20 expert opinions on UI design trends for 2018
Please note, there is a more up-to-date version of this article here: 10 UX design trends to watch in 2020.
From invisible UI to emotional personalisation to biometric authentication, which UI trends will be rocking our experts’ socks off in 2018?
Look, we get it. Trends posts are an easy win for any blog operating in the tech/marketing/digital industry. Writers can make up any old bunkum in the safe knowledge that nobody will bother checking back 12 months later to see if they were right (driverless planes, internet-enabled pets, smart-pants).
UI trends are an even rockier terrain to navigate. We KNOW that a good UI is based on research, testing and slow, methodical improvements – not looking at a competitor’s site and saying “ooh, that’s pretty, I’ll steal that!”
But it is helpful to look at the practical applications of ‘trending’ concepts, and whether these are things you should pay attention to and possibly learn from. Plus it can become a source of inspiration – you may think something is too off-the-wall or gimmicky, but maybe it will encourage your own creativity.
The other thing we have going for THIS particular trends post is that we have actual, honest-to-goodness, UX experts to engage with instead of just making stuff up ourselves (see: smart-pants).
So over the last couple of weeks we asked some of the most respected UX professionals the following question… What do you think will be the biggest UI trend in 2018?
Here you’ll find the detailed replies from 20 highly respected UXers. We’d like to send a massive thank you to everyone who contributed.
“Affordable, high-end aesthetics”
Jane Portman, UI/UX Consultant, Conference Speaker and Author, UI Breakfast
“I hope that 2018 will bring better answers to the same old questions in web application design. How do we figure out if the user is truly getting value beyond simple activation? What is the real-life formula for UX success metrics? How do we build an app for multiple use cases? The tools keep improving, and affordable technology — from basic personalisation to advanced analytics and AI — should help us find the right answers.
In terms of visual design, we’ve already polished the popular apps to the moon and back! Maybe too much, if you remember the Skype and Dropbox redesigns in 2017. Now it’s time to make high-end aesthetics more affordable for SaaS founders around the world. As SaaS craftsmanship becomes more refined each year, we should expect another wave of frameworks and ready-made UI solutions. It’s a wonderful time to live in. Let’s keep the wheels turning!”It's time to make high-end aesthetics more affordable for SaaS founders around the world @uibreakfastClick To Tweet
“Revisit the meaning of ‘good’ design”
Joe Natoli, Independent UX Consultant, Speaker and Author, Give Good UX
“I hope that 2018 brings a renewed focus on what it truly means to DESIGN something. And please understand that when I say design, I mean the true sense of the term – strategic thinking and problem-solving. I think we’ve reached a saturation point where, as an industry, we are over-reliant on technology when it comes to designing and building digital products. In the past year in particular, I’ve noticed that when practitioners talk about UX, they’re almost always talking about tools. Far too many conversations are centred around technology, frameworks or toolkits, and these things are being treated as if simply using them automatically ensures good user experiences and design.
At the same time, I see an increasing number of failing products — apps, sites, systems — and the reason they’re failing is because THEY WERE NEVER DESIGNED PROPERLY IN THE FIRST PLACE. The ‘fail faster’ and ‘always be shipping’ mantras have been adopted to an unhelpful extreme, where what’s being shipped is often grossly unfinished, poorly thought-out and sloppily executed. I think that more UX practitioners will hopefully wake up and realise that good design needs to be at the heart of any product, in order for that product to provide good UX.The fail faster and always be shipping mantras have been adopted to an unhelpful extreme @joenatoliClick To Tweet
“You are your password”
Nick Babich, Editor-in-chief, UX Planet
“Biometric Authentication will help us solve password problems. When we interact with digital services, we often use a login-password combination to login to a service. We need to commit information about our credentials in memory and enter them each time we login from the new device. We often use the Reset Password link when we don’t remember the password and follow a long and boring procedure to reset. It’s clear that current authentication mechanism is outdated.
Biometric authentication will make it possible to avoid a lot of unnecessary actions. With biometric authentication you don’t need to remember your login/password, your body is basically your login/password. And this way of authentication is already popular among mobile users. The average iPhone user unlocks a device 80 times per day, 89% use Touch ID, according to Apple.
A majority of modern mobile devices, which allow biometrical authentication, use a sort of touch ID for that — your finger is scanned and used to unlock the devices. But in the coming year, we’ll see a shift towards facial recognition, simply because it’ll require much less effort from the user.”With biometric authentication, your body is your login and password @101babichClick To Tweet
“To err(or) is human”
Lisa Baskett, Senior UX Researcher, RevUnit
“In 2018, we’ll see more products built to account for user error.
As designers, we tend to focus squarely on the desired interaction flow and ideal state. While we often give error feedback, we seldom analyse all of the ways users could interact with our products in the way we didn’t intend and where they find themselves stuck in a dead end.
