Top UX design trends to look out for in 2020

Written by: Samantha Wolhuter

icon illustration of a design interface

As we enter a new month, a new year, and a new decade, 2020 has heralded narratives of new beginnings and blank pages waiting to be filled. This is amplified in the digital world where change and evolution are rapid, widespread, and expected. So hold onto your seats folks, change is about to happen fast — really fast.

UX and UI by its very nature rely on growth and innovation at a rapid rate. As fuel for its evolutionary tendencies, the digital landscape feeds off the trends and innovations of previous years in order to chart a new course for the next. So what growth does 2020 have in store for the tech and digital worlds? What should you look out for if you are in the middle of building your own app?

Here is our list of top UX design trends to look out for in 2020:

Designing for speed

2020 will see the much anticipated and fervently hyped rollout of 5G across the globe. This is predicted to usher in a new era of design and interactivity for brands with their audience. We are on the brink of a new age of speed and efficiency, and 2020 will set the tone for a new digital landscape. This is especially true for UX design, as never before has so much possibility been in the hands of digital creatives.

Designers will soon be free to create more intricate designs and graphics due to 5G’s speed. So users will be exposed to more complex and sophisticated imagery. Websites which feature static imagery — used in part because of current internet speeds across the globe — will soon become outdated and boring when compared to 5G’s ability to allow more motion graphics, video and high-resolution files. This is going to completely revolutionise how we design for the modern era. We will soon see the death of loading screens and the rise of more detailed and innovative motion graphics and effects across all websites — how exciting!

Lite mode sites and apps will rise

Although this stands in direct contrast to the point above, it is important to note that despite 5G’s promise of unprecedented internet speeds, there still remains one hindrance — cost. People can have access to lightning-fast upload and download speeds but they will still have to fork out the expense for it. So Lite mode sites and mobile apps will still be used. And designers will still have to be clever and resourceful when laying out their UX design.

Rather than allowing Google to decide what information is paramount, companies are turning to UX designers to make the most out of Lite mode. They define what information can be cut, what should be emphasised, and what information should be synthesised and abridged for Lite mode purposes. Designers will focus more on creating streamlined versions of their sites which will promote the core features and functionalities.

Custom made graphics and illustrations

We will see a large emphasis on bespoke imagery throughout websites and apps in 2020 due to the desire, but more specifically the need to stand out. Hand drawn or digitally crafted unique shapes and forms will stand in contrast to rigid and aligned elements to create a pleasing dynamism of imagery on a page. The seemingly whimsical custom creations add a new and inviting feel for users which immediately creates a connection.

Designers are able to take this a step further to add animation to these fluid shapes which make the page come to life when scrolling or hovering. It creates an element of interaction and makes the information presented on screen more engaging and therefore more memorable. This concept is of course nothing new. However, 2020 will see the rise of the illustrator and motion graphic designer as a key player in creating memorable user experiences.

Fullscreen smartphones

All major smartphone manufacturers are moving towards the fullscreen era where phones are losing their borders and are given rounded edges to provide users with bigger screens. This also means the home button is being ditched on both Android and iPhone, so the design of the interface is changing. Designers will need to strike a discerning balance between visually pleasing design and practicality when considering sharp-edged elements for both mobile and app design.

The rise of regular UX audits

Much like independent audits in accounting are performed to ensure financial statements comply with regulated accounting principles, UX is beginning to audit their sites in order to retain consistency throughout the user experience.

No more pesky website overlays

We all encounter them on a daily basis and the overwhelming consensus is that they are incredibly annoying and often have the opposite effect from their creators’ intentions. Nobody enjoys being interrupted or being delayed when trying to access information and so it is still a wonder as to why website overlays and popups are popular in the first place.

But we won’t be rudely interrupted from focus for much longer. This year designers are rethinking the efficacy of website overlays and are rather focusing on using good design to retain the user’s attention rather than disrupt it.

Brand logos will become fluid and adaptable

The rollout of 5G is going to affect almost every aspect of UX design thinking in the most positive ways. New possibilities will be provided to designers like never before, and soon we will see rules broken and new paths forged. This is best explained through the brand logo.

Logos no longer need to be static images which remain the same. 2020 will see the metamorphosis and evolution of brand logos like never before. With 5G’s rapid upload speed, logos can be animated or have motion graphic elements, making them constantly moving and evolving. Logos can and will also start to incorporate global, national, regional and/or company based initiatives or activities — similar to Google’s landing page. Soon we will see major brand logos change to represent current topics, so brands will visually be perceived as current and on-trend.

Staying with Google as an example, designers in 2020 will focus on evolving recognisable brand logos and incorporating key visual design elements to create icons for new products and services. Google Lens, for example, has a different logo yet it remains instantly recognisable as a part of the Google stable by incorporating the Google brand colours. This increases brand engagement for obvious reasons which is at the heart of UX design thinking.

More focused bots

No, we don’t have a bot attention span problem and yes, that sub-heading was misleading. But hear me out: in 2020 Commerce sales bots will be more focused on streamlining sales. We will see a rise in the use of sales bots dedicated to performing a specific function of sales and conversion. They will be more focused and efficient in assisting motivated buyers to purchase what they came to purchase. We will see less emphasis on chatty bots trying to be your friend in favour of bots who help you get what you want with far fewer steps involved.

People who jump onto a site to quickly book a flight, cruise or last-minute accommodation don’t have the time, patience or inclination to begin a conversation with a bot when all they want help with is the most direct route to checkout. Although it may seem rather cold and clinical, motivated buyers who visit a site with a specific purpose seek efficiency first and foremost.

Data visualisations and infographics will dominate social

Let’s face it, most people switch off when presented with a boring chart representing figures and information not necessarily for our own benefit. But give a person a beautifully designed and engaging data visualisation or infographic and soon he or she will be highly interested in the ant to grass ratio of their backyard, for example.

In 2020 we will see boring 2D charts replaced with exciting, visually stimulating 3D data visualisation and beautiful infographics which will immediately engage the users’ interest in the information being presented. Visually compelling information is easier to absorb and retain. Designers will benefit from 5G in creating complex and interesting versions of our parents’ pie charts.

UX writing remains key

UX writing was consistently mentioned in most UX/UI trend forecasting lists in previous years and still remains crucial to any brand’s user engagement. UX writing remains a key player in any organisation’s content strategy as it performs 3 primary tasks: it helps users successfully complete tasks, it provides users with clear and relevant information, and it creates a consistent brand voice. These three elements are the foundation for brand engagement, brand identification and brand loyalty.

Although we live in an increasingly visual world, copy remains king. When it comes to navigating and interacting with a website to retrieve specific information or services, copy is the only way users are able to perform these tasks. The art of good copy is to say more with less as to retain the user’s attention.

2020 and beyond…

All these points above indicate that we are ushering in a new era of change within our collective digital landscape. The world is more connected now than ever before, and at the heart of this connection is the user experience. We create these products and services for people, after all. What we will no doubt see in 2020 will gear us up for what is to come this new decade — further growth, further innovation and unprecedented digital sophistication. What an exciting journey we are about to embark on!

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Last modified: July 13, 2020
Author info
Samantha Wolhuter
Sam is in charge of writing a big portion of WeAreBrain’s creative content. She is a digital nomad always on the go, inspiring us with her words from some of the world's most beautiful locations.