24 expert opinions on UI design trends 2019

We asked these UX experts the question, “What do you think will be the biggest UI trends in 2019?”

It was just a few years ago that design trend round-ups like these would typically focus on aesthetic concerns (parallax scrolling, flat tiles, the death of skeuomorphism) but as you’ll see below, we’re seeing the widespread awareness of much deeper issues.

As digital interfaces move beyond the screen and into the real world, designers (or perhaps more accurately, product stakeholders) have realized the need for maximum accessibility – as Sharron Rush from Knowbility.org says below, “businesses are waking up to the fact that 1 billion [disabled] consumers around the world should not be overlooked.” Consumers have never had more choice in the companies they interact with, so if your designing for the widest number of users as possible, while ensuring experiences are not only fast and efficient, but also safe and inclusive, then it’s not only and ethical choice but also makes good business sense.

Our experts also discuss matters of data handling and how this will affect the way we design products. It certainly helped that GDPR made headlines in mainstream news last year and raised people’s awareness of privacy and how they should have a choice whether they’d like to be retargeted endlessly by mattress companies online.

And of course there’s a whole bunch of fun stuff about custom fonts, ‘flat 2.0’ design and micro-interactions – but again, the thinking behind these trends is also based on accessibility, building user-friendly experiences and creating an emotional connection.

We’d like to send a massive thank you to everyone who contributed. Please feel to get in touch with us if you have your own trends to share, or want to discuss anything below.

Accessibility is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’

Lisa Baskett, Head of Research and Design, Child Welfare Digital Services  | @intrepidleeloo

“Accessibility is solved at the design stage.”

This is the mantra heard at the CSUN Assistive Technology Conference each year. I firmly believe that 2019 may well be the year that designing for accessibility becomes the de facto standard instead of just the right thing to do.

There are so many articles, books, and blogs published every day that the necessary knowledge needed to achieve accessible design is now within reach of even the most resource-strapped product teams.

For too long, many designers looked at accessible design aspirationally; as a nice-to-have but a difficult endeavor that’s only necessary if noncompliance results in penalties. Lately, though, it’s starting to sink in that not only is designing for accessibility a good thing, but it’s also good for business.

Accessible websites have better search rankings and SEO. Accessible apps reach a much larger audience. About 1 in 5 people have some form of disability. Designing products that are inclusive of all abilities ultimately results in a better experience for everyone who uses it.

Designers, scientists and artists will create magic together

Vanissa Wanick PhD, UI expert, Teaching Fellow and Games Researcher, University of Southampton | vanissawanick.com | @vanissa

We will continue to see a lot of development on 3D UI, particularly due to the large adoption of VR/AR/MR in different contexts.

2019 will be the year of magic. Designers will have to work together with scientists and artists to develop interactions that go beyond what we already know. We will see more multisensorial interfaces, through deep interactions with sounds, haptics, gestures and even brain waves. It will be more about being immersed and inclusive rather than just visualising features.

For designers, this means that interfaces will become more seamless and time won’t be a limit. Designers will be able to quickly prototype fictions and test (im)possible realities. At the same time, 2019 will be the year of trust, transparency and ethics. With new data regulations, there won’t be room for ambiguity.

The continuing integration of digital with the natural environment

Jonathan Lupo, VP/Experience Design, EPAM | @userexperience

As digital applications move beyond the screen, and into the real world, user interface elements are becoming more meaningfully integrated into natural environments and user experience paradigms are changing to accommodate new gesture-based interactions.

