Best UX Trends in 2021

  • April 27, 2021

User experience (UX) is the most critical aspect of any successful design, whether it’s a website, app, or digital product. 

But UX design principles can change quickly – and it’s tough to keep up.

At Code Power, we’re constantly watching the latest UX trends and integrating them into our clients’ projects to create stunning products and exceptional user experiences. 

So we compiled this list of the biggest new UX trends in 2021, based on our own work and insights from the top UX designers in the world. 

Continue reading to discover what’s new in the world of UX and how you can implement these trends in your own business and stay ahead of the competition.

1. Cross-device UX and The IoT

With the switch to mobile technology over the last decade, everyone is spending more time on smaller devices, like mobile phones, tablets, and wearables – making them the central hub for all our daily activities. 

To stay relevant, your UX efforts must be mobile-first. Optimizing UX designs for smaller devices will create a better experience for your users, boost engagement, and make them more inclined to use your products and services. 

Meanwhile, the proliferation of the Internet of Things means a user’s journey can take place across a wide range of devices – everything from an old desktop computer to your microwave.

Successful UX design in 2021 means creating a seamless journey across multiple devices  – that probably starts on mobile. 

2. Minimalist Design is Key

There’s a saying in music that true genius isn’t knowing what to put in, but what to leave out.  

The same is true of UX design. It’s always tempting to keep adding more: more features, more text, more flashy graphics. Instead, try to do the opposite. Only add what is absolutely necessary, and optimize it for peak performance and aesthetic delight.

For one, by keeping your UX design simple, it’s much easier to implement a seamless cross-device experience. 

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You can also expect:

  • Designs that are easier to create, publish, maintain, and update
  • Better communication of your ideas
  • Lower design costs
  • More evergreen content
  • Easier project management and fewer headaches for your design team 

We all love to show off our creativity with abstract ideas and quirky design touches. But when it comes to great UX design: the simpler, the better. 

3. Voice Commands and Touch-Free Interfaces

Voice command software has come a long way from performing simple transcription and basic tasks, and there are numerous ways you can integrate the technology into your digital products in 2021. 

In fact, by focusing on touch-free interfaces in general, you open up a host of better UX design opportunities. The technology has proven to make people more comfortable with their devices and treat them like a virtual assistant – boosting engagement long term. 

Meanwhile, voice commands also create a more personal relationship between the user and their device and improve accessibility – two topics we’ll discuss further below. 

While touch-free interfaces and voice commands currently present many challenges and limitations (including accuracy, privacy, costs, and implementation), they’re only growing to grow in importance – making this a crucial UX trend to watch in the coming years.  

4. The Rise of AR/VR (for real this time)

It feels like Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) have been the “next big thing” for years. 

Unfortunately, while AR/VR technology continues to become cheaper and more accessible, most companies have failed at integrating it into their business in a way that makes sense. However, things are finally starting to look extremely promising in the AR/VR space. 

Facebook and Apple are investing astronomical amounts of money and huge resources into this technology. As a result, several other smaller players are entering the space, and the competition is creating some incredible results. 

While AR/VR still has a long way to go, we could soon reach an inflection point (I know, you’ve heard that before, but just wait a little longer). So, it’s still worth keeping a close eye on the latest UX trends and developments related to AR/VR. 

5. UX Writing Plays A Bigger Role

UX writing is rarely prioritized as part of an overall UX design strategy – but it should be. Especially as businesses shift from physical assets (i.e., retail spaces and gyms) into the digital space, post-Coronavirus (i.e., online shopping and home fitness).

Crafting solid and engaging copy can make or break a digital product. Without it, nobody will have a clear understanding of your app or website’s features and benefits, how they work, or what to do when using them. They’ll quickly lose interest or grow frustrated and give up.

That said, writing compelling UX copy isn’t exactly easy. It takes serious expertise and many iterations to get right. That’s why ‘UX writer’ is one of the fastest-growing careers in tech. 

When designing any project, make sure you allocate enough resources to create concise, easy-to-understand, interactive, and informative copy. Consider hiring an outside expert who can take an objective look at your UX writing and make the necessary cuts and alterations. 

The better the communication between your digital products and your users, the better their overall experience. And the more likely they’ll come back for more. 

