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Top UX Predictions for 2017 - AI, Microinteractions, AR, VR, VUI and Bots

Just like last year, we asked our designers to share their vision of the upcoming UX trends for 2017, and they have some interesting insights. Every response, besides other things, mentioned two trends: new ways of interacting with users – either through AR, VR or voice UI, and improvements to more standard technologies, such as better UI animations or microinteractions. We are looking forward to seeing these predictions come true.

Netguru’s 2017 UX Trends

At Netguru, we strive to stay on top of new trends to make sure we can deliver high-quality services to our clients. Besides, we want to stay on top of new things simply because we respect the value of innovation. Behance seem to appreciate this approach, as they included us in their 2017 Design Trends Guide. We know that especially designers need to pay attention to users’ habits and expectations, and to the changes in technological solutions. This article sums up what our design team think we will have to focus on this year.

Reduction and Simplification Shall Reign Supreme (Anna Klawikowska, Product Designer)

Designers will keep their work simple. This might seem like old news, since we have been witnessing a minimalistic approach to design for quite a while and we knew it would play an important role in 2016.

What we can see on the horizon now, however, is that the trend will reach peak popularity in 2017. It is visible in mobile apps in particular and involves more universal iconography, lack of colour and emphasis on the most important bits of text (headlines).

Perhaps it is a sign of designers’ and users’ maturity (we no longer feel the need to show off bright images and fancy animations), or perhaps the cause is purely practical. Maybe designers are showing respect for users’ time and attention? Whatever the case, Airbnb, Facebook, Apple and Instagram have all committed to this type of design.

Artificial Intelligence Will Start Popping up All over the Place (Jarosław Ceborski, Product Designer)

More and more products will incorporate AI. Simple as that. And we do not just mean an increase in the number of products that use AI. We also expect AI to appear in more and more different types of products.

The crucial element – and the biggest challenge for designers – is the interaction between a user and artificial intelligence. What will be the users’ experience? Will they adopt this new technology quickly or will they attempt to reject it? All designers will have to monitor it very carefully and use their observations to elevate AI interaction to a new level.

The technology has the potential to help a lot of people, but we need to do our jobs well to make sure users accept the help.

Modular Design Systems Will Scale Nicely (Toto Castiglione, Product Designer)

Modular design is not a new thing. The author of this article links its conception with newspaper design. We use it often, as it goes well with Agile software development. The main point, though, is scalability.

In modular design, we talk about building blocks forming a larger whole. The atomic design methodology introduces the idea of breaking elements into smaller elements, then breaking those up into even smaller elements, and so on. These elements are divided into stages, in the order from the smallest to the largest: atoms, molecules, organisms, templates, and pages.

This approach is inherently scalable – you can add or remove blocks to your heart’s content. The focus on scalability is exactly what makes modular design attractive and applicable in various contexts. It’s flexible enough to be adapted to any product, with any level of complexity. Another advantage is that it automatically creates patterns that recur in all parts of the product. Thanks to that, users will learn how to use the UI more easily, as they will expect certain elements in specific places. All of this makes modular design a good choice for many professionals.

Focus on Microinteractions Will Help Improve Users’ Experience (Siergiej Soskowiec, Product Designer)

“Microinteractions are contained product moments that revolve around a single use case.” In other words, microinteractions serve one main function. Without actually noticing, users engage with microinteractions “every time [they] change a setting, sync [their] data or devices, set an alarm, pick a password, log in, set a status message, favourite or ‘like’ something”.

We can gush about modern design principles, but interacting with technology is not inherently intuitive. It is a learned behaviour, to some extent, and therefore liable to make users get lost. Users do not like to feel confused, so microinteractions provide much-needed feedback, communicate what the app is doing, help the users visualise results and feel like they have a direct impact with every action they take. All this is crucial for making users happy.

AR/VR Will Gain Popularity Thanks to Mobile (Bartosz Białek, Senior Product Designer)

Visiting augmented or virtual reality through mobile devices is fun for users on the one hand, and a challenge for product owners on the other. Some of the latter struggle with possible implementations of artificial reality and/or virtual reality, while Facebook and Google appear to know what is going on and invest in the technology. Check out the last F8 conference to see for yourself.

