User Interface Design Trends to Look Out For in 2017

When you are in the business of creating engaging experiences for your users, compelling them to use product, it always helps to keep constant track of the latest trends. Trends are defined as “a general direction in which something is developing or changing” – When it comes to design, the scientific approach towards a project can lead to definite answers and forecast how and to what will our users respond. Lately, the most definite and obvious trend in user experience design has been how companies are embracing it to shift the mindset of their users towards associating their products with pleasant and interesting experiences over and above simply using functional and efficient products. User interface is a key component in the entire process of user experience. User interface design is the conversation starter and the conversation itself between users and the system. It is important that designers keep their designs simple enough to achieve the function it was made for but at the same time alluring enough to draw in the users in to the conversation itself – knowing what works and what does not for their users is hence, extremely important for designers. Here are some of the key trends that are influencing user interface and in turn the user experience design domains this year :

1. Hidden navigations and gesture hinting

What started as the solution to a mobile design problem has evolved into a design tool for responsive websites at all viewports. using a hidden menu allows main content to be more prominently featured, yet shifts the content area off (or nearly off ) the screen when users access the navigation. Websites such as Facebook, Starbucks, and Spotify (and their associated mobile apps) are a huge reason why hidden navigation has thrived. As with putting navigation behind icons or a hamburger menu, gesture interactions are hidden from the user. Adding contextual instruction—through animations showing the intended action and/or explicit text labels which appear briefly, only at the point of interaction—shows users the action that’s expected, without cluttering the interface.

2. Conversational UI

2016 has been a big year for conversational interfaces. More and more users are now interacting with systems using textual and verbal interfaces. This natural mean of interaction between systems and different components of a system has been widely reinforced and accepted owing to the success of products like Amazon Echo and Google Home. As messaging platforms and personal assistance systems take over, designers are are starting to think about ways in which this trend can significantly reduce the learning curve for their designs. There is still a lot to understand but for sure, conversational interfaces and the experiences are becoming a big topic in 2017.

3. Truly adaptive and responsive designs

Though responsive design has been around for ages, 2017 will be put it on another level. It’s getting harder for brands to persuade users to download another app and this trend will continue. As more and more users gravitate towards interacting with ‘zero app’ smart phones, designers will start making mobile web apps look and feel like native ones. Progressive web apps are the future and they have to be designed to look perfect on social, messaging apps and all browsers. Popular native apps will still be around, of course but only as a starting point. This will lead to websites that are truly responsive, and adapt to mobile and desktop smoothly.

Note : Responsive design is essentially an approach to building a site using CSS media queries and flexible grids/layouts to create a single, dynamic site which adjusts its content to best display itself on various sized devices. It works hand-in-hand with mobile first, as mobile first designs the experience and the look, and responsive implements it. One of the bonuses of responsive design is that it allows businesses to pay for just a single site build which effectively delivers content on mobile and tablet, all the way to laptops to big-screened desktops.

Cost-effectiveness aside, the reason UI design built and crafted for responsive design will be the ruling trend of 2017 is because Google’s update to its ranking algorithm now boosts the rankings of sites which optimises its content to mobile devices and users. Any site which is not optimised for mobile is set to see a major shake up in where it ranks online. Internet users have quickly taken to mobile-optimised sites which make their browsing experience easier, and any site which now does not meet these standards simply will not make the cut.

4. Mobile first approach

Not too far in recent times, clients would usually opt for responsive websites with desktop being the main priority. But lately, there has been a shift towards adapting a mobile first approach by UI designers. As companies realize the importance and increased usage of mobiles (illustrated in the above point too) – 2017 will definitely be all about mobile interface. As the name suggests, mobile-first design is the process of designing for mobile (or smallest screened devices) first, then working up to the bigger ones. Design and visuals aside, the mobile-first model and the restrictions it brings is a useful way for brands to really consider what their core content and message is that they want to communicate. Smartphones (for the most part) come with significantly smaller screens than tablets and desktops, which limit the amount of content a user can easily view at once. This forces brands to do-away with any information or content which is not 100% necessary, allowing them to add it in, along with the additional visual bells and whistles for users as they switch up to larger screened devices.

5. Rich animations

2016 was interesting as we moved from static images and simple flat animations to SVG for better engagement and increased usability. This would not have been possible without the advances in CSS3, HTML5, and jQuery because of which there are now high demands from clients for animation heavy UI designs. As browsers and languages become more advanced more and more websites move away from the use of static imagery and finding new ways to engage users and be unique in their approach to communicating. Story-telling and personality is something more and more designers are incorporating in their UI designs to grab the user’s attention and enforce the interactions that the UI achieves.

Animations can range from tiny loading-devices which entertains the user while waiting for content to load, to an interesting hover-state used as a UX device to show a user they are hovering over a link. They can also be used on a much larger scale, as rich, full-screen animations, which can integrated to work with scrolling, navigation or be used as the focal point of the entire site. Animation is quickly becoming a rather useful mechanic for UI to create meaningful micro-interactions between the system and users. With all this said, they should only be used sparingly, and carefully, to enhance the user’s experience and not detract from it.

6. Vibrant colours and big, bold typography

2016 was more experimental and there was a distinct shift from flat colours to gradient. But, as compared to global markets, clients in India still stick to common ones and play safe. But as we play catch up to UI trends, 2017 will see a lot of changes in the colour palettes that are being used by UI designers. UI will be designed in super-rich colours. Whereas in the past, many brands and designers have typically stuck with web-safe colours, more brands today are being braver in their approach to using colour, as we are seeing with over-saturation, vibrant hues and a resurgence in the use of gradients. This in part is helped by technological advancements in monitors and devices with screens that are more apt at reproducing richer colours. The use of bolder colours in web design will be helpful in attracting the attention of users, but will also be a signifier of change for brands. Also, like colours, typography is getting bigger and bolder. 2016 already saw an increase in ‘out-there’ designs but this trend is not stopping anytime soon. Web experiences and the UI that bring them to us are going to be bigger, more eye-catching, and even full screen. Dynamic colors, distinct typography, textures and bold graphic elements and effects will be making the UI we see and interact with everyday have an overall ‘wow’ effect.

7. Asymmetric layouts

If 2016’s real emergence in grid exploration was anything to go by, the coming year will see big developments in both asymmetrical and unconventional ‘broken’ layouts. Although brands and services which are heavily content-led may continue using card UIs and more traditional grid based structures to help efficiently organise and display their content, designers can definitely anticipate an increase in the use of experimental layouts across the web to create unique experiences. Broken layouts (or grids, to some) are typically an approach to web design which places on-screen content outside of a standard 8, 10, 12 or 15 (etc…) column grid. What exactly constitutes as a ‘broken layout’ however, will vary by designer and project, but they will generally involve organising elements and content to a loose underlying baseline grid which acts as a starting point to move and manipulate content for the desired effect. What can be expected with these unconventional layouts is that designers can overlay typography, imagery, and other content to create unique juxtapositions and layouts which draw attention and generate interest. These graphic design techniques work fantastically with parallax and scrolling mechanics, building up dynamic layers of moving content and thus helping the users get a sense of depth and to guide them through the experience.

Within the design community, changes happens at a fast pace as it is important to keep up to speed with what’s happening to stay relevant but one thing that always hold true is that User Interface decisions should always be guided by the objective of creating engaging User Experience. Design is an ever-changing landscape that requires constant learning and updates. I hope that this post helps the ones that are here keep up with this ever-changing landscape and helps them gauge how User Interface have progressed during 2016, and more importantly, how these changes will influence User Interface design in 2017 and beyond.