What is going on, where are we heading? Much is happening in the world of User Experience. We’ve asked two UX experts from IT Sonix about what to look out for – these are their six top picks for UX design trends.
Working closely together – both with customers and colleagues. That is the main priority for user interface and user experience designers Franziska Beer and Constanze Knospe. At IT Sonix they are part of agile teams involving software developers, project managers, product owners and data scientists serving clients mainly from the transportation & automotive, renewable energy, medicine, finance and construction segment.
In each assignment they work closely with customers to understand their requirements and the exact nature of the workflow the requested solution is going to support. They work in short, iterative cycles, with continuous customer feedback to ensure they’re going in the right direction.
Franziska Beer and Constanze Knospe are experts in their field, and they are closely following the newest UX design trends emerging in the UX world. We’ve asked them to select the most promising and interesting current trends. Their choice is not only focusing on the newest in tech. Sustainability and ethics are high on the agenda as well:
1. The MVP mindset
As mentioned, the IT Sonix development teams work in short, iterative circles, continuously integrating user and customer feedback. The Minimum Viable Product concept is a key part of this approach, and it has become increasingly popular in product development in recent years.
– The MVP is a version of a product with just enough basic features to allow the customer to use it, Constanze Knospe explains.
– To design it, we collect information about the most important parts of the workflow, including roles, tasks and use cases. Based on that information we build the first version of the product. When we’ve launched the MVP, we start collecting user feedback to develop it further. We constantly integrate user feedback into the product. In our world, a product is never really finished. It’s always in development. That way of thinking allows us to adjust it along the way, for instance if the customer wants to add features that are not included in the initial requirements.
As an example, IT Sonix recently assisted a large logistics service provider in redesigning its resource planning processes. The new system environment was to ensure an increased efficiency and user experience. To reach that goal, the IT Sonix UX team gathered user requirements, defined use cases and user roles together with the customer. Based on this research the team was able to create a common understanding of a useful scope of the application and specified system requirements in detail by writing and prioritising user stories.
2. Augmented Reality expanding to B2B purposes
Another new trend that Franziska Beer and Constanze Knospe believe will gain traction is Augmented Reality and its adaption to the B2B world. Already widely used in entertainment and gaming, AR will be integrated in for instance production and servicing processes, and IT Sonix is receiving many customer requests pointing in that direction. For instance, AR can be used in manufacturing for quality control. A quality inspector can examine an item, and instead of filling out a paper form, he can attach the relevant digital documentation of its quality to the physical item.
– It can be relevant for instance in the transport and logistics industry, where we have several customers, says Franziska Beer.
– We have developed a fleet management system, which helps truck drivers in their daily work. It’s already available as a mobile phone app and on a special handheld device inside the vehicle. It assists drivers in several ways, with navigation, vehicle information, driving and rest times etc.
– If we were to integrate Augmented Reality into this product, we could imagine the worker wearing an AR headset in the warehouse where he’s collecting his cargo. The headset allows him to see the actual surroundings, but enriched with data, and pointing him to cargo that fits into his truck. The system could give him suggestions on how to best load his truck, so that it fits the order in which he’ll be delivering the cargo to recipients along his route. It could even integrate the current rules and regulations for securing the load and alert the driver if something is not compliant. It could even block the truck from starting if there is anything wrong.
3. Creating smart digital assistants
Chatbots are an established tool for interaction between companies and their customers. They are used in customer support and in many other places. UX designers find new challenges in making them smarter and more efficient.
At IT Sonix, UX designers work closely together with data scientists to create chatbots, and they’ve gathered a lot of experience in voice recognition and voice navigation, among other things from developing digital assistants for call centres.
Key to developing smart digital assistants is doing extensive user research. As an example, you must analyse the language habits of the users to determine, whether the questions the digital assistant is asking should contain specialist terms or more straightforward language. And you must determine the most frequent use cases and the most relevant questions in each specific context. This enables the UX designers to give their digital assistant a personality that fits its purpose. UX designers are working closely together with data scientists to train the algorithms behind these digital assistants, and according to Franziska Beer and Constanze Knospe this collaborative effort will become even more frequent in the future, as the number of digital assistants and their complexity increases.
4. Minimizing complexity via UID simplicity
Current user interface design must cope with two trends pulling in opposite directions. On one hand, striving for minimalism in design is still the way to go. On the other hand, interfaces must handle an increase in complexity, because they integrate more and more data sources and must visualize them in an intuitive and easily understandable way.
– Most of the time we work with very complex requirements, Franziska Beer explains.
– Vehicle logistics is an example of such a complex use case. When a delivery vehicle breaks down, both the driver and back-office personnel must act quickly. They must arrange for further transportation of the goods it carries, and the damaged vehicle must go to the nearest repair shop to get fixed. All this involves additional drivers and trucks, towing services, and several other parties. They need quick, correct and clearly visualized information about the location of the truck, about the continuation of the delivery etc., designed to fit their specific role in that process. For this task management solution, we’ve developed several design modules that can be integrated in for instance a dashboard, visualizing complex information to the user. Initially, it contains only basic and minimalistic functionalities. But the more you interact with it, the more your requirements increase, and you want to add more functionality to the basic version you started out with. For this you can find extensions inside the product, and you can activate them via in-app purchase.
5. Branded Interaction Design
As the number of digital products and services increases, brands must ensure that the customer experience they’re offering is consistent, uniform and identifiable. Brands are alive, so to speak. Whether it’s a car manufacturer, a fashion label, or a bank, a brand is the sum of all the touchpoints between brand and customer. And as the bandwidth of brand specific design increases, e.g. In new developing virtual environments like metaverse, there is an increasing need for consistency across all products and services.
According to Franziska Beer and Constanze Knospe this means you must focus on what is referred to as brand tonality and brand picture.
This is where Design Systems come into play. Design Systems are collections of reusable building blocks, that ensure consistency and reduce complexity in the design and development process, e.g. charts, tables, forms. Design Systems have been around for a while, but their importance is growing.
The need for consistency does not only imply the visual part of a brand. Language is just as important. You must ensure a consistent tone-of-voice, covering even the smallest parts, for instance the words you put on buttons in an application. For this the discipline of UX Writing offers a systematic approach, with guidelines like corporate language sheets securing brand tonality across different applications.
6. Ethical awareness and sustainability
To the User Experience community in general, ethical awareness and sustainable aspects in Digital Product Design are issues of increasing importance. Not least at IT Sonix.
– We believe we have a responsibility to find sustainable solutions to the societal challenges we’re facing, says Constanze Knospe.
– And we have an ambition that our projects and initiatives should contribute to the UN sustainability goals. This includes a focus on inclusive design and gender equality. As employers we make sure that we’re not involved in projects that are questionable from an ethical standpoint.
However, as Franziska Beer explains, she and her colleagues from time to time find themselves caught in dilemmas. For instance, data analysis may suggest carsharing providers to avoid parking their vehicles in certain areas due to higher vandalism and crime rates. Consequently, people living in that area won´t benefit the same way from the carsharing offering.
This example leads to ethical considerations: So, instead of spreading share economy for efficiency and sustainability reasons to everyone, we somehow strengthen prejudices and isolation regarding social hotspots.
To tackle issues like these, a number of IT Sonix employees have established a sustainability guild, to promote sustainability awareness and to take practical steps to reach sustainability and climate goals. Also, the company has appointed two sustainability managers to lead the company’s efforts in this field.