You want users to like your product or system, and you want them to keep liking it. This means both paying attention to your customer and keeping tabs on trends in user design, from new and emerging methodologies to the reinvention or transformation of old ones.
So what do you need to know about user experience design in 2013?
Jon Bradley, design director at Cynergy, highlights these five these trends that companies should get to know fast and start implementing in their own design strategies.
You may already be familiar with journey mapping. Basically, it’s plotting out steps that a user takes to engage or interact with a product or system – also know as their engagement arc.
The process is seeing renewed interest as companies are working to become intimately familiar with the paths their users take – what motivates them, what challenges them – and using this information to better plan the user experience.
It’s also about fulfilling needs, perhaps even before the user knows they have those needs. “We can help solve problems along the way,” Bradley says, when we can anticipate the user’s journey: “where they’re going, when, why, and how.”
Adaptive and Predictive Design
Zeroing in on usability comes brings increased focus on the type of design. Adaptive design focuses on the user instead of the method of delivery. In web design this means providing defined layouts for different resolutions; when a user resizes a browser window, the layout stays doesn’t change (unlike responsive design where the layout responds to the device). Adaptive design provides rich, adaptable experiences that come across as more “natural.”
An example: Apple used adaptive design techniques to improve user experience in the iOS5 release, changing both the interface and creating a notification center that keeps all alerts in one centralized place.
Predictive design is about analyzing the user’s behavior and designing for that behavior. If you understand what motivates someone you can then predict what they’re doing on the device. If you can predict how a user will act, Bradley says, you can design a system that “will solve many of their problems.”
“Analyzing user’s behaviors are a key focal point: the right research and right strategy, how are they doing it, and when, why, and where they are doing it.”
Gesturing is set to be a “huge trend” this year, according to Bradley. Gesturing is the term for giving instructions to a system other than through touch. This can be a verbal command to a mobile device, waving a hand to stop or start a process, or any simple gesture that controls a device or system.
For example, in Google’s Gesture Search app, users draw letters and numbers (gestures) on the screen to quickly access what they’re looking for on their mobile devices – whether it’s a song, contact, bookmark, or application – in one convenient place. This makes for efficient, pleasurable experience for the user.
Another trend seeing a rise in popularity is the use of motion design: bringing graphic design to life through animations (time-based media). Photography and illustration are given movement and depth via animation techniques.
Motion design is also not a new concept (Kaprion Vision produced this short film on its history) but is seeing renewed popularity in 2013, thanks to rapidly evolving technology, the widening scope of its applicability, and refined understanding of human nature.
“People are visual, they want to see something, which helps invoke emotion,” Bradley says.
What distinguishes motion design from animated films in that films use characters that express themselves and tell a story. Motion design, on the other hand, uses motion graphics to communicate and present. Real-world examples include film credits, TV ads, tablets and smartphones, and logo animation.
So how will these user experience trends impact business or create growth in 2013?
Bradley says that we need to embrace them. And now. If ignored, companies “will have a very hard time moving forward” and their competitors will pass them by.
“Companies need to create an opportunity for new products to make a big impact on people’s lives. Many products are not enabled today; we need to connect these things.”