UX responses to trends and innovation

UX responses to trends and innovation

User experience design is known for being highly dynamic and responsive to new trends and innovations in digital products. Since technology is now advancing faster than ever before, UX must and is constantly adapting its methods to changing user needs and expectations. The last couple of years are no exception (looking at you, GenAI…).

The topic is extremely interesting and thought-provoking. Our Merge team had no other choice but to dive deep into the future of UX.

This analytical report presents how recent advancements in artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality (including Apple Vision Pro) are reshaping current UX and future expectations. Let’s first explore how UX evolves in response to emerging trends to understand patterns and predict its transformation due to AI, AR, and VR.

When introducing new technologies, UX design remains iterative to evolve with continuous user feedback. While exciting innovations may attract more users initially, usability tests often reveal new pain points or suggest improved functionality.

For instance, when augmented reality (AR) began gaining momentum, many apps incorporated AR views but lacked intuitiveness. Through iterative design cycles incorporating user feedback, AR interfaces have since streamlined to make content and interactions feel more natural.

Additionally, to stay ahead of trends, UX teams explore emerging technologies for future potential even before mainstream adoption. For example, companies experimented with designing for mixed reality headsets years before consumer versions launched.

Early exploration helps identify opportunities to enhance experiences through new interactions as technologies mature. It also helps minimize the risks of falling behind competitors by only reacting to trends once widely established.

The shift to mobile-first design exemplifies how user behaviors change rapidly, with mobile traffic surpassing desktop a decade ago. Currently, over 58% of global website traffic comes from mobile devices, according to a 2023 Statista report. UX designers have adapted, prioritizing simplicity, touch-friendly gestures, and responsive frameworks for consistent experiences across devices.

According to several studies, mobile-first design has become the norm:

Mobile-first design
Mobile-first design

Visual design trends, such as flat design or material design, etc., have transformed the aesthetics of digital products. These trends focus on simplicity, minimalism, and clean interfaces, improving usability and enhancing the overall user experience.

For instance, Google's adoption of material design improved the consistency and intuitiveness of their products, leading to a positive user response.

Another trend driving UX change is machine learning. Over the past decade, products began integrating more automated and personalized features. A study by McKinsey & Company found that 71% of consumers are more likely to purchase from brands that personalize their online experiences.

Innovation in interaction patterns, such as gesture-based navigation, voice commands, and augmented reality, has broadened the possibilities for user interaction. Many websites and apps now analyze past usage patterns to deliver customized content and recommendations.

The conversational interfaces of smart assistants like Alexa and Siri differ greatly from traditional static UX models since designing for AI capabilities requires accounting for dynamic, context-aware interactions unfamiliar to previous users. We’ll talk about it more in the next chapters.

Here are some additional examples of how UX has embraced emerging technologies:

  • With the advancement of computing power, progressive UX groups have begun to explore interfaces leveraging 3D and holographic displays and rendering virtual worlds. These initiatives envision multisensory experiences enabled by emerging technologies, with significant opportunities for enhancing motion UI, interactivity, animations, and user engagement in a space not yet fully realized.
  • Cryptocurrencies and blockchain have risen in prominence in recent years. While the technologies are still maturing, some UX teams have investigated new opportunities for decentralized apps, marketplaces, and financial services that use cryptography and distributed networks.
  • When wearable devices started gaining popularity around 2015, UX research examined how apps and companion interfaces could be optimized for quick glances versus full-screen engagement on smartwatches, fitness trackers, and AR/VR headsets. Gestural control schemes were also prototyped.
  • As machine learning algorithms and deep neural networks have advanced, there were attempts to simplify complex AI processes into intelligible results and actions for users. Conversational agents represent one design area that embraces AI/ML to automate natural language tasks.

Overall, observing technology shifts and evolving social contexts enables UX to continuously modernize while sustaining focus on user needs.

Flexibility and rapid iteration will remain indispensable for developing digital products that feel fresh, fit purpose, and delight users even amid future uncertainties. By adapting strategically to emergent trends, UX design can ensure optimal experiences remain delivered.

How Emerging Technologies Impact Designers

New technologies like artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and virtual reality are already changing the way designers do their work. While AI, AR, and VR will transform certain processes, they are unlikely to entirely replace human designers. Instead, these technologies provide new ways for designers to approach their craft and attain deeper insights.

AI for Design Process Optimization

AI streamlines routine design tasks, freeing up designers' time and mental bandwidth for more fulfilling, higher-level work. Tools like ChatGPT assist with user research queries, documentation, ideation, and other language-based design tasks.

Meanwhile, programs like Uizard use computer vision to automate tasks like generating wireframes from sketches. With further advances, AI could take on an even larger assisting role across the design process.

For instance, AI may help automate repetitive design revisions and improvement cycles. Designers could train AI systems on past successful design iterations to recommend optimal updates.

Such AI feedback could supplement, not replace, human oversight to help elevate designs more efficiently. AI may also facilitate design prototyping through capabilities like object detection and digital modeling.

AR and VR

Augmented and virtual reality open up new possibilities for designing immersive experiences. AR in particular lends itself well to designing interfaces that overlay digital information on the physical world.

Designs for AR glasses, for instance, must carefully overlay data without obstructing real-world views. Virtual reality also requires an understanding of three-dimensional space to craft compelling VR experiences and environments.

Technologies like VR prototyping tools offer a hands-on approach to iteratively refining and playtesting immersive concepts before development begins. VR even enables remote collaborative design through virtual workspaces where designers can brainstorm and refine together regardless of physical location.

Over time, AR and VR may greatly influence interaction and interface design conventions as new norms emerge around engaging with digitally augmented spaces. Their impact on designing digital experiences has only just begun.

Like many designers and creatives today, we’re always on the lookout for powerful yet intuitive tools to help bring our ideas to life and boost our creativity. Here are a few examples of how we at Merge use new tools and technologies:

  1. We do a lot of 3D and motion graphic work and have found Spline to be an incredible solution. Its intuitive interface makes 3D modeling pretty accessible. Plus, its real-time collaboration features are perfect for our collaborative workflow.
  2. For rapid prototyping of digital experiences, Framer is our go-to tool. Its "what you see is what you code" approach removes friction from the design process. Plus, its seamless exporting capabilities ensure our concepts can be passed over smoothly to development.
  3. For expressive illustrations and visual assets, we started using Endless Tools. Its many textures, shapes, and effects provide lots of opportunities for visual exploration and experimentation. With just a few clicks, we can develop highly customized illustrations and assets.