Augmented Reality applications require the Designer to become familiar with an entirely new set of best practices:

  • Enhance the experience of real world objects with contextual information – Visual affordances must be contextually located to guide participants to objects that they can interact with.
  • Provide an unobstructed view of the participant’s environment – Artificial elements that are placed into the participant’s real environment must not obstruct the participant’s experience of the real world. If the participant’s view of her surroundings is obstructed, there are real safety issues that can result (not to mention a poor user experience).
  • Use 3D interactions to create a more immersive experience – As higher end head mounted displays and smart devices enter the market, the level of immersion of content will also increase. Enhancing the immersive nature of the experience will depend on 3D interactions vs. screen-based interaction paradigms. I don’t mean that skeuomorphism will be appropriate, but participants will be engaging with a three dimensional world, using their eyes, hands and voice. Interactions such as dropdown menus and checkboxes will feel out of place and archaic.

From form to function

Will Green, Product Designer, Beamery | @willtgr

In 2019 I predict that we’ll see a focus on the speed and efficiency of interfaces. Users have increasing expectations of being able to get things done quickly. They also have shorter attention spans than ever. This will continue to shift the focus of UI Design from form to function, which is something we’ve already seen over the past few years.

I suspect this will likely manifest itself in a few ways:

  • Designers will have more of a reliance on standardisation, using Apple and Google’s respective design systems for native apps and sticking to common design patterns.
  • We’ll see an increase in the use of gestures.
  • Designers will look to data to make context based changes to interfaces that improve over time, using inputs like time of day, location, previous sessions/usage, etc.
  • On desktop we’ll likely see more use of keyboard shortcuts and searches in lightweight applications.
  • Voice interfaces will continue to improve and will eventually become a faster, more efficient way of doing certain things. We may see better cohesion between visual and voice interfaces, using a combination of both in a more seamless, meaningful way.

Forget the data and remember the experience

Francisc Aknai, Senior UX Designer, Yopeso | @FranciscAknai

Every designer is trying to make a mark on this world, by “saving the world with his ideas and creativity.” This is what everyone has in mind as they begin their journey through the world of design and start making sense of it all.

At first, they are guided by trends, what they try to imitate at some level. Then, they get more courageous and add some personal touches, so the new trends emerge. By filtering the best, adding to it and sharing.

In this new year, 2019, there are a lot of new trends in sight like: broken grid & overlapping elements; fluid, geometrical & asymmetrical shapes; isometric design; use of negative space; custom made illustrations with grain effect; bold colors; unusual & disruptive typography — just to name a few that are gaining more traction.

But besides the visual trends, I see something else changing this year. More and more brands/companies start to realize with the help of designers that the main goal is not to sell but to serve, not the features but the solutions, not to protect but to disrupt, to avoid fragmentation and create a flow, a journey. They have to put the emphasis more on the emotion and not the information because the users will forget the data but remember the experience.

Striving for simplicity, using the new technologies available, we must offer a better experience for a long-term emotional connection with the users. Let this thought guide you through your endeavors.

UI gets arty

Jessica Lovegood, AVP UX Designer, jessicalovegood.co.uk | @lovegooddigital

As I look at the newest UI I’m seeing lots more art coming through in design, either in illustration, data presentation or custom typography. These often are used to convey brand and personality of a UI, allowing us to flex our creativity.

Also I think more of a hope than a prediction for me is that we stop thinking in trends and start thinking in data, logic and empathy. To me, good UI design is a craft made out of a wealth of knowledge, logical thinking and healthy testing that involves not only the ‘look’, but how it feels, how it reads, how it moves and even now, how it sounds. There’s only so much we can rely on trends to do a good job with such a complex and user driven profession. This is where we need to use data, think logically and understand our users to provide the best experiences throughout UI.

If these two things both happen, it could mean that our UI gets more arty at the same time as it gets more scientific and that could be a really great way to propel UI design up another level in 2019.

Mind your language

Joe Natoli, Independent UX Consultant, Speaker and Author, Give Good UX | @joenatoli

My sincere hope is that 2019 brings a renewed focus on delivering understanding. On the user interface’s primary directive and greatest responsibility: to communicate, to help, to guide people clearly and simply through interactions.

I hope that — instead of this relentless focus on minimalism and ‘chromeless’ UI, or assumptions that voice-enabled everything or AI will automatically improve UX — we spend time creating useful signposts, visual cues, well-lit paths and clear language that doesn’t assume a user automatically knows what to do.