As hardware capable of supporting AR/VR experiences can be expensive, mobile devices will introduce the technology into everyday life. It is already happening in small ways: through apps that are meant to give users a taste of AR and games such as Pokemon GO. We expect this trend to gain even more ground this year – and not only in games. More and more utility tools are starting to use this technology.

Focus on Motion in UI Design Will Give Interactions More Meaning (Michał Piechota, Product Designer)

Smooth, meaningful and responsive animations for user interfaces will improve user experience. Motion helps in various ways. They give users some idea of what each action they take will accomplish. They establish the hierarchy between different elements of the design. It distracts from waiting times and provides enjoyment. Products that take advantage of motion appear more polished and have a unique character. All of this combined makes focus on motion a natural direction in product design.

We shall see how we will be able to surprise and delight users with our use of motion in 2017.

Bots Are the New Apps (Mateusz Czajka, Head of Product Design)

Conversational interfaces are so natural to us that they can reduce the time and effort it takes to complete many tasks. AI adds to the experience by learning about users and their behaviours, making predictions, and adapting to fit users’ needs.

Chatbots can be fun and easy to use. Slack’s Slackbot, for example, is a fantastic tool for organising one’s own work and communicating with others. It can be a little silly, but that lighthearted touch is what gives Slackbot its personality. Facebook went a step further: they created a whole ecosystem around chatbots. Considering the fact that a good chunk of the world’s population uses Facebook, this could be the recipe for the perfect product. Would you shop for shoes or groceries by talking to a virtual shop assistant?

Bots can have many functions. From delivering news and weather forecasts, to helping with groceries and organising your schedule, to giving personal advice and cheering you up when you need it. Most of the interfaces we know and use can be replaced with chatbots. Wherever business requires communication, chatbots could be the future. Try telling me that’s not exciting.

If the idea of chatbots is new to you, here is a handy beginner’s guide.

AR/VR Apps and Interfaces Will Evolve (Michał Parulski, Senior Product Designer)

You might have noticed that 2016 was an important year in the history of AR and VR. We have witnessed the rise of Pokemon GO and VR headsets like HTC Vive or PlayStation VR. In 2017, we expect many businesses to make use of these technologies, from vCommerce apps, to educational games for children, to visualisations for architects and interior designers.

As AR/VR finds its way into new fields and contexts, the approach to product design will have to change entirely. We will need to pay attention to aspects such as the characteristics of the physical world in which our AR interface will be used. Our designs will have to be space aware. And this is only the tip of the iceberg.

While certainly a challenge, the AR/VR revolution opens so many new possibilities that it is impossible not to get excited.

Voice User Interfaces (VUIs) Will Make Devices and Apps More Accessible (Maciej Kotula, Product Designer)

The general trend seems to be to move away from traditional text messaging and interaction with apps via text, and switch to voice commands instead. Judging by the popularity (at least in social media) of Google Now, Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana, we are in for a big shift.

Apps allowing users speaking different languages to have a conversation in real time seemed to exist only in distant science-fiction land. But what if they are closer to becoming reality than we think? A revolution in global communication is perhaps too much to expect, but it will definitely be a significant change.

GUI will have to be Integrated with VUI and Virtual Assistants (Pawel Kontek, Product Designer)

Owing to the development of many areas of AI, virtual assistants are getting better and better at completing the tasks we give them. In some use cases, using your voice to interact with an application or device is simply more efficient than the traditional GUI. VUIs are the future.

We keep hearing about new improvements to Apple’s Siri, Google Now, Alexa, Cortana and all the other virtual assistants. Users and companies are unlikely to move away from this trend, so product designers need to adapt. We must take advantage of the VUI and explore its possible uses.

Finally, the continuity of experience for users switching between devices is an important new area. The switch (e.g. from mobile to desktop) should happen seamlessly, without any loss of data or the need to repeat some steps taken within an application. We saw this trend emerging among the big players on the market, and we are excited at the prospect of using it for our projects.

Summing up

A lot has been going on on the technology scene recently – from new approaches to existing technologies, to almost sci-fi prospects. We predict that many a designer will focus on voice user interfaces and technologies that follow naturally: virtual assistants and machine translation. Another big thing this year will be the rising popularity of AR and VR. Finally, smaller trends such as simplification of interfaces, modular design and microinteractions will change our everyday experience of interacting with apps and devices behind the scenes.

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