Last January, I wrote up my thoughts on UX trends to look for in the coming year. Looking back, these predictions were pretty accurate, but I was overly optimistic on some points. So unlike last year, I’m going to split my trend predictions into two groups: UX trends I am confident will happen (Part 1), and trends in UX design I hope will happen (Part 2). Now, my six UX predictions for 2017:

Content (strategy) continues to be important

Smart companies have started to focus more and more on tone of voice and messaging, and this will continue. As more and more technology companies introduce competing offerings, focused and smart messaging will help differentiate and better capture users’ attention. And with the growing use of voice-activated systems, “conversational” content design will also become increasingly important.

Taco Bell Tacobot
Taco Bell’s Tacobot uses conversational language along with instructions for next steps.

Increased politicization and segmentation of social media experiences

2016 was an election year in the U.S., and it isn’t hyperbolic to state that it was one of the most emotionally charged presidential elections in history. Friendships ended, riots occurred, and social media services such as Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook became a battlefield. These services became less civil, more political, and more fragmented. Users complained about bias, competing social media services were created, users boycotted companies that expressed opposing political views … it was, simply, a hot mess.

Expect a lot more of this in 2017—and expect a lot of design thinking around how to keep theses spaces civil and safe. Read these three pieces by Wired, Yahoo, and Ricochet for a deeper understanding of the social media changes afoot:

Politicized social media networks
Gab draws the alt right, conservatives, and libertarians, while Imzy draws the social justice warrior/progressive crowd.

Affordable mixed reality (finally) comes to consumers

I was a little too optimistic last year about how much traction mixed reality will have in the consumer space and hoped we would see devices such as the HoloLens under many Christmas trees this holiday. Nope, not yet—the technology is there (and amazing) but it hasn’t been release to consumers yet.

With Microsoft’s Creator’s Update coming in early 2017, hardware manufacturers will be launching low-cost virtual and augmented reality headsets to work with this release, and even lower-powered computers will be able to support some level of mixed/virtual reality. It will be more virtual reality than augmented/mixed reality, but the path to low-priced, high-powered devices has begun—it just may take a while.

(Disclaimer: I work in UX Design for Microsoft, but do not work in the product development team, and so no insider information is cited/used to inform the above opinion).

Mixed Reality HeadsetsMixed Media Headsets

Window’s mixed reality headsets will run on mid-range laptops.

Demand for UX practitioners will continue to be high

LinkedIn recently listed UI design as one of the top five skills in the U.S. While the skill doesn’t necessarily align with the depth and breadth of the actual demand in the marketplace research, the fact that it’s at the top indicates that demand for UX practitioners isn’t slowing anytime soon.

LinkedIn Top 2016 skills

The top skills of 2016 on LinkedIn Global.

Intelligent assistants and chatbots will be increasingly adopted

Alexa, Google Home, and Cortana are changing the way people engage with technology. As I predicted, speech is becoming less awkward and more natural for users. As machine learning and web-based computing power increases, the power of these devices will become even more impressive to consumers. Expect a critical mass to occur with consumers this year as more devices get into homes and people get used to asking computers for help.

The challenge is, of course, that these devices exist inside of corporate-based silos. Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon have all created their own systems, and they often don’t play well together, which means that there are limits to the full potential these devices can deliver.

Virtual assistants

Expect a continued rise in the use of intelligent, speech-powered assistants like Alexa, Google Home and Cortana.

Process and service design will gain more attention

Because of intelligent agents such as Alexa and Siri and the increasing use of Internet of Things devices, the need for UI design will become less important. The need to design the often “screenless” experience is now crucial. Smart design teams will start focusing on process and experiences, and less on screens. As a result of this, service design will become an ever-increasing focus for designers.

Screenless augmented reality

Augemnta creates interface where users’ hands can become a configurable dashboard with connected eyewear. 

Read Part 2 here about the UX design trends that I hope will happen in 2017.

The Author

Joseph Dickerson, UX Lead at Microsoft, has a diverse background in application design and development, information architecture, user research, and usability testing. He has provided both design and usability test services for many different projects, as well as lead ethnographic research efforts on a variety of topics. He has authored seven books, including two books on user experience design, “Experience Matters: Essays, Tactics and Lessons in User Experience Design” and “UX101: A Primer on User Experience Design.”

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