I hope that instead of simply choosing whatever icon seems ‘closest’ to what needs to be communicated from our existing library, we take the time to create a new icon that’s more meaningful and add it to that library.

I hope that hidden gestures, which are all too often invoked by mistake, become a thing of the past. I hope that UI, UX and product designers focus on ways to expose the fact that those interactions exist, instead of waiting for someone to screw up and discover them.

Finally, I hope that 2019 brings a renewed focus on language — from labels to navigation to macro-and micro-interactions. The growing trend I have seen in the past couple years is that UI language is all too often derived from what UI designers understand. Which they assume everyone else understands.

I want to see a renewed focus on THINKING about what’s appropriate instead of pulling from the library. It’s on us to figure out what language users speak and what visual cues they’ll understand — to know, not guess — and reflect that back to them in every aspect of the UI and its interactions.

Innovation, thy name is diversity!

Sharron Rush, Executive Director, Knowbility.org | @knowbility

Good design meets the needs of a wide spectrum of users. Whether it’s called accessibility, inclusion, designing for diversity, or universal design, businesses are waking up to the fact that 1 billion consumers around the world should not be overlooked. For those of us who have worked on this issue for decades, the sudden increase in awareness is exhilarating!

We see smart companies finding ways to include users with disabilities from ideation through design phases through product implementation. Product managers may set out to mitigate legal risk by integrating the browsing practices of people with disabilities, and find that they have solved unanticipated user needs by designing for the margins. The results are better products for everyone. Innovation, thy name is diversity!

National governments as well as major technology and retail companies launched initiatives in 2018 to hire more workers with disabilities. In 2019 we will see the impact of those initiatives in the design of workplace technology. This is a trend that will continue to build as the population ages and disability needs are experienced by people who expect their tech needs to be met.

Earn the space you take up

Gil Bouhnick, Co-founder and CTO, Missbeez, Author of The Mobile Spoon | @GilBouhnick

In 2018, mainstream smartphones got bigger thanks to edge-to-edge displays. In 2019, mobile apps will have to justify the extra screen space by presenting more content and sophisticated designs, without compromising on simplicity and ease of use.

I believe designers will move away from the ‘start small and scale up’ strategy and focus on larger displays where multiple views can be combined (horizontal collections wrapped inside vertical table views and so on) without creating clutter.

I hope that deep flat (or Flat 2.0) will become the new mobile standard, as it enriches the mobile experience on large displays and smartly solves some usability issues Flat 1.0 had.

Finally, I believe it’s time to solve some accessibility issues large devices cause. I expect key navigation elements, such as the hamburger menus, to relocate to the bottom of the screen and merge with the tab-bars. It would be great to see newer navigation concepts such as swipe-up cards becoming more popular in 2019 as they are more ‘context aware’ and much easier to use on large phones.

Variable is the spice of life

Rob Whiting, Freelance User Experience, Research & Product Design, electronicpress.co.uk | @whitingx 

The UI design trend I’d like to see in 2019 is a focus on more imaginative, and better implemented, typography for interfaces. In particular the use of variable fonts, a single font that offers great flexibility and benefits both the typography and the performance of the interfaces they are used for.

recent poll from Google indicated that the majority of Designers still don’t know what Variable Fonts are, or the benefits they could offer a system. So to see these used more as a general trend and increase their visibility would be a great step forward for web typography. The sites https://v-fonts.com/ & https://www.axis-praxis.org are both great resource for finding out more about and experimenting with variable fonts

As well as the visual and performance benefits, variable fonts offer emerging as a 2019 trend, I’d also love to see more use of colour fonts and all the additional creativity and expressiveness they offer to UI Designers.

Between variable and colour fonts, 2019 is a great year to be working with type for UI professionals.

