Top UX Design Trends to Follow in 2022

Camren Browne, contributor to the CareerFoundry blog

2021 came with its challenges, and the field of UX rose to the occasion! But what’s in store for the coming year? Here are the top UX design trends for 2022!

Since its rise in 1993, user experience design has been an ever-changing profession. Now, nearly 30 years later, there are many trends buzzing around the industry with the potential to shape the continued evolution of the field. While stylish design methods like glassmorphism and chic color palettes do play a part in a UX designer’s creative process, there are even bigger factors to consider when envisioning the future of UX. 

In this guide, we’ll delve into how the current state of technology and the world at large will impact UX designers and their craft. We’ll discuss topics such as the implementation and ethics of extended reality, budding concepts like the Metaverse, and how UX-specific tools, events, and work habits are set to influence UX design in 2022 and beyond. 

Here’s a brief overview of what we’ll cover:

There are a lot of exciting topics to cover, so let’s get started!

UX designer sitting at a desk with a short stack of UX books beside them
Photo by
GrabStar .io from Pexels

If you were expecting this article to be a list of the hottest, flashiest UI features or aesthetic trends—let’s shift our focus. While those concepts do hold an important place in the industry, taking a broader look at the world around us as well as up-and-coming technology can give us a more accurate picture of what’s to come in UX design. 

To effectively design solutions for modern-day problems, designers need to have an in-depth understanding of the challenges and types of environments people encounter each day. Considering advancements in technology, changes in politics, current global health issues, and new forms of communication can guide designers to create impactful and useful products for their users. 

These dynamic and influential changes in our world can also shape how UXers design and what their day-to-day work habits will look like.

Maintaining a curiosity for current events and UX best practices can help designers understand what to expect when entering the field as well as assist seasoned UX designers in implementing up-to-date work strategies. 

Now, let’s dig a bit deeper and take a look at where the UX design profession is headed. If you’d like to learn these trends in a video format, CareerFoundry alumna and product designer Maureen goes through the upcoming trends:

For those who prefer the written word, here are the most important factors we believe will influence UX in the coming year and beyond:

  1. Extended Reality (ER)
  2. Artificial intelligence
  3. Web 3.0 and the Metaverse
  4. Remote work
  5. No-code tools

We’ll also throw in a bonus discussion on UX maturity in companies and how that will influence the field. 

1. Extended Reality (ER)

We’ve already seen the beginnings of extended reality (ER) technologies being integrated into our society through companies like Ikea, Adidas, Walmart, McDonald’s, and Instagram. These big names are already using ER to train their employees via realistic simulations, helping users “try on” products at home, and connecting people through virtual games and entertainment. 

What is extended reality?

The term “extended reality” encompasses a few concepts, the main ones being augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). Augmented reality allows you to add non-physical (or digital) items to the existing world around you while virtual reality completely immerses you in a computerized world

For example, an app that allows users to see how a piece of furniture looks in their home is representative of AR technology. VR technology on the other hand might be a med student wearing a headset to practice seeing and treating virtual patients. 

How will VR/AR, etc. influence UX design?

With VR and AR technology comes the need to start designing more for 3D spaces that may be paired with headsets and haptic suits. Designers will also have to account for holography, spatial and audio augmentation, designing for mixed reality developers like WebXR, and devices and experiences being more linked than ever before. Being able to create quality designs for these platforms in an efficient yet ethical way is a challenge many UX designers are bound to face in the upcoming years. 

Possible pitfalls of extended reality

There are many positive aspects of extended reality such as greater interconnectivity, easier professional and personal collaboration, and more immersive learning and entertainment experiences. It’s pretty exciting to think we could be designing for actual holodecks and holograms like a Star Trek or Marvel movie. However, with great technology comes great responsibility. The implementation of AR and VR into our daily lives will pose questions such as:

  • How will extended and altered reality affect our mental and physical health?
  • Will these technologies impact the environment in any way?
  • How will AR/VR be distributed and regulated? What companies will be involved and what will their incentives be?
  • How can creators ensure these technologies are accessible, inclusive, and safe?

