Top UX design trends : digital well-being and biometrics

Mike Craddock considers the most important UX design trends for 2019.

Predicting the future can be risky, but there’s a list of hot topics being discussed in the digital industry right now, which can turn nice-to-have technologies and tools into something meaningful and valuable for the user’s experience.

Here’s a list of eight of the most important UX design trends for the year ahead.

1. The Latest Tech

Last year, there was no end to conversations around artificial intelligence (AI), voice interfaces and the resurgence of augmented reality. Before that, chatbots and the Internet of Things (IOT) reigned supreme.

So what mind-blowing, disruptive technology can we look forward to in 2019? You might be surprised to hear that 2019 will NOT bring any new tech to the table.

2019 may deny us our usual obsessions over the latest tech wonder, but it will be the year that the industry finally learns how to make all the previously hyped tech work effectively.

As you may already be aware...

  • Chatbots continue to fail
  • The internet of things has gone mainstream in only a few instances
  • AI, although starting to be usefully implemented, is only used by a few companies who are incorporating AI into their mainstream products.
  • Voice interfaces remain limited and may even need a new generation of users before they are intuitive enough to be useful.

2019 will be the year that we gain a deeper understanding of the how, when and why around new technologies, which will vital for successfully implementing them into our daily lives. This will help us to ensure that these techs are not just relevant for users, but that they’re also meaningful, calm and sustainable.

Above all, these technologies must enrich the user’s experience, not hinder, obstruct or over-complicate it. It’s only through user research that the companies implementing these solutions will fully understand how to fix what fails to meet users’ expectations.

2. Users’ digital wellbeing

In 2019, there will be increasing demand from users for healthier and calmer experiences when engaging, and more importantly, not engaging with digital content.

Apple, Google, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram led the way in 2018, and in 2019 more companies will see an increasing resistance from users against irresponsible, engineered design patterns aimed at boosting user engagement to the extreme.

Addictive digital behaviour

Now a potent public health topic, users are starting to feel the effects and deal with the consequences of obsessive digital usage. Whether it’s Facebook supposedly being responsible for 33% of recent divorces or the purposeful addictiveness of products like Tinder or Instagram, society is waking up, recognising the issue and acting. The large players have, and are, feeling the backlash from users as engagement levels have dropped in protest and 2019 will see this trend filter down into the corporate dominated marketplaces.

In an environment of ever-vibrating smartphones, notifications, emails and increasingly demanding apps, 2019 will be mindful of occasions when the users are not interacting with digital products.

Already good work is being done and relatively small changes have been shown to be incredibly powerful in their societal impact. For example:

  • Google mail services allow users to snooze emails for later viewing
  • Bumble allows users to pause dating to take time out
  • Instagram detects excessive feed scrolling and notifies users

In 2019, UX designers will be at the forefront of correcting ‘dark engagement patterns’ and understanding, through research-based user insights, acceptable types and levels of engagement.

Evolution of Metrics

Importantly metrics need to move on from last century page views, visits and dwell time. Instead of striving to attain attention and popularity, successful digital products in the future will be those delivering experiences that are relevant, timely and comfortable.

As a result of the inevitable general decrease in engagement demanded by a healthy society, 2019 is likely to see the beginning in a shift of KPI’s being measured in affinity-related metrics rather than engagement-centred ones. Success will be seen through users achieving their own goals and through it, a company’s good reputation, usefulness and social responsibility will be recognised.

3. Device-agnostic user journeys

Increasing the development of device-agnostic experiences will be a huge growth area in 2019.

As users gain access to larger inventories of devices, smartphone, smartwatch, laptop, tablet, smartspeaker, etc, they will demand and expect a seamless experience across all devices.

Interactions can no longer be conceived and designed based around silo-ed, single-device solutions. In 2019, cross-device experiences will take centre stage. Users want to be able to achieve any of their goals – be it book a holiday, order a taxi, or even purchase a product – using any and all of their devices.

For example: Uber travellers can initiate their journey through a voice-command to their home smartspeaker and finish their trip on their iOS or Android phone. The digital journey has to be a seamless interaction.

4. Navigational interfaces

The evolving navigational interface is due a shakeup in 2019 too.

Hamburger menu

Last year saw a number of companies opting to remove the hamburger menu and switch to tab-based menus following research from large platforms. Spotify and YouTube removed their hamburger menus and saw navigation usage jump by 30%.

Sticky nav

The adoption of sticky navigation, used for efficiency and ease of use, is becoming more prominent. Tab-based menus are favoured with elements at the top, bottom or sides of the page.

The long debate over whether top or bottom placement on mobile navigation will finally be resolved in 2019 in favour of the latter, following research indicating that users prefer using their mobile device single-handedly and predominantly with their thumb. Obviously achieving this, especially on larger screens, requires the interactions to take place at the bottom of the screen, leaving the remaining top portion of the screen available for unobtrusive viewing of prime content.

Design for foldable screens

In 2018, foldable smartphone screens became a reality. As manufacturers begin to implement these screens into their products, UX designers will need to rise to the challenge of discovering how to provide a great user experience with multi-view tech.

5. Gestures

Gesture-based interactions grew significantly with the launch of Apple’s iPhone X in 2017, the first button-less phone, followed swiftly by Google. The main reason for the introduction of gesture-based navigation was the tempting opportunity to save screen space for the apps. Unfortunately, the hidden nature of these controls and lack of consistency across device manufacturers has led some users feeling confused, apprehensive and ultimately led to poor user experiences.

However, 2019 is still likely to see increased growth in ‘gesture navigation’ on mobile apps and websites - perhaps with the implementation of gesture-only solutions fuelled by users becoming increasingly more familiar and comfortable with gestures. In an effort to improve usability, the industry needs to really get to grips with the standardisation of gestures and interaction patterns, such as animated hints that prompt and educate users about how gestures can be used and should be implemented more often.

6. Biometric signups and sign-ins

Biometrics, although not new, are really starting to mature as a technology, as the devices it relies on become more accessible and the data captured is treated in a more joined up fashion. 50% of smartphone users already use their fingerprints to unlock their phones daily and this is only the start of the replacement of password and perhaps PINs.

In 2019, we will see more of this technology develop across smartphones and web browsers for user authentication and identity management.

With the addition of iris scanning, voice and facial recognition and vein pattern authentication, the security capabilities offered by this technology, to users and businesses, will open up exciting and time saving opportunities - especially in the FinTech sector.

7. Augmented Reality (AR)

With over 13 million installations of apps developed with Apple’s ARKit platform and Google having released their competing platform ARCore, AR is gaining momentum. However, nearly half of the installs from ARKit are being used for gaming. Augmented reality is still to be widely adopted across retail, education and medicine.

Facebook Founder, Mark Zuckerberg is one of the industry’s insiders predicting that lenses will eventually replace screens to create what he calls “the ultimate AR experience.”

So, will 2019 be the year when AR finally fulfils its commercial potential and goes beyond the world of gaming?

Finally

2019 will be the year that user experience-based design approaches which transform these technologies. Understanding users, their needs, wants and expectations through research will help to fix the problems we’re currently encountering, uncover opportunities and ultimately drive the digital industry forward.

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