Barefoot Bytes: What’s Trending in UX
February 26, 2024

2024 UX Design Trends

The first two items on this list are absolute monsters. Instead of calling them trends, you could say that the entire practice of UI/UX is being re-invented, in real time.

Game-Changer 1: Virtual Reality

The Apple Vision Pro headset heralds the beginning of the end for our two-dimensional screens. As we shift into the full visual field, everything must be reimagined.

For example, what’s the best way to control a virtual environment? With the Meta Quest Pro, you hold a game controller that shoots lasers onto objects, and click with the controller.

In contrast, Apple’s Vision OS utilizes a combination of eye-tracking and hand-tracking, allowing you to select objects by looking, and manipulate them with subtle gestures

Which approach will win? My money would be on hand-tracking, but the key point is that we are in the nascent stages of this medium. Another example is the dubious structure of an application in virtual space. Short term, legacy 2D interfaces will remain, because they port over reasonably well.

But longer term, the rectangles will feel anachronistic compared to native spatial interfaces. Consider the cooking timer UI shown in a recent Wall St. Journal demo, where the display is not confined, but rather contextual to physical objects.

This is known as augmented reality, but the same concept applies in virtual. Apple’s spatial interface guidelines offer a nice starting point if you’re curious to learn more. The sky is truly the limit for designers here.

Game-Changer 2: Artificial Intelligence

AI represents a fundamental change to the nature of a computer. In the new paradigm, computers behave a lot more like humans. They understand what we say, and can execute human-level tasks. The implications are far-reaching, but I’ll cover three related UX trends.

1. Natural Language UI

Software interfaces are currently oriented towards human execution.

But as computers get more talented, the UI will shift from human execution to human direction.

What’s the easiest way to communicate a goal? Natural language. Below is an example of the new Photoshop UI. Instead of meticulously illustrating a butterfly with a pen tool, you just ask for one.

2. AI Assistants

After the language model receives your instruction, an image model is responsible for generating the butterfly. Soon there will be many different specialized models like this.

Longer term, you will likely have your own personal AI model as well, to serve as an orchestrator for your life. Similar to how Google became the front-page of the internet, a personal AI assistant may become your entire web interface. Among many implications, this may portend the end of traditional websites in favor of simple API’s serving data.

3. Low Code & No Code Applications

Abstracting the programming layer has long been a holy grail for software development. CMS’s like WordPress did a decent job with static content, but almost anything functional still requires writing code.

But not for long. Design tools Framerand Webflow are pushing the envelope on publishing designs directly to the web. Also many in the CMS space are moving closer to design software. Examples include Elementor for WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, and Shopify.

All of the above are now sprinkling AI into the equation as well. So the idea of “non-technical” people creating their own custom applications is becoming more plausible than ever. For designers specifically, this would be a massive win.

Because who are we, if not the visionaries?

Other Noteworthy UX Trends

Dark Mode Rises

The ability to toggle between light and dark mode has moved from nice-to-have to a hard requirement in 2024. Important note: dark screens aren’t that bad during the day, but light screens are blinding at night. So if you don’t have the budget for both, go dark.

Passwords Are Dying

The usability of passwords has always been awful, and they also provide poor security. As a solution, more apps are leaning on biometric authentication like fingerprint scans and facial recognition. The security is stronger, and the UX is seamless.

Wrap Your App

According to the lore, it was an intern at Spotify who first proposed the concept for “Spotify Wrapped” as a cool way to showcase your favorite music each year. And wow did they not get paid enough! The Wrapped design pattern is a corporate dream, leveraging data visualization into an individualized, brand-bonding experience.

-Peter Holmes

COO, Barefoot Solutions

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