As AR/VR becomes more 3D and more widely utilized, UX designers will need to become well-versed in designing for virtual platforms in creative and ethical ways. 

2. Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a term used to describe any intelligence expressed by machines or computerized technologies as opposed to natural animals and humans. We’ve likely all been introduced to some form of AI already through technologies like Siri or Amazon Alexa and Echo. Yet, the future of AI is exponential and even greater than these already impressive products. 

What are the types of AI?

Before we get into how AI will affect UX, let’s first define three different types or categories of artificial intelligence: weak, general, and super. 

  • Artificial Weak Intelligence: This type is what we are most familiar with today and focuses on specific tasks being completed by detecting patterns and making predictions. For example: Facebook newsfeed, Amazon suggested purchases, Siri/Alexa.
  • Artificial General Intelligence (AGI): This next level of AI is thought to be on par with human intelligence. AGI technologies can perform tasks assigned to them with greater efficacy than a human can but will never be able to perform tasks not assigned or programmed. For example: While there are no concrete or existent examples yet, AGI has been demonstrated in pop culture for decades like the character of Data in Star Trek, the robots on Westworld, or Ash from Alien.
  • Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI): As suggested by the name, ASI would feature technologies with intelligence superior to that of humans. This is often the technology that excites some yet worries others as ASI technology would be unlikely for humans to control. For example: This technology also does not exist yet, but we can draw examples from movies like Battlestar Galactica, The Matrix, Transformers, and I, Robot. 

 

How will AI technology affect UX designers? 

Well, in many ways it AI technology already has had an impact on UX design. Designers have been implementing AI tools that generate color palettes or draw fictional portraits for personas for a few years now. We have been getting used to designing for personalized, adjustable interfaces and sites that recommend content for our users. Even widely used photo editing apps use AI technology to enhance images or remove backgrounds. 

However, the potential for AI within UX design is even greater- especially in subspecialties like user research and information architecture. For instance, AI can easily be programmed to create large numbers of wireframes based on best practices found on the web. This would severely cut down on the time it takes designers to iterate and propose possible solutions.

In terms of AI in user research, we can look to Google’s latest projects. Google has been experimenting with using AI for user testing by designing an AI program that investigates a range of elements across various apps to measure their “perceived tappability.”

To program the AI, they designed a neural network (a set of mathematical equations to resemble biological neurons) based on data from a sample of volunteers who judged the “clickability” of over 20,000 elements from around 3,500 apps. The results showed the AI to be 90% accurate to the human responses.

Further refinement of this technology could mean various sites where designers can submit their screens and quickly receive AI-generated heat maps indicating the usability of their designs. 

Is there a downside to using AI?

Behind every AI is a human that programmed it, meaning it is not always neutral or without flaws. Designers must find a way to ensure AI is inclusive and doesn’t discriminate. Furthermore, there are concerns that AI could obliterate the need for UX designers altogether as companies can rely on AI-based websites and tools to do the work for them. However, trends show a promising future for designers and AI working together to form better work environments and more efficient design solutions.

A person standing behind a VR dashboard, wearing a VR headset

3. Web 3.0 and the Metaverse

It’s well-agreed that the internet has changed immensely since its inception. The internet is beginning to undergo even further developments in the form of Web 3.0 and the Metaverse.

What is Web 3.0 and the Metaverse?

It’s hard to define Web 3.0 exactly as it’s still in the early phases. But, what we can gather thus far is that this next evolution, the Semantic Web or Web 3.0, will have a focus on using AI and blockchain technologies to process information with human-like ability. No longer built by governments and public institutions but by tech companies, Web 3.0 takes a more decentralized approach, thus creating a more shared, secure, and transparent web environment. It will also have a greater focus on implementing 3D graphics, behavioral advertising, and smart applications to assist individual users. 

