Marketing is increasingly moving away from the product towards the user experience and this is also reflected in the current design of apps and websites. We spoke to Milan Vukelić about the latest developments in UX/UI design. Milan has worked for brands such as Mini, Bayer, Alphabet and Nivea and taught international students what user-centred design is all about at Ironhack Berlin. He is co-founder of muse case labs, a company which brings designers and web developers together to craft digital products and services.
Milan, who and what does it take to design a good digital product?
User experience designers who design the user interaction and user interface designers who implement interaction visually. In fact, these are often the same person. A good workflow between designers and web developers is also necessary.
What is immensely important for UX is user research. People are becoming increasingly aware of how essential a good user experience is for Return on Investment. McKinsey has found that the most successful companies are those that place the user experience at the centre of their activities – the buzzword here is "from product to experience". They call it "building a design-driven culture". Design here, of course, is not meant in the sense of colours or fonts, but as a consistent orientation towards the needs of customers and shaping the user experience based on empirical findings.
Can this be seen in trends in UX/UI design?
Yes, absolutely. It manifests itself in tools for testing websites like Maze or Hotjar that serve the growing demand for user testing and data. Testing before implementation with Maze or tracking live websites with Hotjar offers very practical insights into user behaviour.
The growing spread of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) also has something to do with this. They are one of the most important technological trends in UX design. PWAs are designed to provide mobile users with the same experience as native apps, but are considerably cheaper and faster to develop.
Are there any other developments that reflect this move towards user-centricity?
Yes, definitely, for example more and more attention is being paid to user onboarding flows. Onboarding is very important for users when they first interact with a new system like an app, registering, setting preferences and goals. It is usually a precise step-by-step guide that appears when launching a new application, website, app or after updating the computer or mobile phone.
The news app Flipboard, for example, asks you for your main fields of interest before you have even fully signed in. All you have to do is to select the corresponding keywords and you get your first personalised news instantly after registration.
Storytelling is another increasingly important means of navigating users through a website and keeping them engaged. Human cognition is used to processing information in the form of stories. When designing communication and interaction, we can take advantage of this understanding to help our users navigate smoothly. Storytelling in digital products simply means that the information shown follows, introduces, culminates and ends in a comprehensive and logical sequence. If you can add catharsis in a form of a Call-to-Action that promises to solve a user need, you’ve got yourself a nice story.
start.uxdesign.cc for example guides the reader through the website with a balanced flow. Care is taken to maintain a logical sequence and not to overwhelm the user, but to gradually increase the complexity of the information.
So that was UX design. What are the trends in UI design?
There are always fashions in UI design, of course. But the real trendsetters in the true sense of the word are technologies that offer new design possibilities that last longer than just one season.
In 2020 variable fonts were introduced which really opened up new creative possibilities for UI designers. In the past you needed a separate file each for "Light", "Regular", "Bold" etc. This made websites slow. Variable fonts now only need one file. This means that websites can now integrate an unprecedented number of fonts without sacrificing performance.
And last year Spline came onto the market. The software facilitates the creation of responsive 3D objects through a very simple user interface and allows these objects to be formatted directly in web formats. So, the 3D trend will certainly continue to grow.
And who will execute design, either UX or UI, in the future? There is a lot of talk about the application of artificial intelligence, also in design… Machine learning technology is in the phase of narrow-AI which means that AI currently is only useful at executing very specific tasks. AI-driven products and services can amplify designers capabilities in specific ways, not replace any broader creative processes which are being performed by humans. Until quantum computers become a practical tool, designers are safe.