It’s critical to perform proper discovery and validation testing to account for as many human error scenarios as possible and build in guided, friendly feedback to help users navigate their way back to the happy path.”Perform proper discovery and validation testing to account for as many human errors as possibleClick To Tweet
“More accessible and inclusive experiences”
Matthew Morek, Product Designer and UI Engineer, MADBIT.Co
“In 2018, designers might finally realise that speed and accessibility are fundamental to providing the best experience for everyone. We’ve been putting pressure on the subject for years, and it seems like a lot of designers and product owners are waking up to the fact their apps and websites are often slow, bloated, and inaccessible to a huge chunk of our population.
Despite the advances in assistive technologies, available bandwidth and computing speed, it’s harder for people with disabilities and motion or sight deficiencies to use our software, because we’re not including their needs in our designs. We forget or ignore the fact they use our apps and sites differently.
I would like 2018 to be the year of educating product teams on how to design lean, accessible and inclusive experiences. Judging by the voices in our industry, this is already beginning to happen.”It's time to educate product teams on how to design lean, accessible and inclusive experiences @matthewmorekClick To Tweet
“UI to inform and disclose”
Per Axbom, Designer, Writer and Coach, Axbom Innovation
“A growing awareness of ethical thinking, value sensitive design and data protection regulations will push the development of user interfaces that keep users well-informed about the data they are giving up and how it will, and could, be used.
The pressure to change will be both top-down and bottom-up. As more and more individuals develop an understanding of the value of their personal data, there will be call for transparency like never before. Designers must come up with brand new ways for contextual disclosure and education in the moment of digital interaction.
Rob Whiting, Head of Product Design, The Spencer Group
“I asked Alexa, Siri and Cortana and they told me that Voice UI will continue to be one of the major influences on device and system design throughout 2018 😉 but the trend I’d really like to see is a focus on more clarity in UIs.
With all the various devices people interact with every day — phones, watches, VR headsets, smart home devices – we are adding more and more complex interfaces into peoples lives and all these interfaces need to be easily understood and controlled to be useful. To achieve this, designers will need to really understand how people interact with all these various devices – and how these devices interact with each other – and design these interactions to be as clear as possible.
Good UI design in 2018 should be looking to remove as much ambiguity as possible from how interfaces work and follow clear, well defined design patterns.”Good UI design in 2018 should be looking to remove as much ambiguity as possible @whitingxClick To Tweet
“Reinvigoration with animation”
Paul Randall, Senior UX Architect, Evosite
“In 2018, animation should be a prerequisite on every site in a small way. Without it, designs will begin to look dull compared to those that do.
Subtle animation helps guide, surprise, delight and improve general user experience. However it is too easily overused, so apply in moderation. Lot of ‘UI inspiration’ sites go too far and we’ve found from user research that any animation adding time to the user journey is met with frustration. Done well, it brings a smile to the faces of visitors and makes you memorable while making the overall experience more engaging.”Subtle animation helps guide, surprise, delight and improve general user experience @paulrandallClick To Tweet
“Designing around connectivity”
Adam Babajee-Pycroft, Managing Director (UX), Natural Interaction
“In recent years, software as a service has exploded in popularity. 2017 was the year where ideas from apps began to influence the design of ‘normal’ websites. For example, retail sites featuring immersive journeys to discover and explore products. This renewed focus on the web has largely been driven by the decline in native apps. According to recent research by Comscore, 51% haven’t downloaded an app in the last month.
2018 will be the year that you need to do a better job of designing around connectivity. With widespread 4G in urban areas, people are making plans with the assumption they’ll be connected. However, there are still chunks of the UK with very little coverage. Try taking a train for more than 20 minutes and it’s likely you’ll lose signal. We know that many interactions take place cross-device. Could connectivity play a role?
Which tasks can the user make progress on, while they’re waiting for their connection to return? What happens when the connection does come back? How do we communicate this new capability? Which features are most valuable in this context?
New technologies such as Progressive Web Apps offer new design possibilities. The ability to cache elements of a site offline can improve performance, even when the connection is up. With 40% of users leaving a site that takes longer than three seconds to load, there’s a clear commercial case to explore this.”In 2018, you need to do a better job of designing around connectivity @adam_uxClick To Tweet
“Whatever UI works, works”
Conor Ward, Head of UX & Design, Centrica
“Should we care about UI trends at all, or focus on better ways of working instead? I’m not a believer in following UI ‘design trends’ as they have the same issues as following UI ‘best practices’. The danger of focusing on trends is that you take the opposite approach to true user-centred design. You’re assuming that an interface that works for one company’s customers and context, is transferable to your business and your users and choosers.
So with that in mind… what will be the UI trend of 2018? The interfaces that will continue to be successful will be whatever UI works for a specific human and their specific needs.
