Each new year brings with it a host of new UI/UX trends that shows which direction the industry is going. The reason trends come and go each year is actually pretty simple: when the majority of people start following a trend, it will inevitably become ineffective precisely because so many people are following it. It loses its effectiveness over time.
To get around this, designers should always keep their ear to the ground to ensure that they are one step ahead of the competition, always offering their clients new experiences. As for business owners, rising trends are a good source of idea for developing their brands.
With that said, let’s go ahead and take a look at some of the rising trends in UI/UX for 2022, the challenges they bring with them, and how to make the most out of them in order to create high-quality products and experiences for users.
1. Remote and virtual experiences
2020 was a year unlike any other in recent times and no one could have predicted how much our lives would change in the span of a single year.
“Remote” was one of the key words in 2020 and 2021 as well, with working from home and virtual reality being among the top trends and likely to remain that way in 2022 and beyond. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have already made significant strides in healthcare, education, and art in 2020 and 2021, mostly out of necessity.
While the backdrop of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic was unfortunate, it showed everyone that these technologies are not for entertainment purposes only and could be used in many different ways to improve our lives.
Video calling software such as Skype and Zoom in particular saw a huge success in the past couple of years and has set the stage for a future of “virtual office” ecosystems, where everyone on the team meets in virtual environments from the comfort of their own homes.
We have been inching toward this remote way of working for many years now, but the pandemic just gave it the kick it needed to bring us within less than a year to a place that would have probably taken us years to get to.
Adopting this way of working on such a large scale and within such a short time frame has brought AR and VR even closer to our daily lives. While everyone has shifted to briefings and presentations over video calls, many companies have started investing more and more into evolving these remote experiences using AR and VR.
Nowadays there is a ton of VR content on YouTube, Facebook is getting even more serious about AR and VR, we have VR travel apps, 3D scanning apps, AR apps for interior design and museums, VR games for educational purposes, and so much more.
There are increasingly more companies today looking to integrate AR and VR solutions into their products, and if this new wave takes off, there are going to be a lot more completely new opportunities for designers as they implement these technologies into their products and services.
Because this is such a new design trend, as of yet there are no real AR and VR design and development standards, but they are coming along. The development process is also slowed down because of the lack of a common language, giving rise to certain challenges with compatibility. Smoothing things out if only a matter of time, fortunately.
For designers and managers with no previous experience with remote collaboration on this scale, adapting has been a challenge. Things have become much clearer at this point and challenges are becoming easier and easier to tackle.
2. The rise of artificial intelligence (AI)
In general, most modern UI design and development tools are focused on multiple important aspects, such as:
- fighting routine
- making collaboration between designers and developers easier
- making work as comfortable as possible
- improving remote and collaborative work
Everything outlined above forms a current trend in user interface design, and that is using modern tools and technologies to ease designers’ workflows.
For example, we can look at software such as Adobe’s Photoshop, which now includes numerous AI-powered features that can potentially shave hours off a designer’s work, or Color Variables and Components View in Sketch which make it easier to maintain color consistency and work with components. There’s also Figma, which has added features for distributed teams, making remote collaboration easier with templates and virtual meeting features, as well as Pixelmator which now features GPU-powered image editing that is also enhanced by machine learning.
Another very promising trend in UI/UX is generative design. This technology allows software to analyze data for its defining features and characteristics, and then create new, identical data based on that analysis.
There are already dozens of design tools available that are driven by algorithms and can be used in many practical ways such as creating layouts and marketing materials, choosing visual styles, generating mockups, and much more.
It is still very early for AI as far as its capabilities in UI/UX are concerned and it requires a lot more work and fine-tuning to be as effective as it can be. While machines can teach each other to a certain degree, they are still a long way from thinking by themselves and competing with humans on matters of taste or deciding what works and what does not. For now, AI is mostly for helping people and assisting them with their tasks, and it is already showing amazing results and potential.
3. Advanced personalization
Personalization in design is something that many companies and brands do nowadays, where they personalize the content and recommendations an individual received based on specific information that individual has provided the company with, such as date of birth, marital status, viewing preferences, topics and products of interest, and so on.
The goal of personalization is to make each user feel like their experience is specifically crafted for them with only content that they are interested in, thus improving their experience and increasing conversion rates, which is what any commercial website owner is after.
