In the next few years we will see a continuing trend to simplify the UI of our apps/websites. This is happening because of two main factors: How we interact and understand new technology, and the rise of more friendly and human software and interfaces. Let’s go step by step.
1. The Simplicity Revolution
We live in a world oversaturated with information, so it is natural for modern UIs to avoid complication. Simplifying what we do (and expect our users to do) allows us to save time and focus on other matters. We’re time poor, and reducing the number of decisions we make every day can improve our quality of life.
“Reducing the number of decisions we make every day can improve our quality of life.”
The e-commerce sector has been one of the first to understand and adopt this. Today we don’t need to carry cash or credit cards. With a simple tap we have everything we need in one single device — our phone. From ordering a takeaway to buying a car, we can do it online. This is nothing new — the online revolution has already happened, we’re now experiencing the Simplicity Revolution. We want everything easier, simpler, safer and we want it now. This is how we’ve come to understand technology. A good app is one that solves your problem in the fastest, simplest way, bringing you the exact solutions you need in no time.
How does this effect the UX/UI?
- Long forms are living on borrowed time. Nobody wants to waste time filling long forms with their data every time they checkout online. Many people already have abundant information in their social profiles and with a tap we can take it from there. Social network integration simplifies this cumbersome process and is key to a better user experience.
- Safe payment in just a few taps. Tools like Apple Pay, Android Pay, PayPal and Shopify will soon be the first option for most of our users. We better have those buttons very visible during the pay process. This will have an important impact in the conversion rates or our products.
- Contextual Design. The search and the burger menu items won’t completely disappear but they will be residual items for secondary content. Users shouldn’t need to worry about searching for what they need when they open an app or website — we can bring this to them in a clear and simple way, based on the time and situation when users interact with our product. The key to successful contextual design is not just about giving users what they expect to get, it’s about offering solutions to problems users didn’t know they had.
- More spaces, less items. A tab bar with four items is OK, but a tab bar with three or less is better. The content structure will be more efficient and clear if we simplify the process around our product as much as possible. We improve the essential actions and sweep the rest — everything user doesn’t use more than once or twice — into a Settings icon or “under a rug”.
2. Human — Software Interaction
One day we will start having feelings for some software in the same way we have for material things, like your wedding dress or your old ukulele. Today we can already see apps that interact with us in a different way, like Lark and Penny.
“One day we will start having feelings for some software in the same way we have for material things”
We are starting to leave behind the traditional way to interact with an app (tap, tap, tap), instead we will be able to enjoy a nice “conversation”, which at the same time solves our problems. Currently we see Siri as a shortcut to get to the information we need — new movies in the closest cinema, tomorrow’s weather, a Wikipedia article, etc — but in a not-too-distant future the way we interact with Siri, and other apps like Penny, won’t be as a means-to-an-end but for solutions they can offer forthright.
How does this affect the UX/UI?
- I honestly doubt that the future UI will be No-UI, or at least not completely. While we have eyes we still need visual content and this will always require a User Interface. However we will see the UIs we understand today simplifying. Things like using a keyboard — something essential today — could soon be a secondary input system, alongside many others. Imagine an app that learns how we make decisions, how we express ourselves when we talk and write, and even how we think. This app could predict our problems based on our behaviour and surface relevant solutions at critical times. Easier and simpler.
- Emoji are just the beginning — software “humanisation” will need many and varied personalities. Our future conversations with our apps will be full of avatars and emoji sets. In a world of clean and simple UI these details will bring a friendly and ultimately more human perspective.
- Search results, products and general content will be integrated within the conversation. If we ask our personal assistant to show us the best hostels in Bangkok these could appear inline, surfacing a preview of relevant results with an option to enter the Hostelworld app, or they could appear as a simple list in the same view, without blocking your current activity of course.
There’s no doubt these are exciting times for many of us. For many others this will be problematic for various reasons. I am in the first group, I believe that refining and simplifying our UIs can have a positive impact and won’t necessarily dull our senses. In my opinion the real value of technology and design is in how it can improve people’s life quality, and we should always design our products with this vision in mind.
“The real value of technology and design is in how it can improve people’s life quality”
Thank you for reading!
You can download here a Sketch file of different Messaging App UIs that I created based on this article. Enjoy!
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This article was originally published at charlieyllobre.com.