allows you to have a better understanding of the different practitioners you’re working with. Rather than being siloed into one portion of work for 3 months, you’ll walk alongside a developer through the entire process of creating a product. This work dynamic will help designers to have a well-rounded understanding of the way HTML, CSS, APIs, etcetera work.


Being in an environment that is naturally cross-disciplined will ultimately provoke more opportunities for growth and learning. Product teams are a perfect example of this type of environment. Forcing yourself to get out of your comfort zone and making you a more valuable team member.


If you’re a designer looking to engage your skills in other disciplines, check out these tools:

These front end design pieces mimic and mirror the way that development works. Using these sorts of tools gives designers a common language to collaborate with. It also gives designers a better idea of the context that their designs can be developed in.


The changes in device form factors and how we will interact with them

Virtual Reality (VR) has been on the scene for a while, and now Augmented Reality (AR) is stepping to the forefront. So what are the significant differences between the two? VR is reserved for experiences you couldn't have overlaid in your current reality, while AR integrates into the space you’re currently in. VR is more of a standalone technology, while AR can be implemented into our current day-to-day.


We’re already seeing AR experiences in nascent forms, like Ikea’s Place app that allows users to overlay furniture in their rooms at home. Since AR integrates into activities we're already doing, we don’t predict there to be a huge shift with this kind of technology. The changes will likely be that it gets better, looks better, and is more reliable. People will begin to get comfortable with these types of experiences, which will make for a smooth transition for widespread use.


You know how high-resolution TV's are wildly more popular than 3D TV's? We predict we'll see a similar dichotomy where VR will start to fall away and AR will rise to the top. AR is taking what we already have and improving upon it, where VR deviates into a different realm (like the 3D TV). With these various types of technology, we've seen small steps towards them being normalized, accepted, and even expected at some point.


Another type of tech that we're starting to see is gesture control. Gesture control is the capability for technology to recognize and interpret movements of the human body in order to interact with and control a computer system (without direct physical contact). The Google Pixel phone is a great example with it’s GC feature. While it might seem silly at first, people often become comfortable with a form of technology and expect it in the future.


Will this be the case with gesture control? It’s difficult to say, as it could be viewed as gimmicky and fall by the wayside. Although, if it is what it needs to be upon release, then it may be successful. Voice control is similar to gesture control in that they feel gimmicky at first, but could seamlessly integrate into what we do every day and won’t require you to look at a screen.


While we as designers don't have a huge impact on those decisions right now, it's good to be aware of the landscape to foresee the potential shifts that may happen in the future. You just might be called one day in the not so far future to create a voice or gesture design. It all points back to knowing the kind of change you want to make as a designer.


Wrap up

Thanks for reading, people! If you’d like to see the full-length discussion about 2020 UX trends amongst the Crema designers, check it out here.

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