Top 4 UI Trends to watch in 2021

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March 2, 2021

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Author: Luke Mitsialis

“Users often perceive aesthetically pleasing design as design that’s more usable”

Aesthetic and friendly design is what User Interface (UI) designers are experts at. Crafting website and application design to pixel perfection. In the technology sector, UI design has developed to match tech evolution and user needs. This is essential to the success of a product or service offering, and to remain competitive in a market. For example, if Takealot didn’t update their design to match users and businesses needs, it’s likely the offering wouldn’t be as successful as it is. 

As an exception Amazon, the world’s e-commerce giant has an outdated User Interface by current UI standards. This doesn’t affect their success, as the service and experience design makes up for this shortcoming. While UI and User Experience (UX) designs are different disciplines in practice there is a lot of intersection between the two fields. Good UI design can help the UX design of products and this is validated by the aesthetic-usability effect.

The takeaways from this are:

  • People are more tolerant of usability issues when the design is aesthetically pleasing.
  • The aesthetically pleasing design creates a positive response and a better perception of usability 
  • Visually pleasing design can hide usability problems and prevent issues during usability testing.

Keeping a close eye on UI trends is important for designers to ensure products reflect the brand and innovate to modern visual standards. This also allows for products to stand out and grab the limited attention of users in an oversaturated market. Beautiful, well-crafted UI design can be a huge competitive advantage and yield return on investment when competing in the attention economy.

3D Elements

3D Elements

Figure 1: Three.js Journey

Modern hardware on computers and smartphones have developed rapidly, and are now able to support graphics better. This allows us to explore 3D model visuals as part of applications. Native 3D models in products allow dynamic lighting, texture and interactions that are distinct to most 2D illustrations and icons. Being able to use 3D more widely thanks to frameworks like Three.js, enables designers capable of 3D modelling to build captivating experiences and string brand narratives through products in a way we haven’t explored before.

Dark Mode

Dark ModeFigure 2: YouTube’s Dark Theme

In the last few years, it’s becoming standard to build dark themes into system settings. It’s a popular trend to design apps to have both a light and a dark theme. There are problems when it comes to accessibility and the best practice design but this a trend that is here to stay with more digitally native users and the need for users to have control of dark themes is becoming increasingly important. Designing dark themes reduces eye strain, uses subtle colour palettes and allows for a custom experience. Some systems intelligently switch between themes to match the time of day or ambient light picked up from device sensors to provide users with the best experience.

Aesthetic Minimalism

Aesthetic Minimalism

Figure 3: Notion

In contrast to most of our modern digital experience, minimalism advocates to simplify and clarify.  Limiting colour palettes, reducing copy and emphasising respect for people’s time and attention is typical of minimalism. It seeks to only include intent content in an oversaturated and bustling web. It is easy to understand why a product offering that doesn’t shout and demand all the user’s attention, can be a welcoming, calming break from everything else online, resulting in the user hanging around a bit longer. This approach to design is never at the cost of functionality. Minimalism only seeks to prioritise clarity and intent. Nothing on a page should exist without value and purpose.

Advanced Personalisation

Advanced Personalizaton

Figure 4: Photo by Jens Kreuter on Unsplash

When products adapt to us, instead of us adapting to products it creates an inclusive and personal experience. We live more of our lives digitally and if a product doesn’t evolve to match what we need we quickly abandon them for the alternative that will cater to us. People abandoning traditional services for online services that serve personalised content show this to be true. It’s expected for businesses to be able to personalise their offerings to every specific user or customer. Delivering content and functionality that match user needs is essential in the design of a great product. 

 

Wrapping Up:

UI Trends come and go. It’s important to understand a customer’s brand identity, the business goals and the pros and cons of a UI trend. Trends like neomorphic come and go and it’s important to experiment and explore these trends to enable innovation. This being said lets approach trends with a healthy amount of scepticism and keep an eye on larger companies. Let’s see what has tested to be successful to deliver the highest quality and best in practice standard of UI design. The digital design industry is maturing. It is now possible to strive for a longer design life for products. A better metric for good UI design is longevity over hype.

 

References and Links: 

Figure 1: https://www.threejs-journey.xyz 

Figure 2: https://www.youtube.com 

Figure 3: https://www.notion.so 

https://www.toptal.com/designers/ux/timeless-design 

https://www.nngroup.com/articles/aesthetic-usability-effect/