Design & UX
By Larry Alton

3 Mobile UX Trends That Are Changing How We Design

By Larry Alton

Person using a mobile app

Mobile users today are finicky. They’ve become accustomed to frequent updates and new features, which puts added pressure on designers and developers to continue innovating.

However, mobile users aren’t necessarily looking for something brand new. Some of the hottest design trends that have been hyped in recent years (conversational interfaces, motion design, virtual and augmented reality) have been implemented in countless different ways, and this will continue for years to come.

Let’s take a look at these 3 mobile trends, why they’ve become so popular, what problems they solve, and why they’ll continue to shape the future of mobile UX.

Why You Should Care About Mobile UX

By some estimates, 68% of all U.S. adults and 88% of those in the millennial age group own a smartphone. Smartphone ownership is also growing exponentially in developing countries.

I’m sure you’ve also heard that that there are now more mobile-only internet users than PC-only users?

Mobile is the new black. It has been for a while now, and it’s going to stay that way. Desktop computers might not be falling by the wayside anytime soon, but they are taking a backseat to smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. This means that the time and energy you pour into making your mobile users satisfied will pay off in a big way, now and later.

Still not convinced?

According to this infographic by Experience Dynamics, 52% of users say a bad mobile experience makes them less likely to engage with that company in the future. 9/10 users are said to stop using an app due to poor performance, while 86% of mobile users have deleted or uninstalled at least one app because of issues related to performance.

In short, customers are predominantly using mobile as their preferred method of consuming content and engaging with brands. If the UX isn’t up to par, they will dump your mobile app for another — one that does a much better job of satisfying their needs. Like I said, mobile users are finicky.

1. Motion and Subtle Animations

Ever since Flash-based design was (thankfully) retired, animations and transitions have risen to the top and quickly become one of the hottest UX trends. Motion works well because it draws the audience in and allows them to fully immerse themselves in a dynamic and interactive experience.

Motion in mobile design

What makes motion so effective is that it can be as subtle as you want it to be. In fact, it should be subtle. Users don’t want to be overwhelmed by animation, they want small details that reel them in or offer visual hints to ease them along (for example, a floating button that encourages a user to swipe down and explore more content).

In the days of Adobe Flash, motion was all about…well..being flashy. Today, motion is about user experience. This is one of the reasons that Flash-style animations no longer exist, and subtle transitions are here to stay.


2. Virtual and Augmented Reality

Mainstream device hardware has finally caught up with mobile app developers. Now that mobile devices have faster processors, more RAM, superior cameras, better communication speeds and higher quality graphics, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) experiences are growing like never before.

The beauty of VR and AR components is that they allow you to insert your users directly into a multi-sensory environment, where they can experience something firsthand. It’s the closest thing to reality without really being there.

Virtual reality in mobile design

When developing VR and AR components, there’s a lot to think about. How much immersion do your users want? Can you create a realistic experience without requiring too much physical movement or interaction from the user? App developers will need to work closely with 3D architects to ensure they’re designing with the end user in mind, so that’s something else to consider.

VR/AR is a whole new world, but definitely one worth exploring.

3. Conversational Interfaces

Conversational interfaces are incredibly hot right now. Thanks to native virtual assistants built into most of today’s smartphones (think: Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana), mobile users are surprisingly comfortable talking to a bot on their phone. This is now spilling over into app design, and savvy mobile users have come to expect some sort of voice functionality (think: voice-activated Google Search) or conversational capabilities (think: Slackbots).

Conversational UI in mobile design

If the thought of designing or implementing voice technology sounds a little scary, don’t worry, millennials tend to prefer texting over talking anyway. Plugging an interactive chatbot into your mobile messaging app (or customer support feature) is a highly effective way of using natural language to engage users in an environment that’s comfortable to them.

Luka app, where users are able to converse with friends and family using chatbots as a helpful virtual assistant, is an ideal example of what it looks like to execute a conversational interface.

