As we kick off 2022 it’s only right that we start in the time-honoured fashion by sharing our Top 10 of the experience design trends that will be hot topics over the next 12 months. Our very best wishes for the new year and all the exciting challenges ahead.

  1. Being inclusive

We’re expecting to see more experience design agencies and their clients focusing on inclusive design. Gender identity is one area of focus, with more use of ‘they’ and options that go beyond ‘male’, ‘female’ or ‘prefer not to say’. Some people already note their chosen pronouns on their social media profiles. Gender neutral designs may also become more common, with less stereotypically ‘male’ or ‘female’ design tropes. Race, age, language, and cultural background also need to be considered if design is to be truly inclusive.

  1. Focusing on accessibility

Accessibility should be the cornerstone of good experience design but gets less attention than it should. The World Health Organisation reports that around 15% of the world’s population has a disability, so brands who don’t do enough are missing out on a significant audience. Expect more focus on built-in accessibility, rather than a box-ticking exercise late in the process. Ensuring that UX research participants include a diverse range of people early on will give teams the insights they need to create accessible (and inclusive) design. It’ll also lessen the risk of digital accessibility lawsuits, like those that have caught out Nike and Netflix amongst others.  

  1. Building for bigger screens

For the past few years, the trend has been ‘mobile first’ as the use of smartphones soared across the world. Designers already create responsive layouts, but now there is such a huge variety of screen sizes, together with new developments like foldable phones, that a new approach is needed. Google has recently updated its Material design system and updated documentation with a view to helping designers adapting apps for larger screens. Device-agnostic is the new keyword, together with more use of column grids, layout containers and other elements.

  1. Designing systems

How can designers be more efficient, save time and ensure consistency? The answer is by creating a design system. Tools like Figma and Sketch mean it’s become much easier to put together a component library that can be used to build out a website. Decisions are made early in the process, and once the library has the seal of approval, workflow becomes quicker and it’s easier to maintain consistency and quality. Design systems still need to be maintained and it’s important that everyone from designers to clients are on board with the idea and understand how and why they are being used.

  1. Creating calm simplicity

It’s not surprising that there’s a yearning for simplicity when the last couple of years have been stressful and complicated for many of us. Black-and-white colour palettes are one manifestation of this trend, with subtle use of shadows and animation to give a fresh, modern look that isn’t too brutalist. Clear, untaxing UI is another. No one has the time or the mental energy to decode how to interact with a website or understand complicated data. In design terms it’s always worth taking a step back and thinking about whether a page can be simplified, giving the user a welcome break from information overload.

  1. Finding the fun

People are also longing for a bit of light-hearted fun and escapism. Design that encourages interaction and play, while not complicating the task at hand, is likely to go down well with users this year. Creating emotional responses will deepen user engagement as well as making their day a tiny bit better. This could be as simple as including warm-hearted microcopy or pleasing and playful animations. For sites and apps that don’t suit the simplicity of black and white, lighter, brighter colours and optimistic imagery might be the order of the day.

  1. Putting 3D in 2D

Creating exciting, textured 3D graphics but grounding them in a 2D space has become an increasingly popular design trend. It’s a visually engaging approach that adds interest without totally killing load time. 3D graphics can help with visual storytelling and for a lighter touch shadows and animations can subtly enhance elements that are mostly 2D. Combining hand-drawn 2D graphics or photographs with 3D graphics and animation can create eye-popping results that are puzzlingly surreal, arrestingly hyper-real or beautifully abstract.

  1. Going through the motion

Now that 5G means that designers don’t need to worry so much about loading speeds, animation will be everywhere, from adding pleasing details to interactions to amplifying the impact of headlines and logos. Motion can tell a story and show that an action has been successful. Mixing up 2D and 3D graphics is increasingly popular, and animation can also create the ‘playful’ tone that 2022’s world-weary users may be looking for – who doesn’t like a cursor that other elements react to as they move it around. Increasingly designers will create animated logos as part of their style guide. In a sense it’s surprising it took this long.

  1. Extending reality with AR and VR

As technologies like augmented reality and virtual reality come into greater use, we’re likely to see this term more and more in 2022. The pandemic has seen the use cases for these technologies explode. AR and VR no longer just enable you to view furniture in your home or give yourself cute puppy ears, they mean medical students can practice treatments and businesses can hold ‘in person’ meetings using avatars in environments like Facebook’s Horizon Workrooms. New technologies mean new issues in terms of safety, and how to police such technologies is going to be much discussed this year.

  1. Making the metaverse

AR and VR technologies will one day be housed in the metaverse, the immersive digital universe named in 1992 sci fi novel Snow Crash and imagined in movie blockbusters from The Matrix to Ready Player One. Though the fully connected metaverse is at least a decade away, individual virtual worlds are springing up all over the place. Epic Games, Decentraland, Microsoft and Meta are all working on their own platforms, each with a distinctive modus operandi, from Fortnite’s gaming world to Microsoft’s business environment. There’s going to be a lot more of this in 2022, and a lot more discussion about its potential impact.

If you’d like to talk to The BIO Agency about your experience design challenges for 2022, please contact makesomething@thebioagency.com

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