One approach gaining interest from UX designers to ensure human-centred products is ’Service Design’. This is where you consider and validate what experiences your users need, explore their end to end journeys and the job they hired your product to do for them (or Jobs to be Done – JTBD) while also redesigning the back-of-stage business processes, systems and platforms as part of your service design activity to ensure the best experience. Not just focusing on the UI layer on top of these processes.
If you aren’t doing this depth of activity in 2018, I would be worried for the limited impact you will be able to have on your users experiences.”You can ensure human-centred products by using Service Design @uxmuchClick To Tweet
“Think and design in three dimensions”
Vanissa Wanick, UX & UI Design expert, PhD, Researcher and Teaching Fellow, vanissawanick.com
“I believe that in 2018 we will see a lot of 3D UI, and advances in practices regarding 3D interfaces in 2D environments. This will lead to another layer of complexity while designing interfaces. As a designer, you might need to consider looking at how your interface would behave in a 3D environment like Virtual Reality or a 360º video.
“Every interface is a story”
Fabricio Teixeira, UX Director at R/GA and Editor at uxdesign.cc
“We have been hearing about the term microcopy for some time – a few years, maybe. But 2017 was the year the design industry finally woke up to not only to the importance of choosing the right words when crafting interfaces, but also how the experiences we design are part of a broader, more holistic narrative.
Browsing a well-crafted interface is like reading a great story. Which means that every designer is a storyteller — whether they are designing a landing page, a product page, a signup form, or a chatbot conversation.
2017 was the year of unseen collaboration between UX Designers and copywriters. The cross-pollination between UX and copy will grow in 2018, as the term ‘UX writing’ starts to be used to describe not only a technique, but also job titles within design companies.”Browsing a well-crafted interface is like reading a great story @fabriciotClick To Tweet
Jonathan Lupo, VP of Experience Design, EPAM
“In 2018, the march towards invisible UI will continue, as the convergence of physical spaces, devices and digital technologies continues. In a connected, physical world, natural interactions make more sense than screen-based ones. Engaging with technology in the physical world should feel seamless, as technology becomes an extension of our environments and our bodies. Therefore, the way we engage with technology will be with our eyes, with our voice, with physical gestures, and with our emotions (as biometric sensors are embedded in VR HMDs and wearable devices measure emotional and physiological data).
It sounds scary, but we hope the rise of ‘emotional personalisation’ means that there will be a focus on using technology to improve people’s physical and mental health over time (and not to personalise advertisements, based on our mood).”Emotional personalisation is a focus on using tech to improve peoples' physical and mental health @userexperienceClick To Tweet
“Invisible UIs need more support”
Stu Collett, Founding Partner and Principle Design Director, Super User Studio
“We’ll continue to see the adoption of IoT devices, which means we’re going to see more experiences designed with no visual element. Our skills as digital service and experience designers have never been more valuable. However, along with the rise of VUIs, we’ll also see a rise in supporting visual interfaces, like the Amazon Echo Show. Gradually we will see the development of more sophisticated and supporting UIs on washing machines, car infotainment systems and home robots.
I think this year’s other design trend will be the rise of DesignOps and Systems. As we see more complex and interconnected enterprise sized platforms, there comes a need for designing sustainable human-centred systems that react, deploy and flex with speed. Operational efficiency is paramount within the enterprise and the need to work seamlessly with DevOps has never been more apparent.
Skeuomorphism will also start to re-emerge. Affordances have deteriorated, giving a rise to small, but not insignificant, flaws in usability: such as the flat panels in Microsoft’s Office that don’t visually indicate that it’s scrollable. Although Google Material Design has solved this in part, we’ll find skeuomorphism re-materialising along with the steady development of slicker and effective animation patterns. This will help brands delineate the visual element of their experience in the market.”Our skills as digital service and experience designers have never been more valuable @stucollettClick To Tweet
“Interactive storytelling to fight content fatigue”
Rémy Rey-De Barros, Creative Director, Pixel Tie
“As more and more brands get onto the content bandwagon, consumers struggle with the problem of having too much content. Like a child reading a book, an interactive story intensifies engagement with on-screen actions and character personalisation. The same goes for consumers reading online content and – in this context – interactivity also means more engagement for brands.
Interactive storytelling isn’t new but the latest HTML/CSS/JS updates make the development of interactive components easier than ever. With fast internet connection speed becoming a norm for many and engagement being a crucial metric for brands, we can only expect immersive interactivity to be on the rise in 2018.”You can expect immersive interactivity to be on the rise in 2018 @rreydebarrosClick To Tweet
“Branding beyond the pixels”
Caio Braga, UX at 99designs and Editor at uxdesign.cc
“As we move into a world of fragmented, less visible interfaces, branding means a lot more than how a brand looks or what it says in mass media. Non-pixel-based experiences are pushing designers to rethink a brand’s personality, actions and signifiers.