I second that (e)motion

Claire Dracott, Head of UXD, NewsUK | LinkedIn/Claire-Dracott

Motion design will play a big part in 2019. Designers will explore the idea of micro-interactions and transitions to convey information or small nudges to the user. This will allow us to engage with the customers for longer; not just as a psychological time filler but we can start to utilise this further to really bring to life the brand and core design principles. I also think we’ll start to play around with depth and dimensions which may see more 3D concepts being developed.

The voice market will no doubt continue to grow with designers needing to gauge more expertise in creating user-friendly experiences for these devices that go beyond the basic functionality that they’re being used for today.

With the rise in voice and wearable’s designers will need to think more about device agnostic experiences. Products need to seamlessly fit into consumers everyday lives rather than us being dependant on them picking up a phone or opening a specific app. We need to shift mind-set to everything being connected and consider the context of what experience is best needed and when. Designers will need to look more at the end-to-end experience and the multiple touch points that could be made at any time with the brand.

Last but not least more tools will undoubtedly surface, leaving us all wondering what’s right for our teams and what we should be using.

You gotta fight for the user’s rights to privacy

Chris Compston, Lead Consultant, ThoughtWorks | medium.com/northern-dynamics | @ndxcc 

With GDPR legislation now in full force, businesses must adapt and improve their handling of personal data. Privacy, security and the communication of user’s rights are going to have even more of an impact on the way we design and build consumer products and services in the future.

Blockchain, smart contracts, massive data collection and more advanced consumer facing artificial intelligence are going to continually question our moral obligations to treat users and their data with respect and crucially, within the law.

The evolution of AI and XD 

Sean Van Tyne, Customer Experience Architect, Van Tyne Group | @Sean_Van_Tyne

The biggest trend for user interface in 2019 is the evolving relationship of Artificial Intelligence and Experience Design (XD). We know now that Machine Learning (ML) alone or traditional UI design alone is not as effective as the two working together. Smart organizations have already created strong collaborative relationships with their ML and XD teams.

In particular for 2019 UI, Voice UI is going to continue to grow. Right now, there is war going on to determine who will own your home system. Will it be Amazon Echo, Google Home or Apple HomePod. Samsung has joined the competition, too, with Home Hub. Either way, the experience they deliver is everything and Voice UI is going to be at the center of this revolution.

Also, for 2019 UI, we are going to see more Augmented Reality. AR is an interactive experience of a real-world environment where the objects that reside in the real-world are augmented by computer-generated perceptual information. It has real, practical applications in Head Up Displays (HUD) in cars, finding a great café on a street or getting to the right room in a hospital. AR UI is crucial to this emerging technology’s success.

Adapt to the individual

Jane Portman, UI/UX Consultant, Founder of UI Breakfast and Userlist.io | @uibreakfast

My guess is that 2019 will be all about customization and applications that adjust to individual user profiles. Industry leaders will be building things that look simple on the outside, but are a work of art when it comes to using them.

The audience and the creators have matured enough to appreciate (and produce) minimalist products. Now the next step is to make products ‘smarter’ while maintaining visual simplicity. We’ll dedicate more attention to interactions behind the curtains, such as email and other communication as a part of UX.

At the same time, more and more businesses will be able to catch up and afford visual polish. We’ll see plenty of exciting redesigns and updates. Onwards to a great year!

The year of empathy and inclusion

Catherine Dionne, M.Sc, UX Team Lead at Ergoweb Canada and Author at UX Collective | catherinedionne.co | @dionnecathe

I believe that in 2019 we will take a closer look at the ethics of our design choices in relation to new technologies. Whether it’s the products of artificial intelligence, virtual reality or augmented reality, there has been a democratization of these technologies which allowed us to experiment their limitations.

At the end of the year, we began to see a wave of designers (Viviane Castillo, Andy Budd, Chrystel Black, Dori Tunstall, etc.) talking about ethics and kindness towards users of artificial intelligence or new technologies. Unfortunately, we apply the empathic approach only to a certain circle of users too often. This circle sorely lacks in variety and doesn’t include much of the real spectrum of users (culture, gender, orientation, etc).

