Top 8 trends defining UX and UI design in 2021

Sush Labs

Top mobile UX design trends for 2021

We all know that creating experiences with robust user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design is imperative to stand out from the crowd and find your competitive edge. Today it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, what product or service you’re selling or what your target audience is, if you want to succeed you must consider UX and UI.

In this blog we’re highlighting top eight trends that are shaping how we approach and experience design in 2021 and beyond.

1. Mobile-first design 

The COVID-19 pandemic saw users reaching for their phones or tablets more than ever before. Mobile devices have further become our go-to means of consuming information, shopping, sharing updates, and communicating with friends and family. As a result, businesses are called on to create robust experiences that are rich in features, responsive, functional and driven by the user’s needs.

2. Rise of superapps

Single purpose apps are already hugely popular in China, and increasingly around the world. These apps combine different services to solve a multitude of user problems in one app. For instance, WeChat combines social media, messaging, gaming, mobile payments, news browsing and more. Another example is Gojek in Indonesia, which incorporates transportation, food delivery, logistics, payment and daily services into one app.

This trend is putting more pressure on businesses to build apps that are multi-functional and clear in their purpose and intent. While you may not have to cover every possible use case, the greater functionality your app ecosystem provides the more likely your users will remain loyal.

3. Data visualisation

As data grows and information proliferates around the globe, one growing trend for 2021 is data visualisation. In an effort to add value to users and build brand reputation, more businesses and apps are sharing information in clever, compelling and useful ways, including animated graphs, informative illustrations, clever use of colour and more. The need for transparent communication continues to drive this trend.

4. Voice-based functionality

While voice user interface design has been around for years, 2021 and the continued impact of COVID-19 has proven to take this trend into the mainstream. More apps are now offering voice chatbots or voice commands as a standard component of the app experience.

In addition, this year we’ve seen voice-based functionality develop from voice-based shortcuts for common operations to that which is capable of solving complex problems. This includes advanced personalisation, touchless interactions and user mood analysis powered by artificial intelligence (AI).

5. Cross-platform optimisation

An ongoing trend for app designers is the need to create cross-channel experiences and optimise apps for each device or platform. This can be done via native apps or using a cross-platform framework such as Flutter.

When Apple released its M1 chip at the end of 2020, the company removed barriers between desktop and mobile. Based on ARM technology, the new chip enables users to run iOS apps on the macOS. This enhances the need for designers to create app experiences that work seamlessly across mobile and desktop in order to gain access to a larger audience.

6. Physicality and realistic textures

While flat design will always have its place in modern UI design, more experiences, including those offered by big name brands, are emphasising physicality with realistic textures, grains or contours, and are often inspired by analogue devices.

3D design, for instance, got a boost when Apple incorporated it into their new macOS update. The BigSur rollout featured revamped menu icons which subtly add 3D dimensions and make the designs further standout. Adding these details and textures make experiences more appealing for users and can increase session time or make users want to sign up, buy your product or try out your service.

7. VR and AR

During the time of COVID-19, apps became our main interface with the outside world. As a result, virtual and augmented reality became baked into everyday app functionality. One example of this in action is with IKEA. The IKEA app enables users to visualise what a piece of furniture or decor item will look like in their home by simply holding their mobile phone up against the space. Over the next year, we expect to see more interactive and immersive VR and AR experiences that utilise mobile features such as the smartphone camera.

8. Animation and motion

The rise of animation and motion for web and mobile app experiences continues to define UI and UX design. With lagging now reduced to a minimum, more companies are using motion to better tell their brand’s story.

This often comes in the form of micro-animations, including colour change for different states, website loading visualisations, transitions between pages, scrolling or swiping, button reactions, and more. These simple motions, when used purposefully and meaningfully, can be used to relax, entertain or help users navigate through information on offer.

Start how you mean to go on

Regardless of what trends are shaping the UI or UX space, it’s always important to start any project with critical thinking, user experience and your business objectives at the forefront. 

It is also crucial, in today's highly digital and competitive landscape, to create experiences that are simple, purposeful, effective and well-crafted. In this way you will save your users from digital fatigue and build ongoing loyalty for your product, service and brand.

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