Less than a decade ago, branding style guides used to be a colossal PDF covering multiple visual aspects of a brand, such as typography, colors, and photography. When digital came about, style guides started to account for pixel-based touchpoints between brand and consumer. In the past couple years, we started creating living design systems, covering interface behaviors that can only be represented in real code – such as motion, responsiveness, transitions and accessibility features.
Interfaces are gradually becoming invisible as we move toward a world of zero UI. Screens will start to go away, and interactions will primarily happen via voice, gestures, glances, or even by thought. Branding means a lot more than just visuals these days. In 2018 we expect to see branding taking other forms, in particular: voice, personality and action.”Non-pixel-based experiences are pushing designers to rethink a brand’s personality, actions and signifiers @caioabClick To Tweet
“Go off the grid”
Sergi Arévalo, Lead UI/UX Designer, Justinmind
“This year is going to be a very interesting time in the world of user interaction. Web interface design and user interfaces are very alive right now and evolving rapidly. They must adapt to new trends, social changes and, above all, technology.
Voice User Interfaces (VUIs) will be more important this year and VR is here to stay – even if it has yet to burst out of the world of video games into the mainstream. Speaking more day-to-day, one of the biggest changes I anticipate is with our old friend, the grid.
The new iPhone X has made this clear, although it isn’t the only reason. Borderless mobiles are becoming increasingly common and infinite screens give a taste of what borderless design can offer.
I think this will be one of the biggest and most significant changes in 2018. Moving ahead, UI designers will have to leave the grid – if only momentarily – to think of concepts which are less rigid and more fluid.
A grid gives us balance and order but to create immersive digital experiences, designers have to break the rules and therefore break free from the grid. This will help when creating a continuous flow of information where the user experience is more immersive.”Designers have to break the rules and therefore break free from the grid @SergiArevaloClick To Tweet
“Simplicity overlapped with accessibility”
Francisc Aknai, UI/UX Designer, Yopeso
“As trends don’t change from one day to another, we can only talk about the direction of UI trends and where they are heading in 2018. As things are shaping-up at the moment, the direction will be simplicity overlapped with accessibility. I think the best way to put it, is with the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupery…
‘A designer knows they have achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.’
This simplicity will be achieved through more user-centered design backed by the recent advancements in technology like machine learning, AR and VR.
As we distance ourselves from flat design, new directions emerge and try to take the stage. For instance, the rise of design systems based layouts, the broken grid style, brutalism, or other even weirder out of the box ideas.
With all this in mind, I’m sure that 2018 will be a packed year, with even more big brands refreshing their designs and trying to make a mark in the history of design.”Simplicity will be achieved through user-centered design backed by machine learning, AR and VR @FranciscAknaiClick To Tweet
“The mobile experience is every experience”
Stef Ivanov, UX/UI Designer, stefivanov.com
“1. Mobile = Desktop. Websites and web apps will be designed in a way to look and feel like mobile products. People got used to the mobile experience and they will never go back. The Touch Bar on MacBook Pro is a good example
2. Designing UI for AI products that have never existed before will be a great new challenge for designers
3. Accessibility – Say goodbye to long, complicated passwords, and welcome to verification codes
4. Simplified UI – This will play a key role in 2018. Smaller and hidden navigations will become even more common.
5. Engage faster – Chatbots will rise even further and more products will experiment with them
6. Brands will invest more in custom illustrations and icons.”Websites and web apps will be designed in a way to look and feel like mobile products @DesignerUIUXClick To Tweet
“The steady path to zero UI”
Edoardo Benedetto, Co-Founder, UX Architect and Experience Designer, Oval Money
“I expect user interfaces to be pushed towards stronger personalisation in 2018. More immersive, interactive and responsive interfaces for the user and the device, with an eye on efficiency and user experience.
Minimalism and card design will still rule both web and mobile UI, with an even greater increase in animations and broader use of gradients and vibrant colours. All of this topped off by the use of illustrations combined with the search for striking and appealing fonts with a strong comeback of bold and fancy fonts to replace more classic ones.
These are the many small steps towards a less visible UI.”I expect user interfaces to be pushed towards stronger personalisation in 2018 @edobeneClick To Tweet
Main image by John Jennings
Christopher is the Content Marketing Manager, which basically means the skipper of the good ship ‘UserZoom blog’. So far his requests for changing its name to the ‘USS-erzoom Blog’ have been rightfully denied. In his spare time, Christopher is a filmmaker and the editor of wayward pop culture site Methods Unsound. He used to be the deputy editor of Econsultancy, editor of Search Engine Watch, staff writer for ClickZ and features editor of CMO.com.