6. Accessibility Will Become More Important

According to the World Bank, over 15% of the world’s population has some form of disability. And around 4% of those are visually impaired. 

If companies fail to make their technology more accessible – and focus only on 85% of the population – that leaves over a billion people unable to use their products. 

So, how can you make your digital products more accessible? The answer is more intuitive UX designs that are simple for non-disabled users to interact with, but don’t exclude users with physical disabilities or impairments. 

Creating a visual interface under such considerations isn’t always easy. The design team may need to put themselves in the shoes of someone with vastly different lived experiences to their own. 

However, putting in the effort is worthwhile for many reasons. Companies creating more accessible interfaces will stand out from 99.9% of the competition and earn prestige within their industry. 

Also, more accessible design principles benefit everyone, even non-disabled users, creating an improved user experience across the board. 

7. Dark Mode and Digital Wellness

Plenty of studies have shown that extended screen time can take a massive toll on our health. The side effects include everything from disrupted sleep and headaches, to mental fatigue and depression. 

And thanks to the disruption Coronavirus has caused in all our lives, we’re spending more time than ever staring at our screens. 

Most device manufacturers have finally started taking ‘digital wellness’ seriously and integrated tools like Dark Mode and screen-time monitoring into their products. 

UX designers need to consider the health risks when designing any interface and look for ways to integrate the digital wellness tools now available.

Take Dark Mode, for example.  

Creating a Dark Mode for your interfaces is surprisingly simple and will drastically improve your user experience. Dark Mode is healthier for our eyes and reduces the amount of ‘blue light’ coming from a device – the leading cause of sleep disruption. 

People will feel more comfortable while using your products, improving their overall health and creating happier customers. They’ll also see that you care about your users, and think about their health and wellbeing. 

8. Personalized Interactions

With today’s advancement in AI and analytics, it’s easy for companies to create more personal experiences on their digital products. 

Adding small personal touches makes users more comfortable with your products and shows you care about them. It boosts engagement and builds trust and loyalty. 

Think about using someone’s first name throughout their user journey. It’s easy to set up, and email marketers have been doing it for years, with great success.  

YouTube’s Recommendations algorithm is another (in)famous example of personalized interactions and recommendations used to incredible effect. Youtube’s algorithms are incredibly sophisticated (and top secret). But you can easily implement similar tactics on a much smaller scale to boost engagement on your digital assets. 

Always look for opportunities to insert a personal interaction or prompt on your design projects (without going overboard), and you’ll quickly reap the rewards. 

9. Ethical Concerns

For many people working in tech, Google’s extremely contentious firing of AI ethicist Timnit Gebru was the biggest story of 2020. The messy, ongoing affair, is just one of many controversies swirling around the tech giant in 2021. 

Google isn’t alone. Our news feeds are constantly full of ethical controversies and debates arising from the latest developments in tech – including the cutting-edge UX trends we’re discussing here.  

Keeping your company and projects aligned with all social issues can be challenging. Many UX designers probably don’t see how these issues relate to their work. But as analytics, AI, and immersive technologies become more integral to UX design, we all must consider any unintended consequences of implementing them into our designs. 

Crafting an incredible user experience will always be the top priority, but make sure you’re stepping back and assessing the risks vs. benefits every step of the way. 

While it requires a bit more work now, it could save you a huge amount of headaches down the road. 

10. Gamification of Everything

Rewarding users for progress is one of the best ways to keep them engaged and returning to your app or website. Combine that with a leaderboard ranking them against other users, and you’ll create an entirely new dynamic. 

That’s why ‘Gamification’ – inserting gaming mechanisms into your design to make your products more fun, and easier to use – is one of the biggest UX trends in recent years. Gamification doesn’t have to be complex; you can add simple things like progress bars, animations, badges, or other easy designs to make your products more fun, informal, and engaging.

You can see emerging examples of gamification in everything from meditation apps to customer loyalty programs. The success of such innovations points to a bright future for gamification as an increasingly popular tool in UX design. 

The Bottom Line

There’s no doubt that keeping up with all the new UX trends can be challenging. However, keeping up with the latest development in UX and evolving with the industry guarantees you’ll stay ahead of the curve and never get left behind.

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