Experts predict 2018 will be the year of envelope-pushing advancement in the field of UI/UX design. Design and interactivity trends come and go, but The Intersect Group has defined a cross-section of advancements that are emerging now and endure have staying power.
These breakthrough trends represent various design doctrines and aspects ranging from micro-interactions to borderless design, but they have two important things in common. First, they’re going to be integral parts of the digital experiences that capture (and hold) user attention. Second, they all contribute to better usability and functionality, and therefore should be well-represented in any prospective UI/UX hire’s portfolio.
So, what are these trends? What’s driving them? How, and why, will they show up in the portfolios of the best UI/UX designers?
Staying ahead of mobile-first trends.
What’s behind the trends? Put simply, vendors increasingly consider mobile users to be their number-one market. What was once a captive, seated, screen-watching audience is now an experience-driven, constantly moving target with the ability to buy a burrito from a 5'' screen in just a tap or two.
Which product they’ll buy depends on experience—and mobile-optimized experiences are king. Google has announced that they’re close to rolling out their new mobile-first index— which would prioritize mobile-friendly sites in search results.
This change, combined with the explosion in upgraded mobile and screen technology, is driving innovation in the front-end design space, giving UI/UX designers the freedom to explore new things. It’s also behind the trends that are resulting in more immersive design and smarter content.
Trend #1: Designs Without Borders
Consider the iPhone X. With its sleek, borderless interface and edge-to-edge imagery, the associated site is more than a marketing tool—it’s a storytelling platform; one which allows the brand or product to take center stage. These “off-grid” interfaces offer smoother navigation and a more intuitive experience.
As borderless design becomes more prevalent, you’ll see them more and more in “innovation-friendly” spaces—that is, enterprise companies will test them out in special marketing campaigns, mobile landing pages, and limited-run experiences. From there, they’ll become more pervasive across platforms—and designers who have mastered the immersive, edgeless experience will be in high demand.
In a portfolio:
Look for examples of one-page or “infinity” screens—web and mobile designs less dependent on traditional navigation bars and multiple pages—those moving away from grid-based design. As a bonus, look for user interfaces that make smart use of another trend; bold, attention-grabbing typefaces. Large, expressive type (especially in combination with a borderless page design) gives users a faster connection to the most important information, allowing them to quickly assess where a deeper dive is warranted.
Trend #2: Video, 3D, and the Huge Impact of a Good Micro-interaction
Video content and 3D elements have long been a part of the online experience; they’ve also been known as slow-to-load, experience-dragging parts of the online experience. Today, dynamic video clips and fast-loading graphics are taking the place of static images and heavy copy blocks. The ultimate brand storytelling devices, full-screen video and 3D solutions are predicted to move into the mainstream this year.
Animation will also be increasingly featured in the everyday web experience—consider the three grey dots that tell you you’re about to receive a return text. That’s an example of a micro-interaction; a non-transactional element that provides a digital experience with an element of continuity. Although subtle, they’re a vital part of everyday digital actions like the “spinning wheel” that lets you know your Mac is thinking.
In a portfolio:
Front-end developers should demonstrate a familiarity with WebGL JS library, which enables design of quick-loading pages featuring 3D elements. A well-designed micro-interaction will feature four elements—the trigger (or “start), the rule (which determines what the function does), the feedback (which shows users what’s happening) and the loops and modes (which determine what is shown on-screen at each predetermined part of the interaction).
Trend #3: Cards FOR Humanity
Pinterest and Facebook were ahead of the cards curve—this approach to mobile data bucketing offers an intuitive way to arrange content under well-labeled “entry doors” into deeper dives on a subject. To icon-conversant users, cards are visual shorthand that indicate there’s more to see and experience.
From a user experience perspective, cards are an invaluable way to break up disparate data, grouping it in a way that shows a relation while allowing users to easily focus on their content priorities. Altogether, perfectly-thumb-sized cards offer a quicker, richer mobile experience when compared to longer-form content that requires scrolling and skimming.
In a portfolio:
Look for an understanding of the design principles behind card design, not just an obligatory example of the design itself. Does the design bucket content in an intuitive way? Do the imagery choices give users a good idea of what they’ll find in a deeper dive? There’s more to card design than little pictures—this is a chance for a designer to expound on an understanding of the marriage of content and design that cards encapsulate so well.
Trend #4: High-Contrast Color
Once the ultimate “Don’t,” bright colors are taking over web design this year. In part, this is due to richer screens and monitors capable of displaying warmer hues and brighter, more vibrant tones. Flat design and “inoffensive” color schemes are giving way to color that is a more active part of the overall design—not just a backdrop for text and imagery.
Gradients and duotone overlays are also having their day in the front-end sun thanks to digital front-runners like Instagram and Spotify. This is a particularly exciting trend in the web space, offering UI/UX designers a chance to extend the brand standard beyond the basic palette, allowing them the opportunity to demonstrate individuality and an eye for color.
In a portfolio:
Look for a wide range of color palettes across platforms and projects. Does the applicant have a good grasp of appropriate color usage by subject matter? Do they make surprising or unusual color choices, and are they able to discuss/defend them? Do they demonstrate an understanding of how different displays affect colors?
Welcome to the Year of Bright, Intuitive, Colorful UI/UX Design
This year, designers and developers will move past the safety boundaries set by design “rules” that have been in place for years, building surprising solutions, immersive experiences, and intuitive, beautiful interfaces that keep pace with device advancements. The companies that hire these designers will be able to test and deploy trends sooner. When you look for your next digital hire, check the boxes on some of the above skills and design thinking and get a head start on delivering the next-gen experiences that customers don’t even know they want yet.
Which of the above trends have you already seen in portfolios? Which do you think will be biggest in 2018? Let us know in the comments.
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