UX design trends in 2020

We’re well into the new year by now, meaning that there has been plenty of time to observe the ever-changing scene of popular UX design trends. Predictions were made at the start of the year on what the new decade would bring - now it’s time to take stock of what 2020 has thus far has actually been all about.

Designing for transparency

The trust of consumers is valuable, something many brands in the past have underestimated. In our current economy we’re seeing more and more brands sharing from the depths of their business and processes. Whether it’s their manufacturing, sourcing or internal team, brands have been experiencing a drastic shift, moving on from ‘fake news’ created to form precomposed perceptions, to focusing on honest and truthful information.

This evolution of the cultural mindset in consumer products and services has begun to be reflected in design. As companies begin making more transparent business decisions, ethical design naturally becomes a priority for their products. UX designers will have to take this approach on board, learning how to examine their design choices for underhanded techniques that exert control over the user.

All those intentionally addictive features that keep you scrolling social media feeds long after you thought you’d be done catching up with the news of the day will be replaced with features that provide users with more awareness and control over their screen time. Dark patterns that ensure misguided subscription and purchasing decisions will be forgotten about. There will be a greater emphasis on ensuring users understand how they use their digital products, what information they are handing over to the business, and what it will be used for. And all those loot boxes that keep your kids (and let's be honest, some of us grown ups too) hooked on video games? Based on calls to cover them under current UK gambling legislation, those are already on their way out.

Asymmetrical layout design

Right now, the grid is king. You hold your rectangular device, looking at its rectangular screen to view rectangular blocks of content neatly stacked up and aligned against each other. It’s clear, it's organised, and it’s easy to get users to find exactly what they want when they want it. It’s also getting boring.

There’s certainly an element of satisfaction in the symmetry of a modular, block by block layout. It makes you feel balanced and secure. Users have grown to expect this symmetry and know exactly how to navigate it. But there are downsides to the usual, to the expected, and advantages to throwing users a curveball from time to time.

Providing asymmetry in UX design gives people a sense of fun, of curiosity, and a desire to explore. When executed properly, an asymmetrical layout gives designers the ability to control how a user’s focus shifts from element to element, creating a more engaging experience that still gets the user to where they need to be without confusing them. There’s a certain empowerment you can provide users by inviting them to explore a platform, and gently guiding them to discover exactly what they were looking for. In 2020 UX designers will become more aware of factors that influence visual perception, learn how to make design choices that are unexpected without being overwhelming, and embrace organic shapes. There’s power in making something different.

Voice over technology

Whether it’s asking Siri to check the weather, telling Alexa to set a timer so you don’t forget to take your dinner out of the oven, or casually tossing a “Hey Google, skip song” at your speaker when you get to that one downer tune in your playlist, Voice User Interfaces (VUI) are beginning to form a standard part of our day-to-day lives. This trend will continue its rise in 2020.

The secret of its spreading success is ease of use. VUI gifts users with hands-free navigation of their digital platforms, while the technology powering them becomes smarter with each use. Thanks to AI, the more they are used, the better voice controlled apps become at working for you. Since most people are used to communicating via speech, this familiar form of operating a VUI-enabled device also allows people with limited technological knowledge to interact with them, bridging the generational gap forming the technological divide.

As more businesses begin to invest in their digital voice strategies in 2020, UX designers will be able to flex their skills by designing platforms with integrated voice control. This doesn’t mean that all digital platforms will suddenly have none, or limited graphical interfaces. VUI is more likely to be supplemental to more traditional product design. Voice may be used to simplify existing user flows, giving users more efficient ways of for example opening sub-menus in navigation or initiating more complex processes with a simple phrase. In 2020, speak and you shall be heard.

Temporal Logos

As the name suggests, temporal design is about approaching design from a perspective beyond the visual and interactive. It’s about progression, change, and providing meaning through context. Temporal design not only trusts users to appropriately interact with design and accurately assign it meaning based on the situation it's presented in, but explicitly relies on them to do so. It is inherently an incredibly engaging form of experiential UX design that is intended to change over time, adapting to and marking the changes to the platform it represents.

In terms of temporal logos, this means that static logo designs are old news, and evolving representations of the brand are the new hot thing.

Gone are the days where the instant association of image with company is largely what brand recognition hinges on. The timelessness of a specific logo is no longer the goal. Instead, temporal logos are designed using themes, shapes, and colours that represent the brand, creating new logos by drawing from visuals associated with past ones. As a growing number of industries conduct business online, updating logos in pixels rather than print makes it a breeze to change logos to celebrate company milestones, update branding, or introduce new products to the market.

For UX designers this means building a library of diverse but stylistically similar logos that can be interchanged based on the context of the content. These can be used as a powerful marketing and user engagement tool; a fresh logo unveiling in anticipation of a new product launch can drum up hype and raise awareness as what is clearly a sibling to the current company logo is shared. It’ll be easier to spruce up the company image with a new set of logos for products without losing the connection to the parent brand. Temporal logo design celebrates the difference a variety of similar facets to a brand can make, and the user’s ability to connect the dots.

The decline of pop ups

If you asked anyone who has spent any significant amount of time online about what their biggest pet peeve was about life on the internet was, there’s a good chance they’ll tell you it’s having their browsing experience interrupted by an unwanted, obtrusive pop up. Whether it’s paid advertising for something entirely unrelated to the site you’re trying to view, unnecessary promotions for a product the company sells, or even a supposedly helpful hint on how to navigate the website, pop ups have been trying to grab unsuspecting users’ attention for years.

In 2020, we’re finally coming to the collective conclusion that people simply aren’t receptive to this kind of experience. No one likes being interrupted by an unexpected annoyance that stops you from getting on with your day. Even in the best of hands, designing a well functioning user experience for a website utilising pop ups is a challenge. Now we’re finally ready to lay this trend to rest.

In its stead, there is an exciting opportunity for UX designers to implement new, better ways of interacting with users. From designing more effective ways of attracting potential customers, to bulking up a website’s number of hits for the month, 2020 is the prime time to create more meaningful, genuinely enjoyable user experiences that still achieve the goals of the business and its product. In 2020, pop ups are out and sustainable user relationships are in.

The take-away

From what we’ve observed during the year so far, there’s a clear theme running through the most popular UX design trends. 2020 is the year of the user. UX design has always been all about the user’s wants, needs, and creating experiences that cater to them. In 2020 this ideology has been turned up a notch. Handing the user more control over their digital experiences, empowering them to do more with the technology at their fingertips, while crafting more engaging digital platforms that trust the user to find meaning in the design, is painting an inspiring landscape that reflects the shifting ideologies of businesses at large. In 2020, we don’t just make things for users to consume. We build meaningful digital experiences that empower users to interact with technology in the ways they decide.

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Martin Sandhu
Founder – martin@nuom.co.uk