But inclusion isn’t just about users with special needs. It’s an attitude and an approach which embrace diversity and user’s differences and promote equal opportunities for all users. One question seems to emerge: we are talking about empathy, but are we really applying it to our design approach? I believe and hope we will have a real conversation in 2019 on inclusion and empathic approach applied to new technologies.

Trust, respect and transparency

Per Axbom, Coach & Designer, Axbom Innovation  | @axbom

I call on this to be the year where UI designers rally to make amends for a misguided turn some years ago. Instead of confirmshaming we will see trustful naming. Instead of infinite scroll we will see human control. Instead of unclear consent we will see transparent intent. And instead of incessant notifications we will see respectful conversations.

This will be a year to lead by example, acknowledging the vast harm that can be brought by micro-interactions. With more and more designers showcasing a human-considerate approach, people will learn to recognize good-hearted UI and gravitate towards it.

(hyper) Personalization to stand out

Rémy Rey-De Barros, Creative Director, Pixel Tie | @rreydebarros

With more than 1,8 billion websites online (1 website for every 4 people) this medium is getting saturated. Consumers are more likely to choose a product based on the personalized experience that promotes their engagement rather than the quality of the product itself. Therefore, it shouldn’t be a surprise that branding is definitely increasing its scope to user interface components.

2019 should see an increase in the brand’s budget for personalized visuals (vs stock images) and more sophisticated interactions. Designers will have to present more functionality that enables users to customize the features according to their personal needs. Good storytelling associated with unique – but still functional – design elements will be a necessary adoption to play one’s cards right in this online jungle.

Accessibility will be the new UX research

Jayne Schurick, UX Researcher, Knowbility | @knowbility

Years ago, I always had to explain, and then explain in a different way, what usability meant and how I, as a researcher, could help make products easier to use. Fast forward to today, and UX design and research have become pretty mainstream. Most companies now appreciate why their products need to be usable and if they don’t have internal staff, they at least know how to hire consultants to design and test their products.

Now I specialize in working with people with disabilities and sometimes I find myself again explaining why this is important. But, like usability 20 years ago, I’m feeling that times are changing.

My hope for 2019 is that companies push to understand their potential users and make their products accessible and usable to people of all abilities.

A deeper shape of design

Stef Ivanov, UX/UI Designer, stefivanov.com | @DesignerUIUX

I believe that 2019 will bring a lot of new opportunities for designers in VR, AR and other experiences. We’ve been testing and talking a lot about these in the past few years, but we’ve barely seen any practical or meaningful use.

In 2019 more and more brands will start adopting deeper shapes and textures, fluid layouts, video and 3D. Typical flat illustrations and boring grids will be slowly fading away.

Also, the demand for generalists will decrease, and they’ll be mainly used for smaller projects. Specialists are on the rise and an imperative requirement for larger, more sophisticated projects. Some designers will specialise in VR, other in Voice prototyping and so on. I’m super excited about this, as it will push the industry forward, but many designers may struggle to find a fit. So my advice – now is the time to pick your specialty wisely and become an expert in it if you want to be involved in exciting, game-changing projects.

Design for the wider experience

Catherine Wilson, UX Research and Strategy Manager, Aer Lingus | @cath_wilson2000 

Understand the entire experience.

In 2019 we can no longer design digital interfaces in isolation. Instead, we must understand the wider mind-set and context, previous experience and user expectations, to appreciate the role the ‘digital’ aspect plays in the wider experience. Proper research needs to play a vital role. Researchers assemble insight, emotions and motivations behind people’s thoughts and actions, not just how people interact with something. They understand that digital forms part of the experience, but it is not the experience in itself.