Personalization is an increasingly growing trend in user experience and nowadays it is one of the best practices employed by companies. Apple, Google, and Samsung, for example, are all developing personal assistants for their devices and ecosystems which are now able to understand who is interacting with them by fingerprint, voice, or face. User interfaces will become even more personalized in the future with potential changes to appearance, element positioning, tone, and even general behavior depending on who is interacting with them.
A huge part of the UX nowadays relies on artificial intelligence (AI) and not many people even realize it. Consider the personalized music suggestions you get from music streaming services such as Spotify, Tidal, or Apple Music, or the recommendations you get on video streaming services such as YouTube, Netflix, or Amazon Prime Video. The Amazon website, for example, creates personalized homepages for each individual user based on their viewing and shopping habits, or on the items in their wishlists or shopping carts, for example.
User interfaces can seem much more personal to users when the content they generate is relevant to them.
Personalization is not an easy trend to follow. Personalization is more complex than just customization, which would be giving users the ability to switch between light and dark themes.
One issue with personalization is that it relies on software to get to know a person – that is, on something that is not human and is nowhere near as capable to identify and understand certain human nuances. If this software analyzes the data it receives and interprets it incorrectly, the outcome may be completely wrong, resulting in a poor user experience. Calling someone by the wrong name, for example, or suggesting content that is completely irrelevant to them, may turn them away from your brand.
As such, personalization can be risky. To minimize the risks, however, you need to invest a lot of money into well-written and optimized software. You need to collect and analyze data, build user profiles, and ensure that the algorithms are accurately crafting individual user interfaces.
Because personalization requires your system to have knowledge of your users and some of their personal data, you also need better security and UX writing to convince users to give you the information you need. They need to feel that their personal information is safe with you and that giving you that information is worth the personalization you offer in turn.
4. Touchless interaction
Touchless interactions are another new UI/UX trend that has gained traction as a result of the pandemic. With people being more worried about touching objects that are typically handled by numerous people, designers have begun thinking of various new methods of interacting with certain devices without actually touching them. One of these methods are voice user interfaces (VUIs) or air gesture controls.
Voice interaction was already a major UI/UX trend even before the pandemic and it is clear now more than ever that it will only continue to grow. Voice user interfaces can significantly expand a design’s reach and even significantly improve its accessibility since it does not require any physical manipulation.
A great example of the benefits of a VUI would be a voice chatbot, which allows website visitors or app users to communicate using only voice commands. The same also applies to virtual assistants.
In the coming years, VUIs will undoubtedly become much more prevalent and more well-defined than they currently are, allowing for much easier and quicker interactions with the devices we use.
Air gesture controls, on the other hand, are only in their incipient phase and have much, much more ground to cover before they can get to even where voice controls are right now. These gestures take some of the control mechanisms introduced with touchscreens to a new level – quite literally, as instead of performing them on a screen, you are performing them above the screen.
You may have already seen this technology already implemented on smartphones dating quite a few years, actually. On some smartphones, you can use air gestures to lower or increase the volume, swipe on the screen, answer or reject phone calls, and more. The technology, however, was rather lacking, so the experience was hit-or-miss.
Voice interaction is much more different from regular touch interaction. Sometimes users may not be able to formulate clear enough sentences on the spot, and there are certain nuances of language and human speech that might make voice interactions difficult. Then there is the matter of context retention across multiple inquiries, speech impediments, and the simple fact of potentially being unable to understand at a glance exactly what a VUI is capable of understanding or doing.
As far as air gesture controls are concerned, there are still many challenges to overcome before we will see this become widespread. Using air gestures may be more difficult, slower, less accessible or inconvenient, and even raise privacy concerns. In private and relaxed settings such as while driving, cooking, or in your living room watching TV, air gestures could potentially be very useful and convenient for many.
5. More 3D, immersive experiences
Three-dimensional designs have been attracting users for many years now, so it is not necessarily a new design trend, whether it is on the web or in mobile apps. In 2022, however, 3D components and interfaces are set to become even more popular than ever.
One aspect that will further propel this trend is the fact that our devices are much more powerful these days. Years ago, when the 3D trend began, the possibilities of using 3D elements were limited and not as practical simply because they required more processing power from our devices. While this is still true, performance limitations are no longer that big of an issue nowadays, allowing 3D objects in a UI to become even more numerous, detailed, and larger.
Three-dimensional design is becoming even more popular with the rising of AR and VR technologies, which allow us to manipulate virtual 3D objects without using real ones, often saving time, money, and effort. An example of this could be presenting expensive cars or realty.
