The Most Popular Experience Design Trends of 2023

DSRUPTR - Joe Smiley

In 2023, I’m predicting emotional design will help designers to evoke powerful positive reactions from customers that are pleasant and memorable. We’ll also see advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) not only provide major boosts to the design process, but also to chatbot design and voice user interfaces (VUI).

We continue to see the bar move higher as we look to standardize Universal, Inclusive, and Accessible design, as well as visually appealing ways to tell stories with customers’ data.

Let’s launch the new year with some awesomeness in design trends ahead for 2023!

01. Design Process Augmented by Generative AI

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is taking the world by storm with ChatGPT’s estimated 100 million monthly active users (MAU) in its first month deployed, making it the fastest growing consumer internet application in history! Generative AI is a type of artificial intelligence that utilizes machine learning algorithms to create new and original content like images, videos, text, and audio.

These advances will revolutionize the design process across many fields, including product design, software development, advertising, architecture, game design, and many others.

And while AI isn’t exactly new to the product design process (e.g. color palette generator, etc.), experience designers will begin incorporating more and more AI into different areas of the design process in 2023, utilizing it for everything from AI generative tools to creating outputs & artifacts like copy/content, assets, design iterations & validation, and more.

The AI generative tools market is rapidly expanding, where Adobe has begun incorporating generative AI technology in various features, such as Photoshop’s content-aware fill and face-aware liquify and Illustrator’s puppet warp and global edit tool. I’m really excited by these huge upgrades to our design toolkits, where they’ll greatly enhance our productivity and raise the bar on the quality of our output.

Other companies like Jasper AI are re-shaping the UX space with their combination of offerings: AI-generated artistic content with AI-generated written content, making creative design faster, more accessible, and opening new possibilities in experience customization.

We’re only just starting out on the AI/ML design journey, where various forms of design outputs and artifacts will increasingly be defined, organized, managed, and delivered by AI. For us designers, we will continue to play a critical role in understanding this new paradigm and shaping how we design and develop digital products and services.

Moving forward, I hope that organizations are transparent in discussing the ethical and security considerations with their employees and customers surrounding AI-generated content and experiences. I believe this technology shows a ton of promise, but it won’t fulfill its potential without trust and good governance.

02. Mixed Reality + Augmented Reality

I predicted last year that Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) would create more immersive, customized and unique alternative playgrounds. Mainstream success is still years away for VR – especially with the metaverse still in its infancy – where my new hope is that mixed reality (MR) + AR will become a stepping stone into broader adoption of AR + VR in the years ahead.

MR blends physical and digital worlds by unlocking natural and intuitive 3D human, computer, and environmental interactions right in our living spaces and with our friends & family. MR is similar to AR in that it won’t remove you from your surroundings, but rather quickly scan and learn about your environment, and then add digital interactive objects to enhance your experience.

For example, mobile AR offers the most mainstream mixed reality solutions today on social media, where most people don’t even realize that the AR filters they use on Instagram and Snapchat are mixed reality experiences.

However, you will need MR glasses to fully experience mixed reality, which is an expensive departure from AR where you only need a mobile device to access AR content. There’s more than 5 billion people across the globe who have mobile devices, compared to the thousands of early adopters who purchased the expensive MR glasses, which are still in the early stages.

MR has extraordinary potential, and the Magic Leap wearable device is all the proof you need. It provides an incredible MR experience where users can visualize and interact with digital content on a live platform (see Youtube video below for demo). There’s still lots of hardware and software improvements necessary to implement the theoretical ideas, but IMHO it’s only just a matter of time before MR becomes a reality.

Highlighting the essence of the natural world and promoting a digital environment with eye-catching visuals has made mixed reality a perfect tool for marketing and information delivery, where it’s likely to become more accessible for everyone to adopt and popularize. As experienced designers, we have to consider how these interactions will come to life and how to keep the individuals who use these tools safe as we fuse together their digital and physical environments with each tech milestone that is achieved. 

03. Standardizing Universal, Inclusive, and Accessible Design

I wrote last year that inclusive design is “more than just a trend, inclusivity is a mode of operation; an undeniable and vital aspect of human existence and coexistence. In an increasingly globalized but complicated world, we are constantly made aware of the spectrum of differences between ourselves and other individuals, as well as between our and other communities.”

Now I’m taking that guidance further to include universal and accessible design as trends we’ll see standardized in our designs this year and beyond.

