Another year of life, deeply affected by the ongoing pandemic, has come to a close.
For many of us, this was a year of settling into a strange new normal of balancing social activities with solitude—a balance which has, and continues to be, reflected in the world of UX/UI design.
As always, the shifts that happen in society shape the way we think about the products we use. In the workplace, we’ve seen a major shift in remote-only work environments over the past year. Companies have worked out many of the technical glitches and have found (or are in the process of designing) the necessary collaborative tools. Looking ahead to 2022, these trends promise continued relevance with a slight shift towards a more hybrid physical-remote collaboration as a long-term solution.
Finding new ways to pair the physical world with technological products is a theme that continues to play a large role in the design trends forecasted for the upcoming year.
We’ll explore those 2022 design trends here…
14 UX/UI Design Trends to Watch for in 2022
1. A Movement Towards Life Design
For a long while, user-centered design has held a prominent place in product design methodology. However, with other issues rising to the forefront at a global scale (like global warming and sustainability), many designers are turning to a more holistic approach: life-centered design. Life design looks beyond a user’s point of view and considers how a product or design will affect the environment as a whole, from sustainability to the ethics of broader accessibility.
2. Inclusive Design Improvements
While the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) continue to help designers create digitally compliant products, this year we expect to see an increased awareness of design with accessibility and inclusivity built in. Diverse representation in images, storytelling, and utilizing social proof are just a few of the ways that designers will work to create more mindful and accessible products.
3. An Emergence in Non-Standard UX/UI Design Practices
With COVID fatigue affecting literally every level of our lives, there’s an emergence of expressivity in design. Designers are looking for new ways to push the boundaries of usability and UI and practicing brutalism by disregarding some of the conventional rules and principles of user interface design. Stretched fonts, outlining sections of information, ugly color palettes, and inventive navigation systems are among the many practices or ideas being explored.
4. Adaptive UIs That Allow for Dark/Light Switching
Responsive design for screen sizes has already embraced techniques like relative unit scaling (for example: using rem instead of pixels), but there’s a continued opportunity for growth in adaptive UIs that remain consistent, whether they’re viewed in app or across the various browsers. Dark/light switching will likely be a part of this standardization, as designers and developers alike try to find ways to keep the product consistent and pleasant to use, no matter the time of day.
5. An Increased Use in Chatbots
As the comfort level of carrying out business online rises, there’s a higher demand for online customer service. SaaS companies, as well as more traditional institutions like banks, face this increased demand by giving chatbots a more prominent role in customer service. In an effort to funnel consumers towards the chatbots, you’ll see a correlating reduced emphasis on IRL customer service, whether through hiding or obfusticating the direct contact information.
6. New One-Stop Product Hubs
As more established companies continue to grow and expand, there’s a corresponding emergence of “one-stop” product offerings and services. YouTube, for example, is no longer “just” a video streaming platform. It also offers movie rentals, live streams, sponsor events, and music—to name a few. While this all-in-one hub delivers a level of convenience (not to mention a single login), it also opens the door for niche products to rise up and become standalone solutions in their own right.
7. Continued Rise of Online Communities
With niche groups appearing daily on platforms like Twitch, Reddit, Snapchat, etc., platforms have to quickly adapt to engage with the social needs of their users. TikTok has the social world running to embrace video content, but that trend is likely to see a counterbalance when content creators of written and still-life photography search for ways to communicate with each other in their preferred medium.
8. Designing Apps for Large Screens
When Google does something, others tend to follow suit. Earlier this year, Google updated its design system, Material Design, to expand its adaptive capabilities to help prepare apps for all form factors. When designing interfaces for apps, designers have mostly focused on mobile devices. However, companies are now adapting the same apps for larger screens such as foldable phones and desktops.
9. Interfaces that Embrace Minimalism and Simplicity
As companies continue to clutter more offerings and services into their apps, it will be up to designers to keep the interfaces clean and intuitive. Without this counterbalance, new features will only lead to confusion and drops in user experience. In terms of visual design, we will continue to see many consumer-facing interfaces move toward minimalism by finding a middle ground that leans toward flat design with some use of skeuomorphism to create interest. The elements and components visual designers rely on will be intensely thought through as they will be prominently displayed due to the composition having a large amount of negative space.
10. Increased Use of VR/AR Experiences
As more businesses continue to offer remote working options to their employees this could further amplify the usage of AR VR/AR technology. While the average user might be content with games like Pokemon Go, there’s a world of opportunity to establish metaverse technology as part of the corporate work environment. Facebook, for example, launched their VR remote work app that allows users of Oculus headsets to hold meetings as avatar versions of themselves. Boeing, on the other hand, utilizes AR headsets to improve efficiency in their assembly line work and reduce errors.
11. Workspaces Affected by Plugin Overload
Any tool you're currently using for collaboration is going to get more and more complex, due to the race by companies to link products together through plugins. (Slack app overload, anyone?) As more designers and teams move towards using synchronous UI design tools like Figma, there’s a growing need for innovation in the plugin ecosystem. On the one hand, it makes some aspects of the design workflow easier, but on the other hand, it makes “staying sharp in Figma” really be about mastering a collection of additional mini-apps that everyone must be versed in.
12. Increased Design Opportunities Within Crypto/Web3
There are over 21 million users on Metamask, and that's just the tip of the iceberg—onboarding the next 100 million individuals to the crypto world will require designers to solve unique UX challenges that can abstract away much of the complexity and technical detail of working with these new technologies, while still giving users control and autonomy.
In addition to just designing for crypto, expect to see more designers turn to Web3 as a career path—there will be an explosion of interest in Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) and new organization types that reward contributors for fractional work.
13. Applicability of Product Designers
We are continuing to see more and more industries rely on technology to make their businesses operational, which means designers with skills in creating digital products will be sought after in the sectors that have foregone a digital transformation up until the pandemic. From small eateries to large-scale healthcare providers, they are going to continue knocking on the doors of freelance designers and developers, small to medium-sized design agencies, or making permanent full-time positions for product designers. Working with product designers will allow them to create end-user facing and enterprise software that enables them to successfully understand, manage, and scale their products or services.
14. Diving into New Levels of Complexity
Projects and challenges designers take on will increase in complexity, requiring an intense amount of consideration for the community of users, the technological resources they have available, and the business strategy and financial implications. The experiences designers wish to create will push technological infrastructures to their limits, likely resulting in an increased need for understanding both the software and hardware that enables product design.
Each year, we enjoy speaking with mentors, internal team members, and other experts in the design community to learn what design trends are on the horizon. This 2022 UX/UI design trend forecast continues to be proof that the world of design is one of constant innovation—as such, 2022 is surely poised to bring new opportunities to the world of design and our everyday lives.
Looking to move into the ever-evolving field of UX/UI design in 2022? Check out our flagship UX Academy program to get started.