Three minutes: 3 UX trends to watch in 2016

Without question, the foundational driver of UX trends in 2015 was the surge in Mobile usage. And that same dynamic will drive UX decisions in 2016. However, while 2015 was “mobile first,” 2016 will be “mobile best.” That means placing a higher emphasis on touch and polish. In other words, it’s no longer enough that the mobile dog can dance, but increasingly, we’re going to see how well.

1. UI Animation

Love it or hate it, for years, the “cool” websites used Adobe Flash to add a higher degree of visual feedback and contextual state changes. They simply felt more fluid than standard HTML sites. As Flash was all but abandoned on desktop and completely missing from mobile, and as UX designers turned their efforts toward responsive design, UI animation took a back seat. But with responsive design no longer providing sufficient competitive advantage, designers are turning to CSS transitions and custom JS Libraries, as well as commercial libraries and plug-ins like GreenSock. This should lead to an explosion of animation (from subtle and tasteful to unrestrained and annoying). But more importantly to marketers, it will also lead to an increase in the level of expectations on the part of the user.

2. Hidden UI

The irony of mobile devices is that as screens have shrunk, screen resolutions have generally surpassed even the largest desktop displays. However, the actual “real estate” available to UX and UI designers is functionally the same on a 6.5” Galaxy Note as a 4.5” iPhone 4S, and that is, to say the least, “limited.” As we discussed in an earlier article about hamburger menus, this limited real estate helped basic top-level menus transition from explicit, visual text-based listings to a symbolic burger-stack—only displaying choices after being activated. In 2016, watch for even further paring of options based on user location within a specific path or other contextual markers. Why is this preferred? Well, when we can reduce the number of commands that need to be considered, it should improve the user’s response times and level of productivity. Aesthetically, it also minimizes onscreen "clutter.”

And, while mobile certainly facilitated the embrace of minimalism, it didn’t stop there. Minimalism is migrating straight back to the desktop. Watch for desktop sites to start hiding UI elements. Not out of necessity but rather because for designers, after creating a more streamlined/clean mobile UI, a cluttered desktop UI looks and feels inefficient.

3. Simplicity

While hidden UI may go a long way toward simplicity, what we’re referring to here is more than that. Simplicity is less about hiding than it is about decentralization and curation.

Historically, as more and more business functionality was moved online, every item was offered its own navigational path on the central website. In viewing the worst incarnations of navigation bloat, the phrase, “when everything is important, nothing is important.” comes to mind.

Simplifying the user experience may incorporate hidden UI tactics mentioned above, but it may also mean separating functionality into distinct sites or tools. Examples include, Facebook carving Messenger functionality out of its standard mobile app and into a dedicated binary. For your company it could mean creating a dedicated customer service app, or separate web sites for distinct user bases. The downside, of course, is that creating a larger number of simplified experiences for your users normally implies increased complexity on the maintenance and support side of the equation. But would you rather be Facebook or Yahoo?

No technology is too complicated if you have the right partner.

Since 1985, Magnani Continuum Marketing has made it easier for organizations selling in highly technical and complex markets to deliver the most effective and seamless traditional and digital brand experiences. We’re more digital than advertising agencies. More strategic than digital marketing shops. More creative than management consultants. And a heck of a lot easier to work with than almost all of them. We’ve helped some of the largest corporations in the world, and some of the most exciting new startups. And we’d love to talk with you. Just drop us a note.

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