A quick refresher on these design practices:

  • Inclusive design is closely related to accessibility, but rather than an outcome, it’s a methodology for how to approach design. It’s a process for creating a design that can be used by a diverse group of people.
  • Universal design is the design of buildings, products, or environments to make them accessible to people, regardless of age, disability, or other factors. It addresses common barriers to participation by creating things that can be used by the maximum number of people possible.
  • Accessible design focuses on the outcome or end result of a design project. It’s based on accessibility guidelines published by various governmental and industry groups, which aim to make sure people with disabilities can access websites and other digital products effectively.

The pandemic highlighted digital accessibility because digital became the predominant method for people to access business, leisure, and education while we were all stuck at home. The good news is that more designers are graduating with knowledge of universal, inclusive, and accessible design practices, so that all of their designs will simply include these critical elements as they enter the workforce.

This is more important than ever, especially now that we have over 1 billion-strong worldwide market of people with disabilities with an annual disposable income of $1.2 trillion. Moving forward in 2023, I see a broader design mentality to finally shape how digital products are created, rather than being an afterthought.

04. Emotional Design

It will no longer be sufficient in 2023 to design a product that just works. Nope. Techies have grown up and now we expect more.

Emotional Design is the solution that will help your customers to feel something. Anything. Positive or negative (yes negative, think horror films). 

A reaction that elevates the experience of using your product to be pleasant and memorable, hopefully by evoking emotions like curiosity, gratitude, surprise, originality, success, and satisfaction.

Don Norman literally wrote the book on Emotional Design, where he explores the idea that there are three different levels of experience and that these experiences can be triggered by three different levels of design.

Don based his book on the realization that customers associate feelings with what they encounter. They love love, seek joy while avoiding pain, have tempers, often silly, and are well, human. Whether or not they realize it, users have sophisticated thought processes directing their every move.

For us designers, if you want your digital product to be successful, delightful, and profitable, you must embrace the emotional design of a product by addressing the three levels of cognitive responses when you design:

  • Visceral—Users’ reaction to seeing your visual design; e.g., a simple user interface suggests ease of use.
  • Behavioral—Users subconsciously evaluate how your design helps them achieve goals, and how easy it is to use. They should feel satisfied that they’re in control, with minimum effort required.
  • Reflective—After they encounter your design, users will consciously judge its performance and benefits, including value for money. If they’re happy, they’ll keep using it, form emotional bonds with it and tell their friends.

As a designer, you focus on users’ needs in their interactions with your products or services. It’s logical that the functionality you design should help them achieve their goals as efficiently and effectively as possible. But you also have to focus on their responses, which are naturally emotional. As rational as we may like to think we are, emotions are at the heart of how we interpret reality.

Positive experiences drive curiosity. They help motivate us to grow as individuals. Negative experiences help us prevent repeated mistakes.

Now more than ever, it’s critical for designers to understand how emotional design shapes the entire experience, from your customers first discovering the product, to using it, and then how they think about the product after they use it.

It is not enough to produce delight from a beautiful design. Your customers must love the experience emotionally, where it makes them smarter while fulfilling their needs, and inspires them to share their extraordinary experience with friends & family.

05. AI Enhanced Chatbot Experiences

As advancements in AI become mainstream, user expectations for chatbots have skyrocketed. People want to feel they’re talking to a human so there’s a strong push for chatbots to feel natural rather than clunky and limited. Once again, design comes to the rescue: 2023 foresees more chatbots integrated into apps and websites.

As the need for high-quality customer service arises, the tech world is heavily investing into machine learning. AI and machine learning will lead to significant improvements in human-like chatbot conversations and improved customer experiences.

These chatbot enhancements include more natural-sounding language, greater command of grammar, more complex vocabulary, and even the ability to interpret spelling errors and typos.

06. Voice User Interface (VUI) / Voice Search

Another great UX design trend this year is voice user interface (VUI) – specifically voice-to-text search and assistance – which is expected to grow to an all-time high as more companies and consumers focus on mobility and automation.

Many consumers are using voice to search for local businesses, online queries, buying decisions, and more, where the technology is evolving to interpret accents more accurately and support multiple languages for better inclusivity and reduce user frustration. A lot of large enterprises and small businesses are also using voice as a part of their customer service to improve the experience for their customers.

Astonishingly, 65% of the millennials and Gen Z use voice for internet searches at least once per day, and 71% of the people with smart devices indicated they will use their voices more for search versus typing this year. Voice search is picking up steam because the voice assistants like Google Voice, Apple’s Siri, and Amazon’s Alexa have exploded in popularity and are integrated into the products we already love.

Voice search is an approach of advanced technology that uses voice-enabled commands to carry out a search on the internet browser, your phone or on any application. It basically includes an open-domain short keyword query to fetch any information on the internet.