In the airline industry, weather and other factors have a huge impact on airline on-time-performance and cancellations, which are the primary indicator of guest-satisfaction. The travel experience can be improved by communicating potential delays or disruptions in advance, and offering emotionally-relevant, personalised communication and solutions when things are going smoothly vs. things going wrong. This seamless experience requires a plethora of cogs and wheels to work in the background combining various information sources, ground staff, airport digital displays, mobile and push technologies, voice, chatbots, machine learning, apps and geolocation – the list goes on… all contributing to an unassuming, yet helpful outcome, which might have a simple, intuitive, or even invisible UI!

As a researcher, when there’s a snowstorm, or on March 29th, you’ll find me at the airport, observing!

New heights of flatness

Taylor Ling, Chief Designer, Fabulous Co. | @taylorling

Visual-wise, flat design with depth will continue to be the main UI trend in 2019, and in this year, it’s likely going to be taken to a new height to achieve best usability and efficiency. And obviously the industry will keep improving the technology and keep pushing towards zero UI for the future, but unlikely there will be a huge shift in 2019 despite the momentum.

One of the trends I can see in 2019 is about the streamline of the tooling for design, which doesn’t only allow the designer to create UI prototype in a more efficient way, but also allow closer collaboration between the core teams, especially designer team and development team to create a usable product. With all the new technology like voice, AI, ML, AR etc., such a gap is necessary to be closed to ensure best user experience, while keeping the business goal in mind.

Accessibility will be in the fabric of everyone’s work

Dean Barker, Vice President User Experience Design Studio, Optum | @deanzilla

There are so many trends that it is hard for people in the field to stay on top of it all. That speaks to a perennial trend in management for becoming a ‘learning organization’. It’s everyone’s responsibility to be continually growing and learning. To that end, accessibility is a key area of emphasis. It wasn’t that long ago that concerns like mobility and accessibility were specialties. Today mobile design is simply a part of everyone’s work. Accessibility is closing in on that status. It can’t just be for specialists anymore, it has to be part of the fabric of our work.

At the same time, there are technology trends that require our response – things like Artificial Intelligence, voice UI, and IOT for example. And of course, there’s a nexus where in many systems all these converge. It puts a tremendous burden on individual and team knowledge.

There are also some interesting trends that impact UX organization design, such as the emergence of Service Design, the concept of Guilds, increasing traction for DesignOps, and striving for the right ratio of designers and developers in an Agile world. To quote Dickens (and Styx), “These are the best of times…”

Well we’ve been told

Harry Brignull, User Experience Specialist, brignull.com | @harrybr

For 2019, I’d like the big UI design trend to be for UI designers to grow up and pay less attention to trends.

Broaden your skills. Learn about User Research. Psychology. Information Architecture. User Experience. Product Management. Trends come and go.

Look at the pointless animation we had with Flash. Disorienting carousels and endless jQuery plugins. Parallax scrolling. Scroll-jacking. The list goes on and on. It all seemed exciting at the time. So forget trends.

The word “user” is in your job title – go learn about users.

Big Brother is watching, and preparing your drink order

Leah Kaufman, Senior UX Research Manager, Lenovo | @cutmyartout

2019, as shown at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), brings the broadening of the user interface.

Keyboards and mice still have their roles but they’re no longer the default method of interaction. While phones taught us to build interfaces that need taps and swipes, the newest devices and their designers stand on the shoulders of Kinect and Alexa, and pay attention to body posture, gesture and voice. This means in any setting, whether at home, workplace, school, restaurant, on a bike or in the car, walking through a neighborhood or a mall, our presence can be detected, and choices offered via signage, phone, watch or site-specific installations such as bus stops, road signs, even restaurant windows.

Add the advances of machine learning and we’ll see systems that recognize our routine behaviors and then customize their own, e.g. sitting down at a bar and, via our phone or table-side display, remind us about the beer we drank on a previous visit and give us the choice of quick-ordering the same again or suggesting another we might want to try.

Hang on, this is only going to get more interesting and compelling!