The internet has taken over the world to the extent that most of us would not know how to function without it and has subsequently expanded our ability to choose in almost inconceivable ways. To put it into perspective, January 2021 saw over 1.83 billion websites on the internet, with over 4.66 billion users. This incredible amount of content means that only so much of it will be accessed by respective users. It is this scenario that makes creating an almost perfect first impression that continues throughout a user's experience imperative. As, with so much choice, users need to be convinced immediately that your site is worth their attention. Dealing with users at every touchpoint, ensuring their experience is optimal, and maintaining constant appeal is exactly what user experience (UX) is all about. Despite the billions of internet users, great UX design is the key to meeting their expectations and demand for the highest quality content as well as the speed of service. The complex and influential nature of UX means its trends depend on both digital and offline realities and essentially requires its own marketing strategy. Understanding that creating good UX is a consuming process, the demand and interest for a UX role has exorbitantly increased with a 298% peak in interest in 2020. While great UX will help your site break through the noise, what exactly defines this, and how can you stay ahead of the competition and subsequent trends?
What is UX?
Ultimately, user experience is the relationship between a product, a website, a brand, and a user. The aim of UX design is to optimise this relationship to create an enjoyable and easy experience for users, no matter their intentions. Specifically, it deals with a user's overall experience of a brand, product, or service. While UX may appear rather technical, it can be tedious to get right, requiring a lot of critical and creative thinking behind the scenes. Ultimately, UX design requires a lot of research, planning, trial and error, and requires room for you to make mistakes and learn from them. In its essence, user experience is the culmination of content, research, design and strategy and its effect on your marketing endeavours. User experience is web design in response to the way people think.
Top UX Trends of 2021
Many UX trends rose throughout 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and have continued to evolve accordingly based on offline factors in 2021. In addition, changes in lifestyle throughout this period meant more people spent the majority of their time online, demanding a connection and increasing their digital expectations.
Usability is essential as it gives users more energy to focus on enjoying the content rather than being distracted by confusing operation processes. Many examples of UX design from 2021 indicate the use of simplicity to achieve this optimal level of usability. The logic behind this is that if users cannot understand your site, they won’t use it. Luckily, simplicity doesn’t have to be boring, and there are many ways in which brands have creatively adapted to produce simple web design that simultaneously reflects their brand identity. Simplicity satisfies and has proven to be an excellent way to ensure new users can navigate your site and avoid gatekeeping any groups of users.
Transparency and usability
Transparency and authenticity have been popular buzzwords, where users are now demanding more in-depth information about the products they buy and brands they support. So much so that a Forbes article deemed that “transparency is no longer an option; it’s a must”. In response, many brands focussed on exuding their brand values and highlighting transparency throughout their UX design. This includes providing information regarding sustainable brand practices, moderation policies, sources of funding, and collaboration details where the UX aspect comes in by providing this information in an accessible, usable and effective manner. If users have to spend time scouring a website for information, it comes across as though the brand doesn’t want it to be found, ultimately decreasing their reputability. Therefore, creating clear and usable navigation tools has been a high priority in UX design throughout 2021 to ensure users can access the available transparent information.
The pandemic has meant we have all desperately been trying to find a new normal. UX design trends of 2021 have chosen to use this opportunity for change as a chance to collaborate and innovate new and better ways to use technology. UX design no longer relies on giving people what they think they need but what they don’t yet know they desire. Instead, rethinking how technologies can be used opens up opportunities for a more optimal technological experience that can be customised depending on the user. This can mean giving users choices, but ones you know they will want to use.Live viewing, editing, commenting, messaging, and tagging are all features incorporated into collaborative interfaces that enable users to understand their digital behaviour better.
Keeping users engaged throughout every touchpoint is essential for good UX. This includes even the smallest moments in a user's journey, referred to as a micro-interaction. They are ultimately intended to create a feeling of instant yet subtle satisfaction, and they are micro in size yet macro in impact. They are becoming a lot more macro because designers have begun to intensify these interactions through extreme animations and transitions. While these are larger interactions, they remain subtle and flow with the page and avoid coming across as intrusive as the user behaviour causes them to happen. Ultimately, the user's input results in creative outputs, maximising their connection with the site.
Online educational resources are an undeniable benefit of new technology, especially throughout the physical restrictions of the pandemic. However, success is solely dependent on the individual's motivation and ability to access these resources individually. In response to this limitation, UX design in 2021 worked to offer learning resources that better encourage people to participate and engage of their own will. This has been accomplished by creating applications and sites that use a combination of matchmaking technologies, psychological tests, remote feedback, and scheduling tools to tailor the experience to each user. These features are often implemented in intensive dashboards that help users visualise and track their process, set goals, and learn from mistakes. Ultimately, these tangible features aim to create a closer connection between the user and the site, keeping them engaged and wanting to return for more valuable content.
The internet as we know it moves at such a rapid pace that it can be hard to keep up, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. Therefore, it is essential to stay aware of the trends and what other successful sites are doing and be prepared to take any opportunity. However, balancing these tasks is easier said than done, especially when your competition is likely trying to do the same thing. So besides staying up with the trends and tracking your competition, there are a few ways you can work to optimise your site's UX.
Track your metrics and interactions
To identify spaces where your site is lacking and work to find ways to do better, tracking your metrics and interactions can help provide clear and specific insights to get you started.At the end of the day, you are the expert, and you know the goals of your site and brand better than anyone. So, analysing your site in relation to this expert understanding can help you understand where the gaps lie in your UX endeavours.
Seek audience feedback
We cannot forget that users are central to creating a compelling user experience. So understandably, understanding your audience from a range of angles and perspectives will give you a clearer picture of what improvements your UX design requires. You can gain this audience feedback by using metric tools, observing their use of your site, or directly talking to them. Incorporating various measures will help you gain both quantitative and qualitative data to direct your endeavours.
Actively complete courses
While you are the expert in your field, UX is something you have to keep learning. UX design is ever-changing, and keeping up by maintaining your skills is a sure-fire way to help you stay one step ahead of your competition. UX design is constantly changing because of the external factors that influence it. The way users and technology evolve both online and offline play a key role in UX practices, meaning that while it is one thing to watch the trend cycle, knowing how and why these processes work is an extremely valuable skill.
User experience does not exclude, meaning that it must be inclusive and accessible for all audiences considering those with special needs, disabilities, or impairments. Inclusive design should be straightforward but gets lost too often in the crazy realm of technology and typeface options. However, you can undoubtedly create inclusive sites and acknowledge that people are diverse without compromising on creativity. Users will fall under various human factors, including race, sociocultural background, gender, age, language, disabilities, and more, and not acknowledging these in the design process is a detrimental mistake. While it can be easier said than done to create something that perfectly pleases every unique human, simply considering these factors can significantly improve the vast majority of users' experience on your site and prevent them from feeling ostracised.
Ultimately, user experience design is a process that requires constant evaluation and upkeep to stay ahead of your competition. However, it is important not to forget your core brand values when optimising your web design, for losing sight of your intentions can come across as inauthentic, and send your UX efforts If you’re looking for more UX advice specific to your business, contact the team at Anchor Digital Today. The team of professionals specialises in all things digital and are passionate about helping you and your marketing endeavours flourish.