The Metaverse is an even further step into the future that joins VR technology with the decentralized web. Think of a network of 3D worlds or, as Facebook describes it, “A set of virtual spaces where you can create and explore with other people who aren’t in the same physical space as you.” Very much like the digital universes described in movies like Ready Player One or Tron, the introduction of a Metaverse has huge potential to change the way our society functions and interacts. 

How will Web 3.0 and the Metaverse influence UX design?

Other than the possibility of hosting UX events in a virtual space-world while being projected as your latest orc avatar (although this is probably just my wishful thinking), there are many other more immediate effects Web 3.0 and the Metaverse will have on UX. These technologies will make devices more connected than ever. Designers will have to keep this in mind when designing for multiple platforms that can be accessed and used virtually anywhere. UX copy will also have to be streamlined for interpretation by AI with human-like abilities as opposed to search engines looking for keywords and numbers. Additionally, 3D graphics will be more widely used by designers in a variety of areas like e-commerce sites, gaming, museum and historical institutions, and medical and social service apps and tools. 

4. Remote work

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced many designers to work from home for weeks and months on end. While this has been a challenge for some, others quickly saw the benefits and ease that come along with remote work. The future of UX will be sure to reflect this trend as designers continue to stay home for health and safety reasons or simply because the remote lifestyle works best for them.

For more information on UX and Covid-19, read our complete guide: What to Expect in UX After Covid-19.

What is remote work?

Remote work is a work arrangement where employees do not travel to or gather at a central place of work like an office building, store, or warehouse. Other names used for remote work are telecommuting, flexible workplace, distance working, work from anywhere, or working from home. Remote workers may choose to stay in their places of residence to work or choose another destination like a co-working space, coffee shop, or library. 

Despite the reality that UX design is a highly collaborative profession, it is entirely possible to become a remote UX designer

How will remote work influence the UX design industry?

With a year or more of working from home under our belts, designers, agencies, and employers have learned a lot about how remote work fits for them. We’ve made our homes more ergonomic and work-friendly and learned what topics warrant a full Zoom meeting versus a quick email. 

As UXers are finding distance working to be of greater benefit to their lifestyles, designers, their clients, and co-workers will continue to learn and adapt their remote working habits to be more efficient and enjoyable for all. Less linear and more flexible schedules and a focus on healthy work-life balance will be key for project and company success.

Furthermore, design communities may flourish more online than in person. Remote UX networking events, seminars, and lectures can benefit from technologies like Web 3.0, VR/AR, and the Metaverse in order to host larger numbers of designers from all over the world in a safe yet engaging way. 

However, this also means a UX designer’s online persona and personal brand will be of the utmost importance when positioning yourself in your networking and displaying your values as a designer to clients, stakeholders, and colleagues. Designers may find themselves making unorthodox design decisions in order to stand out from the crowd and typify their personal brand. 

Learn more about how to build your personal brand in this video with expert Brittni Bowering:

What are the downsides to remote work?

Potential pitfalls to working from home depend a lot on your personality as an individual and a designer. If you’re someone that craves the buzzing feeling of a group brainstorm or looks forward to friendly, water-cooler talk, the shift towards distance working may not feel exciting to you. 

It’s crucial for designers to get to know their work habits and personalities to ensure your creative process and mental health are not stifled by working remotely. 

Remote work may also have negative effects on user testing and other design processes where picking up quick and subtle behavioral indicators is crucial. Usability testing, card sorting, and interviews may not be as easy with a laptop screen standing in the middle, and could lead to designers missing out on crucial feedback or users becoming frustrated with testing methods

5. No-code tools

With or without knowing it, most people (designers or not) have probably already encountered and utilized a no-code tool. The use of this subtle, yet important technology is poised to be on the rise in UX design communities in the upcoming years. 

What is a no-code tool?

A no-code tool is a way of programming that doesn’t require the user to have knowledge of or write code to use it. Instead, it relies on a graphic user interface (GUI)—a type of interface where users interact via icons or other visual indicators as opposed to text-based commands or navigation. This isn’t to say that there is absolutely no coding involved but rather the developer has coded the tool so its user simply has to drag, drop, click, or scroll through icons to use it. 

