For business leaders with hands in the software development process, the future is never far from mind. How will an application adapt to new interfaces? Will a feature that’s important to users now be obsolete in five years? Will the solution scale indefinitely with the business?
UX/UI designers maintain a key sense of users’ needs and expectations. Stepping into the shoes of software designers can orient product owners and business leaders alike as they plan to develop new software in 2018 that engages people in innovative ways.
Web Design Trends 2018: How Will Businesses Engage Users?
Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality
Virtual reality (VR) experiences are composed of content that is synthetic, from the real-world, or some combination of both. Meanwhile, augmented reality (AR) overlays designed content onto real environments.
VR has been around in fits and starts since the 1950s, but recent innovations like Google Glass, Google Cardboard, PlayStation VR, and Oculus Rift are changing the game by increasing access to quality VR/AR experiences.
What will further transform adoption of and innovation in AR/VR is their arrival on web browsers. Open source libraries like WebVR further increase access to and the ability to create VR/AR content.
From video game companies to furniture stores, businesses are beginning to realize how creating innovative AR/VR experiences can help them attract and maintain more users. It’s estimated that by 2020, the AR/VR market will grow to $162 billion.
It comes as no surprise that designers who extend digital landscapes to include these altered realities will ride at the crest of web design trends 2018. But what will distinguish successful designers from those who are just trying to play catch-up in 2018?
Product owners that work with designers who are not just enthusiastic about new developments in technology, but who are also wary of the hype and the poor design that can result because of it.
If a business is looking to really engage users with content in AR/VR experiences, its teams, but especially UX/UI designers, must proceed carefully. Before product owners and their technical staff attempt to build out AR/VR experiences, designers need to be on hand to guide a thoughtful approach with some of the following questions:
- What part of the product, service, or brand experience needs to be enhanced? Why?
- Is AR/VR the best way to enhance that thing?
- If so, what is the desired outcome?
- Is Google Cardboard better for the project, or is HTC Vive or PlayStation VR better?
When modelling effective AR/VR experiences, successful designers may need to shift the UX/UI mindset they have throughout their careers. In traditional UX — and in media in general — the creator or designer wields total control over what the user sees. The viewer controls what she sees in AR/VR, challenging the skillset of even the best UX/UI designers.
This first-person design will force designers to cede some of their creative control as they try to deliver fulfilling experiences to the end user. But by attaining the right balance between the designer’s mind and the user’s needs, businesses can use AR/VR to motivate, serve, and surprise their users in new ways:
- People can preview furniture in their living room before committing to a large purchase
- Venues can increase attendance by opening up live events to VR audiences
- Allow classrooms to travel around the world to enhance curricula
As IoT and machine learning permeate business solutions and consumer goods, designers will increasingly face the challenge of providing excellent experiences in software that adapts its UI to individual needs and habits.
Music streaming services have kept music-lovers listening for years thanks to predictive analytics. But user experiences are shifting from merely personalized to customized and anticipatory as endpoints in IoT networks amass more data than ever. More refined algorithms that interpret this data build the UIs that evolve to unique user patterns.
How will anticipatory design impact UI design across industries?
- Healthcare providers can offer connected health devices that amass information from disparate endpoints, helping users to understand, manage, and treat illnesses
- Over time, personal finance applications can learn a user’s needs and spending habits, offering customized saving or investment strategies to help them meet their unique financial goals
- Smart thermostats adjust to create the climate that suits the needs of whoever is in the room, potentially depending on the weather or the time of day
- A rideshare program might offer its services on the day of an event marked in the user’s calendar
It’s by leveraging predictive algorithms in their software that businesses will stand out from the competition in 2018 and beyond. As increasingly predictive software drives web design trends 2018, designers must do more to account for the user’s needs, personal tastes, spending habits, and other behaviors that inform UX/UI.
What will designers need to master anticipatory UX/UI in 2018?
Anticipatory UX rests on crunching statistics to predict future behavior of software users, so having the right data is crucial. But true success requires advanced expertise and thorough testing, too.
Designers and technical teams alike need to work with normalized data sets (any abnormalities have been eliminated) that are compiled in a model from which conclusions about user behavior can be drawn.
Typically, algorithms that crunch the data are binary, limited to the information the user enters directly into the device. This makes it difficult to teach them about the nuanced factors that drive human behavior. A large challenge for designers will be to pair with teams using algorithms that can be taught why something is the way it is — and not just the what.
Refining algorithms to distinguish between right and wrong will break the feedback loops that can trap the user in just one experience within the software’s greater UI capabilities.
When paired with movement tracking, voice recognition software offers the promise of freeing people from manual data entry when interacting with their devices.
Siri has helped users for a number of years, but newer devices like Amazon’s Echo and Google Home offer a chance to integrate this technology seamlessly — and hands-free — into daily routines.
Voice-activated user experiences will loom large in web design trends 2018 and will further challenge designers going forward.
But the major challenge of voice-activated technologies for users is that they may not understand the breadth of the device’s capabilities at first glance. Unlike traditional graphical interfaces, there is no way for the user to visually understand the options available to her.
An added challenge for designers is accounting for the complexities of human connection and conversation when designing voice activated UIs. Designers aim never to break with a user’s expectations in traditional software design. But the risk of doing so grows exponentially when the human language plays a role in software UX.
Asking a question formally may receive a helpful answer. But what happens when the user prefers slang?
How will designers help business create software that helps users can navigate easily with their voices?
- When designing the UX of voice-activated software, designers will have to provide users with information about what is possible within an application. Alerting someone that “You can learn about today’s top headlines,” is one example.
- Another key component is communicating with the user that the system is listening to his or her question or command. Subtle visual cues can communicate key processes or events from the device to the user.
- Providing ways to exit from an application in the interface is crucial. Whether it’s “exit” or “quit,” the user needs a distinct verbal cue to change between functionalities in the software — elements taken for granted in more traditional UIs, but crucial to evolving technologies and web design trends 2018.
Web Design Trends 2018: to be continued
The end of the year offers the chance for business leaders and their technical teams to realign on product vision. Focusing on web design trends 2018 can orient all parties, but especially designers, as to how a product must meet end users’ needs on their terms.
Part two of this blog can be found here.
Image Source: Unsplash, Alex Holyoake