With over 1.7 billion websites online, there is no doubt that websites’ competition for visitor attention is at an all-time high. Users have many options for where to get their information fix, and websites have to battle it out to be on top.
There are many ways developers outdo the competition to attract and retain visitors. One way I make sure my websites come on top is by designing them to offer an exceptional user experience.
The best UX often goes unnoticed, gently directing and nurturing the user’s attention. While UX is critical to the survival of any company in any business, it is important to understand that it is constantly evolving.
Why has UX Become So Important?
Website designers of the 90s and early 2000s rarely ever had to worry about user experience; they just had to make a website work. Back then, developers had to worry about functionality, website size, and the wide variety of devices.
Today’s technology, internet speeds, and device displays are on another level. Functionality is not on top of the things website developers have to worry about. People demand efficient, sleek, and intuitive user experiences above all.
The best UX design today combines various design concepts and UX design tools to keep the user interested in the content. As a result, proper UX design has three notable impacts on a website:
1. Higher Conversion and Revenues
According to Forrester Research, good UX contributes to increased conversion rates by up to 400 percent. The result is higher returns on investment (ROI) and more profits.
2. Saves Time and Money
When you factor in UX design principles when initially planning your website, it will ultimately cut restructuring time. Proper user experience design will also go a long way to streamline branding and reduce marketing costs.
3. Higher SERP Ranking
Proper UX design helps improve the website’s SEO rankings. Did you know that UX is a significant consideration when Google indexes websites? For several years now, websites designed with mobile users in mind rank higher in search engine results pages.
As we face a new year, we must admit that user tastes, preferences, and demands have evolved from what they were a year ago. Here are four of the top UX design trends of 2021 we should keep an eye on.
1. Dark Mode
If you use a smartphone, you need no introduction to what dark mode is. If you do not, this is a light-on-dark color design that uses light-colored icons, text, and other interface elements on a dark background. In my opinion, dark mode is modern, stylish, and elegant on any device.
This design trend became such a hit among mobile app users in 2020, and it wasn’t long before websites picked up on it. Facebook, Netflix, Gmail, and Apple have already led the trend with dark mode websites.
More web designers are adding a light/dark theme switch on websites. This gives the user more options to choose a setting that is most accessible and legible to them. Stylish benefits aside, research has shown that people with visual impairments e.g. astigmatism find dark mode easier on the eyes. From now on, expect to see more websites implementing light/dark mode switches.
2. Full-Screen Immersive Performance
As screen sizes get bigger, people’s attention spans get shorter. The average user takes between 6 and 8 seconds to decide whether a website has what they want. In 2015, Microsoft released a report that revealed that a person’s attention span had dropped from 12 to 8 seconds.
Website designers responded by implementing the 8-second rule of UX design. This design concept aims to present a visitor with the most convincing content within 8 seconds after page load.
The 8-second rule seems to have come far enough, and designers are changing tact. 2021 may be the year full-screen immersive performance takes over from the 8-second rule as the de-facto way to keep visitors longer on a page.
An immersive user interface is free of distractions and notification panels or bars. Pages I design for mobile devices, in particular, use immersive performance to direct user attention to areas the client expects.
The idea behind user experience is to design a communication channel that is both useful and easy to use. However, the versatility of digital communication allows designers to make the channels more engaging. Designers are experimenting with different ways to add interaction and feedback features to web pages. One of the newest techniques is the use of micro-interactions.
Here is how micro-interactions work: When a user performs an action — such as scrolling or pressing a button, the page responds in a pre-determined way. Designers are intensifying the effects of micro-interactions. They do this by incorporating extreme animations, fancy page transitions, and background animations.
The new trend of adding micro-interactions on user pages is proving to be quite useful for traditional websites. While it may seem to contradict the ‘less is more’ design principle, micro-interactions are not intrusive.
4. Voice User Interface (VUI)
Today’s internet user is not only looking for functionality and service; they want exciting experiences too. They expect services to be agile and more human-like. Perhaps this is the reason smart home devices and voice assistants have been such a big hit in 2020. No experience beats ordering a digital device around with voice commands.
Voice recognition technology is evolving fast. It is just a matter of time before we will be ordering a website to visit with a voice command rather than type out a URL. Could 2021 be the year we will begin to see this trend?
Voice UI is not a new concept, but its applications are presently limited to a handful of technologies. Voice has one advantage that visual media do not: it can convey emotion better. As smartphones are increasingly used for web access, users will expect websites to be voice-enabled soon. This should complement the voice assistants in their smartphones and the smart home devices upon which we are increasingly becoming dependent.
5. Interactive VR and AR
Yes, I know, you have heard of how ‘Virtual and Argumentad Reality is the next big thing in user experience, but we are yet to get there a decade later. While we may not expect any groundbreaking innovations in this field, we do expect faster developments this year.
If you are not up to date with the developments in virtual user experience, Google’s Arts and Culture platform is a great place to catch up. Here, you can take a virtual tour around the world, go to space inside the space shuttle, and get a feel of how it would feel to ‘be inside a computing experience. It feels absolutely real.
UX is a necessity, and it is only a matter of time before technology catches up to bring a virtual and interactive experience to your office or home.
User preferences and emerging technologies are the biggest shapers of user experience trends. In 2021, we expect to see a few more unique trends than these four we already expect. These trends promise users a grounded and uniquely satisfying experience when a web page loads.