Examples of no-code tools already in use in the UX design field are Figma, Weblow, Notion, Google Analytics, UserGuiding, and even Survey Monkey. 

How will no-code tools affect UX design?

Prevalent use of no-code tools in the UX design industry has made designers less reliant on developers to make the code for their app and web designs function properly. Instead, developers are relied upon to code tools that help designers develop on their own without the use of code. This has the potential to drastically shift our skill sets as designers. 

Instead of taking that extra online course to up your coding skills, you may want to focus on getting familiar with common no-code tools. Becoming an expert at using these tools can significantly expedite your work and the design process overall.  

Are there downsides to no-code tools?

The ability to use no-code tools without any coding knowledge makes them easier and more accessible to even non-designers. This may influence how potential clients view UX design and the validity of our expertise. If anyone can learn to use a no-code tool to build a decent webpage, why spend money on hiring a UX design team? The increasing popularity and convenience that no-code tools bring may require designers to defend why they are still needed and what their skillsets have to offer. 

Which brings us to our final topic: UX maturity in companies. 

 

UX Design Trends: Person in a wheelchair, working from home at a laptopPhoto by Marcus Aurelius from Pexels

Bonus: UX maturity

Although the demand for UX designers is increasing, many designers are still finding themselves having to explain their positions, what they do, and why they are valuable. This phenomenon can be interpreted as a reflection of the level of UX maturity in a company. 

What is UX maturity and why does it matter? 

UX maturity is a measure of an organization’s desire and capacity to provide successful user-centered products. It looks at how well a company understands what UX designers do and why it is important. It displays if the organization sees the worth in focusing on the user and creating a beneficial user experience within their product. 

The level of UX maturity in the company you are designing for may indicate what resources and tools are available, how much funding they are willing to allocate to your work, and how well your position may be understood and valued. This can have a critical effect on what your day-to-day work may look like, how easy or difficult it may be to accomplish your tasks, and how appreciated you feel your efforts and expertise are. 

How is UX maturity changing?

Unfortunately, UX maturity in a variety of industries is still quite low. However, there are still pockets where UX designers are highly desired and recognized. These organizations are seeing the benefits of investing in quality user experience and setting aside proper funding to help UX designers succeed.

A high level of UX maturity is especially demonstrated in organizations where specialized UX roles are welcomed and sought-after. The increased demand for UX designers has led to the ability for designers to choose a focused niche such as UX analysts, researchers, writers, strategists, and engineers. A company that makes space for specialized roles often has a good understanding of the UX design process and how valuable each component is. 

How to increase UX maturity where you work?

Here are a few tips on how to increase UX maturity in your workplace or with potential future clients:

  • Understand your company’s or client’s business objectives and how your work can help achieve them. Seeing things from a corporate or financial point of view not only makes you a well-rounded designer but also aids in helping convince your employers of the value of UX work and your position.
  • Utilize quantitative data alongside qualitative insights to back up your design decisions. For business-driven colleagues like CEOs and other higher-ups, hard, statistical data is often more enticing and convincing. Pairing quantitative data with qualitative shows your work has measurable and significant positive effects.
  • Reach out to non-designers in your spare time to actively collaborate and co-create. Doing this spreads awareness of the UX design position and gets people outside of the design industry familiar with what you do. With prior knowledge of the UX design skillset and its value, they may be more likely to recommend you or work with you on future projects. 

Key takeaways

UX designers have the potential to be major changemakers in our society. To do this ethically and efficiently requires empathy. 

One of the best ways to practice and cultivate empathy is to keep yourself up-to-date and connected to the world around you by actively learning about current events, and societal changes—as well as connecting with peers in and out of the tech industry. 

Focusing on genuine, industry-led insights that encompass larger fields like work culture, developments in UX practices, and big tech breakthroughs can give you the wherewithal needed to become an empathic, modern, and cutting-edge designer. 

If you’d like to learn more about UX design and how to thrive in this ever-evolving field, here are a few other articles that will be helpful to you:

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