11. Fun illustrations
It's perhaps in game design where UI designers have more room for experimentation. We're sure we'll see more highly original UIs such as those in the likes of the gorgeous Whale Trail (opens in new tab) and the beautiful Sir Benfro's Brilliant Balloon (opens in new tab). The latter is far from anything you've ever seen on the iPhone – a stunning interface with crazy characters littering the screen and fitting hand-drawn typography providing simple, yet classy navigation.
12. Photo-realistic icons
It's the way your users recognise your app on their home screen and is hugely important when designing your app. Icons that are highly realistic, yet stylised, defining the core function of the app, have become commonplace this year. Instagram (opens in new tab) is a great example, as is Facebook Camera (opens in new tab) and Physique (opens in new tab) – the latter icon designed by Roman Jusdado (opens in new tab). See here for a tutorial on creating your own.
13. Notification boxes
You know the kind – the square speech bubbles that pop up when you tap a button (or pop-up modal boxes as they're known). If there's one shape that's dominated UIs over the past year, and one that will continue to dominate, it's this. It's popular because it works, giving your app contextual information that is only shown when needed.
14. Buttonless design
2012 may just be the beginning of a move to slicker, buttonless UI design. It's the complete opposite to Apple's skeuomorphic approach, embracing digital devices as just that, digital devices. A perfect example is Realmac Software's Clear (opens in new tab), a to-do list app that uses simple gradated rectangular blocks along with common iOS gestures to great effect. Expect to see more minimalist, gesture-led apps such as Clear in the next year as designers and developers get bored of the often OTT skeuomorphic apps that have been commonplace since Apple decided it was the way to go.
15. New approaches to buttons
Similarly, UI designers are pushing apps in different directions when it comes to the designs of their buttons. We've all seen the skeuomorphic button approach a million times, but apps such as Figure (opens in new tab) (a music-making app) takes an app that 'needs' buttons but presents them in a flat, graphic, animated way that is both easy to use and visually appealing.