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After the pandemic brought about a series of changes within UX as an industry, last year other factors left their mark as well. Economic and social contexts shaped the bigger part of the UX trends coming up in the field. Whatever 2020 brought, things went to an entire new level in 2021.
This makes it a good time to take a step back and consider bigger questions.
What’s happening in UX design? Are we doing the right things? What’s really important to us, as UX professionals? How can we make change happen? And how can we make sure it’s a change for the better?
UI design vs UX design trends
We shouldn’t ask those questions only when we’re thinking about how to create products and interfaces that are relevant in 2022. If you’re looking for ideas for that, I highly recommend 2022 UI trends.
No doubt that it’s important to keep our products and our visual language updated for the 21st century. However, it’s also important to go beyond the UI and think about the craft of UX in 2022.
So, we should also ask those questions about the UX design industry overall. Those answers will shape a lot of how we create and the conditions under which we create.
What can we look forward to in the industry? What are the underlying UX trends for the following year?
Yet, to understand where we’re going, we need to understand where we’re coming from. Before we dive into the future, let’s take a look at the year that’s passed.
2021 UX trends
Most of the predictions for 2021 revolved around tools and rethinking UX around remote. Yet the reality was totally different. If, in 2020, a lot of things came to a standstill in UX because of the pandemic, 2021 was at the complete opposite. Things gained momentum as businesses opened up after the pandemic in a lot of areas.
The first important UX trend for last year was the Great Resignation. The Great resignation is the name given to the ongoing economic trend when a lot of people were voluntarily quitting their jobs (source). While the Great Resignation had the biggest impact on hospitality and travel (source), tech was also affected. Burnt out and tired by the uncertainty of the pandemic, a lot of designers and engineers switched jobs. They were looking for better conditions, flexible hours and better pay. (source) To be more accurate: 31% of those working in the tech sector looked for better opportunities last year between July and September, according to a Wired article.
In a way, the Great Resignation highlighted another important UX trend: the demand for UX professionals, especially experienced ones. A CNN Money report predicts that the demand for UX will grow by 18% until 2025. (source)
Another important UX trend was the influx of junior UX professionals in the market. For a lot of people, UX seems like the perfect career path – especially given the higher pay that these offer (source). The entry barrier doesn’t seem that high either. Just take a bootcamp or a course and you’re ready to start applying for positions in the field. Supported by the demand for UX professionals, bootcamps and foundation courses have grown even more in the past year. Besides already-established programs provided by GeneralAssembly or CareerFoundry, Google also launched their own UX design course last year on Coursera. In less than a year, the program got more than 370,000 enrollments (source), with a lot of students completing it. And that’s Google’s course alone.
The third UX trend that marked 2021 was the increased focus on accessibility and inclusivity (source). A lot of the UX design content published last year focused on these topics and how designers can bring these more into their work. Making design available to everyone, no matter the race, age or abilities has been one of the key UX trends for 2021. By making design accessible and available to everyone, UX professionals can create a better world, making sure that everyone has equal opportunities and experiences. In this sense, design has become one of the channels to fight against and eliminate racism or bias and one of the ways to ensure we’re moving forward to a better world.
Besides the focus on inclusivity and accessibility, design systems were another important UX trend in 2021. UX design is slowly maturing and we can see this in improvements in the way of working. Up until a few years ago, designers were building screens individually, without a lot of sync between them and without a common library of guides, rules and elements. Right now the growing tendency is towards working with a system of components. This has multiple benefits. First, it ensures consistency throughout the design and different platforms. Second, this allows designers to focus more on problem solving instead of screens and aesthetics.
Now let’s take a look at the 2022 UX trends.
UX trends 2022
Given last year’s developments, there will be some UX trends that will continue in 2022. The focus on accessibility and inclusivity is definitely going to continue. While this year we might not see big surprises, there are still some UX design trends to keep an eye on. And there are also underlying needs in the industry which should help make UX design better for both professionals and businesses.
1. UX education
Given the high number of juniors in the market and the increased demand for UX professionals, UX education should be one of the most important UX trends in 2022. But UX education needs to be considered from two perspectives.