VUI is one of the biggest trends that will continue to dominate in 2023, where it can really elevate the user experience of your website or app by guiding your customers in navigating complex digital products without substantial assistance from a screen. For the designers who will be designing for voice interactions this year, I recommend you keep these points in mind:

  1. Craft a persona for your VUI product that will shape your voice product’s identity and the interactions with your customers/users
  2. Keep the voice interactions conversational and simple
  3. Confirm when a task is completed
  4. Create a strong error strategy
  5. Have an extra layer of strong security

07. Buttonless User Interfaces

The minimalist trend continues in 2023 with buttonless user interfaces. Ironically, I’m actually not talking about voice user interfaces (VUI), hand gestures, and/or chatbots. Although those are all great examples of buttonless UI’s.

I’m literally talking about an interface with no buttons. Sans buttons. Nada.

Buttonless UIs are more common than you think, where most mobile devices use buttonless patterns for settings. For example, users can adjust these iPhone settings using tap, slide, and swipe gestures. Instead of a + and – for volume and brightness, users slide either component up or down to adjust.

Buttons are often redundant in most UI patterns. For example, if a card only has one action, it doesn’t need a button; users can click/tap the card. With that said, the future buttonless interfaces will certainly utilize a lot more AI to enhance these experiences, where it’s not about changing the pattern itself by just removing buttons, it’s about making the interactions smart enough to proactively understand a person’s intent, and then completing the action without requiring them to push a button.

08. Motion Design 

Motion design is quickly becoming an integral part of product design, especially when utilized with a big trend from last year: scrollytelling. We owe this to the increasing capacities of the internet, browsers, and devices – combined with the improvements of animation and video compression – where we can now create more complex and nuanced motion in interfaces without sacrificing speed or efficiency.

Designers will continue to push the boundaries of creating visually appealing experiences that tell compelling stories by experimenting with motion design in 2023. We’ll make big strides by utilizing intuitive animation programs and libraries, which allow us to mimick the momentum and physics of physical products to create ever-so-immersive modes of digital interactivity.

Motion design will continue growing its presence through video content as well. Curated video snippets, dynamic backgrounds and quirky video popups will become even more integral — if not essential — in creating captivating brand experiences.

09. Data Storytelling

We continue the storytelling theme with data storytelling, where designers will seek to build compelling narratives in 2023 based on complex data and analytics that help tell your story and influence and inform a particular audience.

Data storytelling is nothing new for enterprise product design, but we’re seeing this trend grow in popularity for consumer digital products, most notably in activity-related apps like health, fitness, money/finances, and more. People love numbers and data!

One of my favorite apps is Mint, where it visualizes my spending by tracking all of my finances across all of my online financial accounts, including banking, brokerage, 401k, credit cards, and more. A great feature is “Spending by category” tab which provides a more visual breakdown of where all of my money is going. It’s a simple but effective way to tell my financial story utilizing my data.

10. Minimum Lovable Product (MLP)

We’ve all heard of Minimum Viable Products (MVP) and Minimum Marketable Products (MMP), but now I’m predicting the Minimum Lovable Product (MLP) will be utilized more in 2023.

MVP’s and MMP’s worked for the last 20 years, but customers are no longer easily impressed by simple tech. The rise of advanced technologies & tools, the maturity of product design, and the new generation of digital natives have redefined the tech market where ugly or simple products don’t impress.

Consumers have access to a ton of – and are creating their own – high-quality games, content, and experiences from all of their devices. So if you’re going to sell something, it has to be on par with what they’re creating on their own. This is how MLP’s help startups to focus on delivering product experiences customers love rather than getting to market as fast as possible with a subpar MVP. 

To build an MLP, you must deeply consider what your customers care about, their problems & needs, and how to make their lives better. Consider the customer experience (CX) as a whole and strive for love at every stage. As a result, customers will not only purchase your product or service — but they will also want to see your company thrive.

However, building an MLP is not easy. It will force you to weigh your options when building your product and/or UX strategy, because MLP’s typically take longer to build, are more expensive, and generally are built to disrupt saturated markets where you’re trying to distinguish your brand and user experience above others. It also requires more expertise across product development – from early stages through deployment – which includes marketing/branding, CX, user research, and customer service.

With so much competition and new startups entering every market daily, developing MLP’s will be a significant competitive advantage for startups in the years ahead.

Future Trends!

What are the next big trends in UX/UI design? Leave a comment below and share your visions with the rest of us.

And don’t forget to go back and revisit my design trends of the past: 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019

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