5 UX/UI trends we want to see in 2021

ux trends
(Image credit: Francesca Griffiths)

No one could have predicted the sudden change in our day-to-day lives in 2020. In the digital universe, we at least had the advantage of being a non-physical contact world, so fortunately for many of us it was business as usual. If anything, it boosted us. Businesses have been increasingly appreciating how far digital can reach, and how instrumental it can be to running a business, especially when the face-to-face contact world is no longer possible. 

As a result, as we go into 2021, online services are more popular than ever, in areas from conferencing to online banking and appointment booking. We are seeing a new wave of users who are transitioning from their regular physical services to a digital solution. Now more than ever, UX/UI practitioners have a huge role to play to ensure we are creating a positive experience for the user by anticipating and fulfilling their needs. Here, we look at the trends we'd like to see in user experience and user interfaces in 2021. 

If you'd like to up your UX/UI game, then don't miss these user testing tools.

01. More behavioural research

ux trends

A heat map of success, validating the idea to add a sticky 'call to action' to the top of the page (Image credit: electromaker.io)

Too often, our focus is on the optimal experience, in other words, when everything goes well. Instead, we should be asking ourselves how we are going to support a user when they do everything wrong. Regardless of the product you design, one of the essential truths you need to remember is that you are not your user. 

Session replay software is a great way to get behind the movements of the user, it uncovers opportunities that you cannot easily pick up without actually seeing the journey being carried out. We hope to see more designers using it next year as it's extremely fascinating and insightful to not only observe user issues, but to validate design decisions also. We have to remember that when a project goes live, whether that be a website, or app, ecommerce store, or interactive tool, that’s not the end - that is just the beginning. Now we really get to see how this project we’ve been intensely living...is really being used. 

02. Easy to follow onboarding

ux trends

Very informative onboarding tips appear when you first use the Just In Mind prototyping application (Image credit: Just In Mind)

There were some challenging moments on the phone in 2020 trying to get family members to install and work video conferencing software. We usually get there in the end, but I can’t help but think that some initial onboarding screens with tooltips would make for a much more pleasant experience. It’s something commonly used in mobile apps, however I think we need to treat website apps and services the same: have something quick, snappy and informative, right at the start of the journey that will relieve any frustration. Fingers crossed we'll see better onboarding across the board this year.

03. Skeuomorphic design

ux trends

This is a classic example of skeuomorphism where the physical aspects and textures of a handheld diary have been digitally mimicked (Image credit: Dribble)

Skeuomorphism is a term most often used in user interface design to describe interface objects that mimic their real-world counterparts in how they appear and how the user can interact with them; it's the opposite to the minimal flat design style more commonly used. 

In 2021 I think users will seek some form of tangibility from this digital world they are getting even more engrossed with. In user experience design I think we will see more of a pull towards the skeuomorphic aesthetic to bring in these everyday textures we are seeing less of, it has great potential in bringing rich emotional experiences to digital devices, which are otherwise impersonal.

04. User interface animations

Userface animations can be utilised to enhance the user experience by guiding the user flow, revealing the process of the interface much better than a static graphic. 

I expect we'll see more animated button experiments in 2021. Animated buttons in apps could be really powerful to visually indicate to the user that an action has taken place, whether that be a purchase, sign up confirmation, or account log. For mobile especially it will be a space efficient way to get the message across instead of using banners and pop-ups. 

05. Immersive virtual events

ux trends

This 360-degree interactive virtual stand delivers the entire experience that the booth had to offer without the customer having to physically attend in person (Image credit: EPM Digital)

It seemed as though the events industry was doomed last year: there were no conferences and no exhibitions. It was one of the first sectors to really feel the effects of the non-contact world. However, we've seen many quickly adapt to online virtual events, so instead of physically having to attend an event, you can instead do so from the comfort of your own home. We’ve seen virtual environments offering 360 degree tours of the stands (like the one above, created by EPM Agency), webinars and chat rooms. This is a whole new wave which we will see much more of in 2021 and beyond.

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Francesca Griffiths

Francesca is head of digital at EPM Agency. She designs and delivers excellent, intuitive journeys for customers. She is focused on putting the user at the heart of the experience and is led by research and data of user behaviours; constantly iterating to improve the customer journey.