3D design is simply more attractive, even in two-dimensional environments. Websites and applications are more appealing and impressive, making users spend more time with them and engage more with them.
The main drawback of 3D design still exists, and that is the load they put on users’ machines, especially if the graphics are very complex. It is important to keep this in mind and design your user experiences in a way that is still fluid and pleasant to use. Otherwise, stutters, lags, and freezing pages will frustrate users and keep them from completing their tasks or doing what you want them to do, such as purchase products or services.
6. More animations
Everyone likes to watch engaging animations and interact with animated screens. Combining minimalistic user interfaces with eye-catching and beautiful animations can attract users visually, improve their mood, and ensure everything is clear and informative.
2022 will see much more animations, both for smaller UI elements such as buttons or simple transitions, as well as larger ones which might include 3D aspects, now that the technology allows for more complex animations without hurting the user experience.
Motion effects are much more effective at telling a brand story than simple static images or plain text. Motion effects can add a relaxing element to even the most serious websites, release tension, and improve users’ overall mood.
Something worth mentioning separately are micro-animations. Small, animated elements are very encouraged nowadays, as they inform users about stat changes, help them navigate, and are pleasant to look at. Micro-animations can be:
- color changes – for example, consider switching between a light and dark theme, where the colors don’t instantly change, but instead transition, melting into each other
- loading visualizations
- animated transitions between pages
- reactions to elements being interacted with, such as buttons being pressed
Animations in design should always be meaningful and serve a purpose, not just eye-candy but also solve an existing problem. An animation’s main purpose should be to explain and simplify an interaction, and only then focus on aesthetics. The main reason for implementing animations should always be usability, not just decoration.
7. Physicality and realism
While flat designs have come and gone and come again, they are still very popular and widely used in modern design. At the same time, many designers feel there is a need for something truly new and fresh, even if only for graphics.
While smooth, cool gradients and flat elements are still in full swing, one trend trying to change this is using realistic textures. While neomorphism did not quite work out (think Apple’s original iOS icons), many designers are turning to more tangible aesthetics which lend a feel of authenticity to their work.
These realistic textures allow users to almost feel like they can touch the objects on the screen, creating a feeling of connection and familiarity. The tendency to use realistic textures, grain, and contours is growing in modern UI design and will likely be a lot more widespread this year, especially on websites selling things like furniture or cosmetics.
While it is understandable that companies would want to craft more familiar elements, whether through graphics, fonts, textures, grain effects, and so on, it is important to remember that although this makes the interface look more human and allows it to convey a better feeling of physical objects, it should be implemented with restraint.
Designers should not overdo it to the point where this style might become too distracting and keep users from the main goal – purchasing something.
8. Transitioning from perfection to uniqueness
The focus in previous years has been on perfect designs where everything is very well thought out and precise, but this is likely to change in the future as designers are more focused on creating unique experiences.
The trend actually involves developing designs which seem incomplete or random in a way, but designers manage to make this style look professional while also creating a unique appeal using familiar elements but arranged and presented differently.
Symmetry is fairly classic and conventional in UI/UX design and is great at streamlining a website or apps’ structure. The downside is that this can make many experiences seem similar and boring, whereas uniqueness can affect a website’s promotion and its ability to stand out from its competitors.
Unusual layouts will be more prominent this coming year as they offer websites more personality, emphasizing specific important areas in a way that classic design is not as effective at doing.
Using new, interesting, and unorthodox solutions and methods to accomplish something can be attractive to users. Some creative navigation techniques include scroll color fading, horizontal navigation slideshows, mixes of horizontal and vertical scrolling, dragging, scroll-triggered animations, and more.
Consider using unconventional typefaces and fonts to make your design unique and appealing.
Your main goal is to differentiate yourself from your competition while also designing beautiful and functional user experiences. Don’t be scared to experiment with neon colors, retro aesthetics, and other unique and uncommon designs.
The downside of unique and unconventional designs is that however great they look, they may also be inappropriate for some more serious and “down-to-earth” projects.
Unconventional aspects may not be suitable for user interfaces where customers need to focus on important data, such as UIs for industrial machines, or even projects intended for a very wide audience, such as online stores.
Unique designs are suitable when they are not annoying, they pleasantly surprise, arouse interest, and overall improve the user experience.