On the one hand, the newcomers to UX need great resources to be well prepared for the job market. Bootcamps are often not enough or give a shallow introduction to UX. Considered the fast food of UX education (source), bootcamps sometimes leave students with a very superficial understanding of UX and of the methods involved. In turn, this can become problematic when students join the workforce and start working. Good, reliable UX education that goes beyond the basics will be very important.
On the other hand, companies and senior management would also benefit immensely from a good UX education, even if it’s just basic. Even if companies are actively recruiting UX professionals, it’s often clear from the job descriptions that the positions are not really UX. Job openings which include heavy emphasis on visual design or data analysis as responsibilities for the positions can be a red flag that the company does not actually do UX (source).
A basic UX education would be necessary to make sure that companies are establishing UX the right way. Also, from a business perspective, senior and upper management would need a basic understanding of UX and the design process. That would help tremendously. Designers wouldn’t need to explain every step of the process and they could work in a more organized manner. Understanding basic UX methods and the process would make it easier for other roles as well, knowing when to integrate designers and researchers in the process. While there are some companies that are already doing that, they tend to be the exception and not the rule. Also, tech companies are the outliers – not the usual example.
The need for more quality UX education is something we can confirm working in this field. We see it on both sides – in the applications we receive for the open positions and in the challenges we sometimes encounter on projects.
To make sure that UX has a future in which methods are applied properly, UX education should also be a major focus in 2022 so business can get the most of UX.
2. Increasing UX maturity
Another UX design trend that we should see in 2022 could be an increase in UX maturity inside companies. That UX trend could be one of the results of a good UX education. However, it should also be a natural consequence of what’s already happening in the industry. More professionals are joining the market and at the same time, more and more companies are opening UX positions.
As more companies are embracing design and user experience, they will need to – sooner or later – figure out how to properly integrate UX into existing processes. Introducing UX inside a company is the first step. Making sure there are good processes in place will help them make the most of what this discipline has to offer.
Establishing a good UX collaboration with other departments like marketing, customer support or sales will be crucial here. If UX is not an integral part of how a company works and how it builds its products and services, UX cannot work properly.
However, until the average company reaches a good UX maturity it will take some time. And a lot of education. This requires a bit of a fundamental change in how companies do things, as well as buy-in from leadership at all levels inside companies. However, this is a big change and it will take time and iteration.
Conversely, companies that already have a good UX process in place will strengthen theirs. They already have a head start in this, but to continue being competitive and attractive to UX-ers, they will need to do more. As some companies strengthen their UX processes, they will hopefully lead the way so others can follow.
3. Continued focus on accessibility & inclusivity
Also, a UX trend that will definitely continue in 2022 as well is the focus on accessibility and inclusivity. Last year just scratched the surface, bringing accessibility and inclusivity into discussion, making designers and their stakeholders aware of these topics.
This year will probably continue that to the point of turning these into basic UX skills. Also, from a social perspective, design needs to be inclusive and accessible to help eliminate bias and racism.
4. Working with new technologies
Additionally, new technologies become more stable and widely available. For example, AI, machine learning models are becoming more stable and reliable and also more accessible. However, for these and for any new technologies to be actually useful, they need to be integrated in a way that actually enhances the user experience and in a way that actually provides value for the user.
Take the blockchain, for example. It’s been available as a technology for a few years now. Also, quite a few companies have started developing their own blockchain to experiment with the technology. There are products that currently use this technology – like ProofofTrust for example. However, there’s still a long way to go before the blockchain makes it into the lives of everyday users.
When it comes to working with new technologies, the role of designers will change a bit. Instead of focusing on visuals, the focus on the big picture will be more important. Where the technology comes in, how it will be used and how it will actually benefit the users instead will be key points that designers need to consider before jumping into the visuals. Overall, designers will need to make these technologies easy to understand and find a way to employ them so that they actually bring value for users.
To sum up this year’s UX trends…
2022 will probably continue where 2021 left off. Making design accessible and inclusive for everyone, making sure that well trained professionals and businesses have access to a good UX education are going to be very important for the future of the industry. If done properly, there will definitely be an increase in the UX maturity of companies and of the industry as a whole.
And as new technologies develop, UX professionals need to learn about these so they can properly work with them. AI, VR, blockchain – all these are technologies with the premise of improving life and experiences for users. UX professionals need to find out what will be the best way to integrate these to create smooth experiences for the users.
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