Today it seems a new trend in user experience design (UX) pops up each month, changing user’s expectations with each new feature. With all this change, it is important to separate trends rooted in sound UX principles from those that are just a passing phase. With that in mind, I compiled a list of UX ‘trends’ that seem built for longevity in a field of change. Even if you are not a designer, this list may help you know what to look for in good experience design.
Humans have communicated information using stories since before the beginning of recorded history. It is only natural to appeal to our innate ability to consume stories in our UX designs. “Storytelling” designs reach the user by leading them through a linear, literary explanation of the website’s purpose. They encourage users to interact with the site via visual cues and natural flow of content. The Space Needle website draws the users into a story, inviting them to scroll up a background of the building. Users may click on historic landmarks and attractions to explore digestible segments of the story on their journey to the top. Storytelling experiences trigger strong emotional responses, leading users to take further action based on their experiences on the site.
- Be sure to give the users an indicator of where they are located on the website. How will they return home without a navigation menu?
- Many storytelling designs do not interlink within the website. Be sure to keep the SEO framework in mind from the beginning of the design process.
In an era of experiences characterized by long scrolling experiences and non-traditional navigation flow, it is easy for users to lose site of their location with no indication how to return home. Enter stationary ‘sticky’ navigation. Stationary navs remain locked to top of the screen as users scroll the page. They allow a user to scroll, interact and explore without sacrificing the traditional menu experience. Having the menu present at all times greatly reduces navigation time. It is also a creative opportunity for designers to subtly display branding throughout the user’s experience.
- Stationary menus tend to cover content. Make sure the design menu that never obstructs key content.
Born from 2D video games, Parallax scrolling has recently found a new home in experience design. Parallax scrolling uses multiple layers that move at different speeds across the y-axis. This allows designers to bring a greater sense of depth to their canvas. Oftentimes used as a feature of a storytelling experience, parallax designs are typically characterized by visual elements that interact with the user while scrolling through the page. Designers may also highlight important features or calls to action through content transitions and interactions. Parallax experiences rely on the user’s natural instinct to scroll, with the result that more time is spent browsing the page content and less time navigating.
- Although the moving elements make for an exciting experience, many parallax experiences suffer from slow load times. Be sure not to over-design, losing the user’s focus with a slow website.
Micro-Interactions are more than just a neat visual feature. Designers build micro-interactions to serve a vast array of experiences for the user. Some designs provide these interactions to guide the users through a website experience, or encourage them to take further action. Microinteractions offer creative solutions for highlighting transitions. This can range from hamburger menus that become an X on click, to text fading in when scrolling to a new block of content.
- Micro-Interactions can slow load speeds. Be sure that all micro-interactions on your website serve to improve the user’s experience, and are well-implemented.
It seems that too many websites lose the user’s attention by burying key information in heavy copy. Oftentimes paired with micro-interactions, infographics are brief, digestible ways of conveying key points of information to your users. They are also good for transitioning the user into new blocks of content by providing a preview of what the user is about to read. Infographics also provide an excellent way to lighten an experience by separating two blocks of heavy content.
- Infographics are meant to inform, not to fill. Be sure the information is relevant before designing infographics to replace or complement traditional content.
Always Serve the User
As trends come and go, be sure to design your experiences with UX in mind at all times. It is easy to get caught up in the “next big thing”, sacrificing consideration of the user for neat bells and whistles. If designers consider these five trends based on sound UX principles, they are sure to dazzle their audience with purpose.