UI/UX Design in 2021 – Top 15 Trends to Look Out for

Jan 1, 2021 | UX Guide, User Research, UX / CX Trends, UX Design

UI/UX trends are ever-changing and it has evolved even faster to catch up with the surge of digital transformation. The focus on thoughtful user interface and user experience design has been growing, with the aim of creating and developing user-friendly and meaningful products and experience for users.

To remain competitive, companies need to stay on top of these trends as we continue to navigate the pandemic.

1. In-Depth Understanding of Customers

Good design is not enough anymore, it’s the basic expectation that all customers have. Users’ expectations have increased when it comes to user experience and so they will be nit-picking when it comes to design and user experience, choosing to only use products that fulfill their expectations when it comes to UI/UX design.

Companies that invest time and effort into understanding their customers deeply will be able to design better solutions for their customers, ultimately winning over customers.

2. Clean and Focused UI/UX Design

In line with customer-centric design, it’s also important to have a clean and focused design. The world is changing quickly, new websites and apps are popping up daily, and those which lag behind will lose popularity and customers. Just look at the apps on your phone, you will use a few key apps on a daily basis, and the remaining many apps on your phone? You’ve probably forgotten you had them downloaded in the first place.

Buildfire’s compiled research on app statistics shows that app users spend 77% of their app usage time on their top 3 apps, and 96% of their app usage time on top 10 apps.

It’s a tough challenge for apps to get downloaded in the first place, but the real challenge is getting your customers to use it frequently. Having clean and focused UI/UX design helps your customers achieve their main goals without getting lost in all the different colours and graphics in one screen.

3. One-Click Action

Customer-centric, clean and focused design. What else?


Customers are expecting instant and immediate action, and so they are looking for solutions that are one-click or one-step as opposed to multiple steps and forms.

Companies need to think about designing solutions where interactions can be done in a quicker way, or risk losing the users’ attention.

From Digital World Transformation’s research, we see that the attention span is getting shorter: visit durations on desktop and mobile web has decreased by 49 seconds over the course of three years. Microsoft conducted a study to measure how long people can focus on one thing: in 2000, the average person’s attention span was 12 seconds. About 15 years later, it dropped down to 8 seconds!

4. Inclusivity

You may have heard of inclusive design. If you haven’t, allow me to provide a brief background.

Inclusive design is a design process that emphasizes the understanding of user diversity, considering the full range of human diversity when it comes to ability, gender, age, language, culture and other forms of human differences.

Inclusive design caters to countless people who would otherwise choose another option, and it also results in a better digital experience for everyone. Microsoft words this wonderfully:

Solve for one, extend to many

Everyone has abilities, and limits to those abilities. Designing for people with permanent disabilities actually results in designs that benefit people universally. Constraints are a beautiful thing.

5. Let’s Talk

Conversational interface has grown rapidly, products and experiences are almost an extension of the company, and consumers want to interact with your company, not with a complex robot.

Conversational interface allows users to interact with your product or service following the principles of human-to-human conversation, where communication is in plain ‘human’ language.

We see this trend emerging with the popularity of AI chatbots, intelligent personal voice assistants like Siri, Alexa and Google.

6. Flexible and Adaptive Design

Analytics is a gold mine of data, flexible UI/UX designs that are able to adapt and change based on data analytics to make relevant recommendations to users will help to deliver a more valuable and meaningful experience to your users.

This leads us to the next UI/UX trend to look out for.

7. Personalization

With data analytics and AI getting more and more integrated, products should learn about user behaviour, tailoring results and solutions for each individual user.

McKinsey‘s article on the future of personalization states that “personalization will be the prime driver of marketing success within five years”.

8. UI/UX Driven By AI

AI is on the rise and it’s believed that the continuing trend of AI will drive UI/UX. Accenture reports that the full potential of AI is beyond automation and is a powerful collaboration between humans and machines, where the AI understands the importance of context in human-machine interaction.

It’s vital for companies to carefully design AI in respecting customers’ privacy and to limit the collection and use of personal data accordingly.

9. Multi-Touchpoints

Customers may not just engage with your brand on one device, in fact they are increasingly engaging with brands across multiple devices. This means that companies need to think holistically about the UI/UX design across all the multiple touchpoints, and create a seamless experience for customers that move from platform to platform throughout their journey.

A great start in tackling this is to think about how the business can meet the same customer wherever they are, whenever and however they want to connect with your business.

10. LEAD

These are 4 qualities that enables great user experience:

  • Light: quick, instantaneous, simple
  • Ethical: trustworthy, reliability
  • Accessible: inclusivity, relevant
  • Dataful: adaptive, personalized

When these qualities are spot on, companies can deliver business and customer values, delightful and reliable experiences to customers. These aren’t new qualities, and it’s important to have these pillars of foundation throughout the entire process.

11. Involve the UI/UX Team in Planning

Integrating and involving the UI team in planning session with all the other stakeholders has the potential to derive valuable amounts of feedback and ideas to reach business objectives.

In addition, potential resistance from respective parties can be brought up and eliminated early on, and buy-ins can be gained earlier and easier compared to not involving the team.

12. Reduce Friction For Security

Traditional forms of authentication are getting easier to hack, security is a top priority for companies and as cyberthreats increase, companies continue to take steps to bolster security.

However, increased levels of security affects user experience. The trend we’re seeing is that companies are actively addressing security, and seeking solutions that reduce friction for customers, especially for user authentication and identity proofing. For example, having a facial unlock on phone is not particularly useful when people are wearing a mask during the pandemic, but fingerprint scan reduces the friction.

13. Tell a Story

Storytelling can captivate, inform and give depth to the business behind the brand. It’s a great way to get insights into customers, to help build empathy and reach customers emotionally.

A great story sticks in people’s mind, it can captivate your user which comes in handy especially due to the shorter attention span of users. Providing just a list of features and benefits isn’t enough anymore, people want to be told a story.

Visual storytelling for UI/UX design is telling users what they need to hear based on user testing and research that has been conducted. It’s a combination of images, text, animation and video in allowing users to understand how your product helps them.

This technique helps you to communicate your product in an easy and exciting way as people relate better to stories, leaving your users with a resonating message, invoking emotions or stirring their interest.

Good example: Patagonia is an outdoor clothing and equipment brand that showcases its value proposition right on their homepage. They convey a story of being eco-friendly. 

Storytelling video - UIUX Design

Storytelling - UIUX Design

Credit: patagonia.com

14. Designing Software Solutions For Post-Covid-19

We have been seeing product pivot to fit the demand in providing solutions for the global pandemic. For example, food delivery services in Asia were quick to provide contactless delivery options in creating a pleasant user experience with respect to implementing safety measures.

Companies have started thinking about how they can adapt their business to suit current circumstances and the era that follows in recovery from Covid-19. The post-Covid-19 era is bound to make changes in what we expect from software solutions, and as we think about safety and soundness, social distancing will be the new norm.

A good way to approach this is to consider how your business can utilize virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), 3D modelling, contactless and frictionless design.

15. Touchless Interactions

In line with software solutions for Covid-19, the pandemic has created a new paradigm where touchless interactions are key. So instead of receiving a physical menu at restaurants, it’s replaced with an e-menu for browsing and touchless ordering. And instead of paying by cash, customers make use of contactless forms of payment.

The key factor of touchless interactions will serve as the main inspiration for businesses in reimagining user experiences.

Read more on the ux design trends 2021/2022 to focus on for your products or services to help you improve on the offerings.

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