Conclusion: Give Your Users What They Want

Believe me, users aren’t secretive about what they want. If you need to know what users really hate, read the negative reviews of other apps. Mobile users want fast, smooth experiences that are functional, aesthetically pleasing and highly engaging. If you can capitalize on these demands, you’ll be able to design mobile experiences that’ll keep users satisfied for months and years to come.

Are there any other mobile UX trends that are shaping the future of design? Let us know in the comments below!

Keen to learn more about mobile UX? Check out our new video course, Thinking UX, which shows you how to rewire your brain to deliver an exceptional user experience on mobile. Here’s a lesson from the course.

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  • M⃠ ⃠S⃠ ⃠i⃠ ⃠N⃠ ⃠L⃠u⃠n⃠d⃠

    Animations *always* makes a UI feel slower.

    Get used to a UI with animations, than take them away.
    It will feel lightning-fast.

    Like to you are leaving the dial-up age behind all over again.

    Please *don’t* sell developers on dumb trends.

    Look at the example-animation for F sake!

    Swipe, then wait for the animation to finish?
    Shove that!

    • Andy Kirk

      Please be polite.
      The author didn’t claim that animation made a UI feel faster.
      Animation has an important role to play in informing users that something has changed or can be interracted with, which makes a UI more comprehensible and/or navigable.
      From what I can see, the example animation illustrates that point and I can’t see that user is having having to wait for anything slower than a normal scroll, so I don’t think the example supports your argument.

      • M⃠ ⃠S⃠ ⃠i⃠ ⃠N⃠ ⃠L⃠u⃠n⃠d⃠

        Who claimed that the author claimed that animation made a UI feel faster?
        Not me.

        What I am saying, is that it makes the UI slower.
        And it clearly does.

        If you add even a second of animation that has to play out before things happen, that one second of slow down.

        And you cant see that clearly in the example?

        Here is what I see:

        Step 1.)
        The user quickly swipes from the bottom and up.
        Nothing happens on the screen

        Step 2.)
        The UI starts to slowly slide up, hesitates a little, then finishes.

        The users finger isn’t even above the screen anymore when the UI has finally finished reacting.

        That one S L O W -ass user interface!

        The sluggishness might be because the hardware sucks, but clearly the piled on animation makes things worse not better.

        If there was power enough to make the UI under the finger track the movement of the finger in real time, THAT might be a valid use for “animation” , but please don’t pile on animations as an extra task that has to be executed while you wait.

        I have been using computers since they were *actually* as syrupy slow as the kids to day make them look by adding animations.
        And I’m sick of waiting for things… *again*.

        Whats next, adding modem-noises to 5G downloads?
        To hell with nostalgia, I say.

        • Andy Kirk

          “Animations *always* makes a UI feel slower.”

          This, and the tone of your first comment seemed very much to me like you arguing against a point made by the author.
          I guess you weren’t, so apologies for misunderstanding.

          As to the rest, well, I don’t think it’s constructive to claim all animation is bad all the time. That’s simply not the case.

          I guess we’ll have to agree to differ.

          • M⃠ ⃠S⃠ ⃠i⃠ ⃠N⃠ ⃠L⃠u⃠n⃠d⃠

            No, you are not reading what I write.

            That animation makes things slower is physically unavoidable.

            If you have a finite amount of processing-power, and you add extra tasks to be executed, like an animation to run, what you end up with is a slower UI.

            Its fact. period

            You might get away with people not noticing the slowdown, if you have enough power and apply it wisely.

            But be fair, most animation is put in to be noticed.

            When is the last time you saw an example of an animation, where the animation wasn’t noticeable?

            Articles like this, always teach people to put in noticeable animations, and thus how to slow down UIs.

            And as someone who has to endure slowed down UIs every single day, and to an increasing amount over time.
            I recent that.

            How about an article that teaches people how to strip out unnecessarily animations, left behind by hack designers?

            That might be a first, ever.

  • Don Droga

    Oh Lord how not current can one get.

  • Conversational Interfaces seems to be a trend right now but indeed it requires a great lot of techniques and potential from the developer.

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