If there’s one thing we know about User Experience (UX), it’s that things will look very different in 12 months’ time. Digital design and user testing is an ever-evolving field. What’s cutting edge in February is probably passé by June. In 2018 we saw the surge of data-driven UX (rising on the same cloud-based tide that influenced pretty much every aspect of business). Over the last 12 months, Privacy by Design, specialised UX researchers and (of course) DesignOps have been the hot topics on everyone’s lips.
But what does the future hold for UX? What are the big trends that will shape user experience in 2020 and beyond?
As UX grew into its own specialist field, ‘engagement’ became the golden metric. If your website or app generated good engagement and retention, it was doing its job. The only catch was that UX science quickly outpaced the foreseeable consequences: basically, we became too good at making addictive design. And users are starting to feel the effects: smartphone addiction rates are on the rise, and 33% of divorced couples already cite Facebook as the reason for their split (prompting Mark Zuckerberg to come out and admit that apps have a responsibility towards people’s general wellbeing). In 2020, we’ll start to see tech companies follow Apple’s lead and use UX design to promote healthier tech behaviour.
UX with words
UX has become more nuanced and sophisticated over the last few years, which, in turn, has led to numerous speciality roles within the field (UX Researcher being one of the biggest). In 2020, we should start to see the rise of the ‘UX Writer’, the so-called ‘design unicorn’; it’s a backlash against traditional visual methodologies, where copy and words were generally inserted into a finished wireframe as an afterthought – sort of an alphabetical garnish. Facebook, Google and Microsoft already have UX Writers embedded in their teams, and the trend is catching on.
Getting closer to the boardroom
Good UX design is no longer a nice-to-have. Business moved past the novelty of UX somewhere around 2017, and it’s now considered a core part of overall business strategy. In fact, McKinsey found that businesses with a solid design foundation are able to increase their revenue and shareholder returns at nearly twice the rate of competitors (McKinsey tracked 300 companies over five years for this study, awarding each a McKinsey Design Index score). The conversation used to be getting senior management to understand the value of UX – that battle has already been won. In 2020 and beyond, UX designers will not only have more leverage within their companies, but there’ll be growing UX sensitivity to business goals – not just user goals.
Minimalism is here to stay
There’s a concept in design called Hick’s Law, which states that the more choices a person is presented with, the longer it will take them to reach a decision. Makes sense, really. Ever since Apple invented the iPod scroll wheel, minimalism has been one of the guiding principles of successful UX design, if for no other reason than consumers are bombarded with a frankly ridiculous amount of visual information every day, and their processing powers (and patience) are extremely finite. There’s no sign that minimalist UX will dissipate in 2020, in fact it’ll probably be the opposite. Every major digital business, from Airbnb and Lyft to Uber and Dropbox, are edging closer to design uniformity for the simple reason that it works. Minimalist design might be homogenous, but it’s also incredibly effective.
Synched across all devices
User Experience design is often driven by consumer demand and expectations. And in 2020, the expectation will be that UX design flows and integrates seamlessly across every possible device: phone, laptop, tablet, smart watch, even the Internet of Things. Uber is already leading the charge with this, allowing users to start trips with voice command via their phone or watch, then end rides on the mobile application. It’s a subtle shift, away from the ‘smartphone first’ design of 2017 and 2018, towards a ‘hardware independent approach’, where users get dynamic capabilities across multiple devices on the same user journey, without clunkily jumping between each one.
Brave new UX Education
Since Design School Bootcamps started popping up in 2010, we’ve seen a dramatic change in tech-based education, particularly when it comes to UX design. Any young graduate entering the UX workforce today has probably ditched the 3-year Bachelor degree for something more nimble: usually conferences, mentor programs, online courses and professional meet-ups. RMIT Online offers its own dedicated UX design short course. Over the next few years, you can expect these courses to grow in popularity (especially off the back of strong local job growth), with more and more UX graduates entering the workforce.