9. High tech landing pages
Another trend involves particularly complex layouts and animations. Many tech and production-oriented websites choose to use abstract representations of products and processes to wow visitors and ensure they do not get bored reading about the technical details of their products. These high-quality representations include hyper-realistic complex animations and renders that captivate and amaze users, while also making the products look as stunning as possible.
For good examples of these kinds of pages, go to websites like Apple, Samsung, or Huawei and look at their flagship products’ pages.
While the visuals are stunning and the work and level of detail put into creating these pages is very obvious, they sometimes tend to forego useful information for pleasing visuals. When creating such pages, try and find a balance between impressing your users and offering them the information they need.
10. Unusual illustrations
While 3D is very popular in illustrations, so are 2D visuals that experiment with proportions, unusual angles, vivid contrasts, or vintage-like muted colors. Although minimalism is a very sought-after style, so is this type of quirky, “grotesque” style, based on combining realism with the unreal.
A highlight of this approach is using vector illustrations in SVG format, which can easily be scaled depending on resolution without any loss of quality. Typical formats such as PNG, JPEG, or GIF cannot be scaled losslessly (without losing quality).
Illustrations are great for catching users’ eyes and setting yourself apart from competitors; you cannot pair powerful information flows with basic stock photography.
While this can be a great style choice, it is important to remember that it isn’t appropriate in every situation. You have to know your audience well to ensure that you’re not putting them off instead of impressing them with this type of visuals. Sometimes it is better to play it safe to avoid a negative outcome.
11. UX simplifications
One of the main trends in UX is optimizing workflows as much as possible and cutting down on the elements and fields required to complete a task. An example of this is reducing the number of steps required for checkout on an online store to just one step.
The same can be said of registration or login processes, which are either getting simplified or are just a sidestep in user flows. One thing to remember moving forward is that more and more websites are not requiring users to remember passwords for logging in, instead opting to use their phone numbers or biometric data as identifiers.
Before going ahead and making dramatic changes like those outlined above, make sure that they appeal to your users. Account for the niche in which your business operates and your target audience.
Consider testing your ideas first. Even if you have got the general concept correctly, you may still uncover minor flaws by listening to what your test audience has to say about the experience.
12. Super apps
The western world has always focused on single-purpose applications, whereas in some countries like China, so-called “super apps” are very popular.
A super app combines multiple services into a single app which tries to solve any problem or meet any need a user has. For example, a super app could be a social network, a messenger, game, dating app, money transfer app, taxi service, and more, all in a single application. Examples of Chinese super apps include WeChat and AliPay, which have over one billion monthly users.
The idea behind a super app is creating an ecosystem that covers every need a user may have, so they do not have to leave the app. The more time users spend using an app, the more loyal they are to that app, and that loyalty is then easier to monetize.
While it is nice and generally convenient to have everything in one place, having too many functionalities in an app can become irritating, as users need to get through a mass of services to get to where they want.
At the same time, Asian people are more open to having a service or provides imposed on them as part of a super app, while westerners tend to explore multiple options before making a purchase, which is why they generally favor using several single-purpose app instead of one multi-purpose app.
13. Advanced onboardings
What better time to appreciate good onboarding than now, after millions of people in the past year were forced to work from home and deal with installing and using video calling software or other remote-work services.
The main functions of onboarding include:
- familiarizing users with an app’s main functionalities and purposes
- offering users the possibility of signing up
- collecting data to improve personalization
Modern onboardings are some of the most important mobile app screens, going beyond simply explaining the user interface and its elements, and presenting the product itself.
There are many people who consider onboarding an inherent sign of poor design choices. The idea behind this is that if you need to explain something to users, you did not do a well enough job of designing the experience.
On the other hand, if your users are struggling to understand your app, they are likely to abandon it. Effective onboarding ensures that users understand what an app is capable of and impresses them from the very beginning. Try using custom graphics to ensure users easily recognize your app and ensure your copy is clear, concise, and easy to read.
14. Critical thinking and design relevance
Design has always been cyclical, meaning that new UI/UX trends come and go, and there will always be repetitions, with things going in and out of style over time. For example, many are predicting a return to the Bauhaus style of design, while others are searching for new styles to replace the current widespread flat tendency.
After going through the list above, a couple of aspects of UI/UX design that will never change or go out of style are critical thinking and design relevance. If something is trending in design, there is a logic and a perspective behind it. Design is a means, not an end, it is a visual language used to communicate a product or service’s value. When you know and understand the language, you want to use it to create something worthwhile. The same applies to design.