Like 2020, 2021 was a year defined by uncertainty, and that made us think about what we can and should do as designers.
In 2022 we’ll see many trends, that have been with us since 2020, reaching maturity, as they continue to reshape our relationship with our work. But that doesn’t mean it’s time to settle down. New and creative ways to deal with current and upcoming challenges can give us the edge in this ever-changing reality.
These are the 8 most influential trends of 2022, going beyond visual, techniques and technologies:
In recent years, design has made a huge leap in scale, professionalism and specialization. This exponential rise will continue, but with the new variables brought by the pandemic.
The global shortage of human capital, the early generational shift, and the rising competition in the digital space, make the demand for qualified designers higher than ever.
Training and integrating future designers is going to be a great challenge in the upcoming years, both for small and large companies. The level of specialization will be another big issue, which varies enormously depending on the needs of each company.
That’s why in 2022 we’re going to see even more demand in UX design, a greater distinction between specialist and generalist roles, and a greater effort behind aligning the expectations of designers and their employers.
The current scale of products, teams and the variety of roles they fulfill make the strengthening of processes a necessity. Above that we have remote work consolidated as a new way of working for a wide range of roles and companies.
This year we’re going to see many processes and paradigms, which were previously exclusive to large companies, benefiting teams of all sizes. How will they benefit from this? By giving more importance to UX Research, streamlining integration with development teams, and ultimately achieving better results.
This new paradigm is not without its challenges. The challenge will be about taking advantage of the processes, without losing the human element or getting carried away by a more “mechanical” way of thinking.
After many years, Design is finally achieving the needed discipline and recognition, but this doesn’t have to come with a price.
Since 2020 we know that work from home has come to stay, but we’re still adapting to it. We are still facing some difficulties and concerns, such as the fatigue caused by video calls, the lack of spontaneous interactions, and the learning opportunities they were used to provide.
In 2022, collaborative tools will continue to gain traction, and the customer experience with each one, will be a key factor when deciding which ones to use.
That’s why we’re going to see new products adapted to those needs, even among those that we, as designers, use. Collaborative experiences in real time, voice chat (as a more comfortable alternative to video calls) and concern for the well-being of users are gaining strength, and we’re going to see the influence of this in all kind of products.
In 2022 we’ll continue to see improvements in this regard. Technology is on our side, with more universal standards and new forms of interaction. And even more important, society is increasingly aware of this.
According to a February 2021 study by WebAIM (Web Accessibility In Mind), for example, surprisingly 97.4 percent of websites had mistakes that failed the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2). So, quite a long to be done yet!
This year the roles will start to be reversed. Clients and users will speak for themselves and ask companies, and us as designers, to invest in accessibility. Being prepared for it is going to be a great advantage that cannot be underestimated by companies.
CX Predictions 2022: The Year of the Grand Pivot-Forrester Report
Spend more with vendors that commit to accessibility. Customers are demanding more accessible experiences, and brands are going to respond in 2022 with deep investments in associated improvements. This increase in interest and the growth in accessibility-related lawsuits lead Forrester to predict that companies will choose to spend $10 billion dollars in 2022 with tech vendors and services firms that develop and deploy accessible solutions
We should also keep in mind that accessibility benefits not only the products and users, but also the designers themselves. Working on it, no matter where, is a great place to start having a positive impact on the world, something that concerns and motivates us as designers.
New UI innovations
The success of apps like TikTok and the mastery that many users already have of their devices, will push many designers to innovate, to try to break away from formal and aesthetic norms in UI, also motivated by changes in our lifestyle.
In 2022 we’re going to see two main paths in UI design: one focused on continuing what we saw in 2021, with clean lines, a trend towards monochrome palettes, and a quest towards homogeneity and consistency.
On the other hand, another path with fresher ideas, seeking to break the monotony that has taken over large applications lately. Neumorphism, experimentation with new gestures, interactions and visual languages will continue to enrich the UI landscape.
Mastering and balancing both approaches without losing sight of who our end users are, when and how they will use our product, is going to be key, and we’re convinced we’ll see great progress this year.
The trend towards personalization is on the rise. 2021 was the Dark Mode year. The 2022 is going to be the year in which we fully devote ourselves to getting to know our users.
The interfaces we interact with on a daily basis are now an extension of our spaces and our own personal expression. That’s why we’re going to see more options for users, not only in terms of accessibility, but also in terms of aesthetics.
We’ve already seen progress in that direction with Android 12, for example. As designers, the key is to continue with our current philosophy when making UI: to stop seeing our designs as something static, but as building blocks for our users.
But this push towards customization isn’t just about UI. We’re going to see many new ways to streamline and make the user experience more enjoyable. Recognizing their preferences, adapting to them and delivering relevant content, now powered by AI, is going to be a huge differentiator.
More than a trend, this is a race against time not to be left behind. It’s no coincidence that the most successful products in the last recent years have outstanding onboarding processes.
The optimization of the welcome process, context-aware tutorials and help, password-less authentication, and even the ability to use the product without having to register are no longer a luxury, but something we all expect when opening an app for the first time. And as users we harshly punish those who still don’t work like this.
The increasing economic cost that this entails will motivate many positive changes in existing products, and will even give us stronger arguments against Dark Patterns.
In this regard, as designers we have to do much more than catch up; we should think ahead and take the lead, innovating and recognizing the real contexts in which our products are going to be used, by whom, their limitations, their probable concerns or frictions, and be a step ahead.
Emotional design is not new at all! Don Norman, the well known author and user-centered design advocate, already talked about what emotional design means many years ago.
However, it took time to have companies embracing this concept and it has boomed during last years, when it has been recognized that, not just when designing, but in any discipline we need to focus in users. Is not about us, our products, our features, our services, our knowledge, is about their needs, their challenges, their pains.
The first step in any process, is fully understanding the user and their behavior to enhance our proposal and engage them with an emotional bond
This year we’re going to see an even stronger focus on creating those emotional experiences, on making products that engage and take care of our users. The focus now is on the behavioral aspect, on helping users achieve their goals without friction, on making them feel in control.
The public’s skepticism about the practices of many companies and the climate they generate, accompanied by the exhaustion of social networks, are an opportunity to gain or recover that trust. How? By generating more personal and meaningful interactions, and above all, by being genuine and transparent.
There’s no recipe for success, but some good starting points are:
- Honest and direct communication. Users are more aware than ever of what lies behind their products, and we can’t forget it.
- Think of your product as a character with its own voice, who knows the users and is always ready to help.
- Get rid of any Dark Pattern. Regardless of intentions, they become a barrier that separates us from the users.
- Attention to detail. A well-crafted UI inspires confidence. A message or a sound at the right time helps us connect with people. And a surprise or gift helps us forge a friendship between the product and the users.