In the digital age, web and mobile apps are becoming increasingly important for businesses across all sectors. These are the ways in which many consumers first, or even solely, interact with brands.
As such, providing a user friendly way of operating these products is vital.
That’s where UI comes in. Defined as the means by which a user interacts with a computer system, this can be a keyboard, a mouse or the appearance of a desktop, application or website. The UI defines how consumers access information, communicate and perform tasks. Clearly, in order to provide a positive experience for users, we must understand what they expect and want from a UI.
But as with everything in digital, UI is constantly evolving. Many common best practices of 3 years ago are now seen as outdated, be it from changing guidelines from popular hardware providers, such as Apple, or from innovations and progressions made by leading design and development teams across the world.
To help out, the Radical team has predicted a few UI trends we can expect, and look to adopt, in 2017.
1. Gradients Are Back
In May last year, Instagram caused a stir when revealing its new logo, which heavily features the use of gradients. We had gotten used to flat design, as had been the trend since 2013, but this represented a shift back towards gradients, which is also supported by Google Material design. There are only so many flat colours that can be used, so gradients provide a license for creativity and allow designers to differentiate their products much more.
2. Immersive Video Content
Static pages and interactions can be boring and with the growth and popularity of video content on social media platforms, digital products can help immerse users through the use of video. More dynamic than photography, video engages users and can quickly tell a story. As with imagery, it can be used as page-leading content, or as an attractive background.
3. Micro Interactions & Animations
Another way to liven up pages is with small interactions and animations. These help keep a user engaged and show that thought and effort have been put into creating a product that isn’t bland or static. Users now expect mobile apps to be filled with small movements but the web shouldn’t be left behind, particularly as most websites are viewed more on mobile than desktop anyway. As well as being entertaining, these interactions reassure a user that their instruction has been received and helps guide them through a digital experience.
4. Conversational Design
We predicted this in last year’s equivalent blog and have seen conversational design work brilliantly for products such as Trussle, which is shaking up the mortgage space, and the Quartz news app, which reimagined how we consume news with a messaging-style interface. Conversational UI can be more intuitive, accessible and efficient than anything that has come before by utilising a user’s natural understanding of conversation over the need to learn new icons or gestures. It might not work in all circumstances, but has proved it has a place in UI and will be used more in the coming year.
Virtual Reality saw incredible growth in 2016, with headsets such Sony Playstation VR, HTC Vive and Samsung Gear VR all being well received. Google Cardboard also made a huge impact by making virtual reality accessible to a mainstream audience. This growing, new medium presents some challenges for UI designers, particularly as it has a new method of user input. It can also cause users motion sickness and elicit claustrophobia. Some amazing products have already been created though, such as Eagle Flight, Subnautica, Everest VR and The Climb, all of which completely immerse a user into an exciting experience unlike anything we’ve known from digital before. We expect VR to continue to grow and for its UI best practice to evolve accordingly.
Illustrations stand out and are versatile, playful and engaging. They bring a sense of personality and character that is much more difficult to achieve with stock photography.
So, they’re our UI predictions for 2017. We look forward to using these in new digital products at Radical and embracing the continual change in the world of digital.