3 UX Predictions for 2016

3 UX Predictions for 2016

The beginning of the year marks the perfect time for all of us to reflect on where we’ve been, what we’re doing now and what lies ahead. As UX designers who are hungry to learn and grow, we’re constantly keeping a pulse on the design industry and looking for ways to help our clients and peers stay ahead of the game. Now that the New Year’s Eve countdown has ended and the Times Square ball has dropped, we’re looking into our own crystal ball and counting down the top three UX trends we predict you’ll see more of in 2016.

#3: Seamless experiences with custom content and native advertising

UX Predictions for 2016 - Native Advertising and Seamless Experiences
Unlike pop-up ads, banner ads and other types of digital marketing, native advertising offers helpful information in a format that mirrors the rest of a site or app instead of interrupting the user’s experience.

Imagine you’re sitting on the couch watching the Giants face off against the Patriots. During a commercial break, NBC plays a Gatorade ad featuring Eli Manning. This is traditional paid advertising that interferes with the experience of watching a game. As the game wraps up and the post-game press conference begins, Manning takes a seat at the table with a strategically positioned Gatorade bottle in front of him, logo pointing toward the cameras for everyone to see. This is native advertising. It’s baked into the natural setting and doesn’t interrupt with the viewer’s experience.

Big brands around the world are cashing in on native advertising, like this feature from National Geographic and the Canadian Tourism Commission. The two organizations partnered to create a digital magazine about “Canada’s 50 Places of a Lifetime.” This is an understated, clever form of native advertising. It also can appear as sponsored content, advertorials, branded content, product placement and more.


Regardless of the format, the goal of native advertising is always the same: Promote your product or service in a subtle way that drives awareness and brand recognition without interrupting the experience.


UX designers are taking this concept a step further and designing custom digital experiences that change based on the user’s needs. For example, Trunk Club, an online personal shopping service, has designed their sign-up process around an interactive questionnaire that changes the site’s content based on the user’s answers. As the shopper tells Trunk Club more and more about their preferences, the site not only creates a user account to get started, but also begins picking out clothes they think the user will like. This type of seamless, customized experience draws users in, makes them feel special and keeps them coming back for more.

#2: More mobile, more video

UX Predictions for 2016 - More Mobile, More Video
According to the Pew Research Center, nearly two thirds of Americans own a smartphone, and 65% of all smartphone owners use their phone to access the Internet. These numbers only increase when you factor in tablets and other mobile devices or when you focus on younger users. With trends like these, designing for mobile is now becoming a necessity, not an option.

UX Predictions for 2016 - Pew Research Data

A mobile device is always in your hands, pocket or purse. It’s constantly available and relevant to your current experience, helping you do what you want, when you want, how you want. While the common perception is that mobile users are looking up small bits of information (like a restaurant’s location or hours) while they’re on the go, the Pew data shows large percentages of people use their mobile devices for in-depth, important tasks, like looking up information on a health condition, managing their banking, job hunting and researching government services.

The rise of mobile usage and hunger for content anytime, anywhere has fueled the need for mobile-friendly video. Netflix and YouTube gained popularity as TV and desktop services, but now people want to be able to watch TV on their tablet in bed, catch up on their favorite shows while staying in a hotel, share a video during a business meeting and more. Video content also attracts more engagement and drives better business results. In fact, Twitter recently reported videos get three times more retweets, and 90% of Twitter video content is viewed on mobile.


This growth in mobile usage and affinity for video presents an interesting challenge for businesses, UX designers and developers in 2016 and beyond: Make all content — not just some of it — easily accessible on mobile devices, and design interfaces that are optimized for the ways people hold and navigate those devices.


#1: Hold on, artificial intelligence. Hello, intelligent assistance.

UX Predictions for 2016 - Intelligent Assistance
Over the past 20 years, software companies have focused on the holy grail of artificial intelligence to make our lives easier. Now, AI is beginning to be eclipsed by a more practical, human technology: intelligent assistance. Rather than simply automating a task, intelligent assistance suggests to the user the best way to do a task, automates an example of it, then continues to elaborate and improve the quality and variety of assistance over time.

The Google Photos app is a trailblazer with intelligent assistance. When you upload pictures on your smartphone to the app, it automatically begins applying advanced recognition technology to the uploaded photos. Then, it goes back and applies the same recognition to historical photos, creating a complete library that’s easily searchable and interactive. When you search for words like “cake” or “party,” the app will analyze your photos and bring forward the ones that meet your criteria. It also offers fun features that create delight, like automatically building animated gifs and presenting old photos to help you relive the memories.

3 UX Predictions for 2016
We can use intelligent assistance to improve the experience without our users even knowing it. Google Maps recently introduced inverted colors to make it easier for nighttime drivers to see maps. It doesn’t ask the user which color settings they want; it automatically realizes it’s dark and activates night mode. Similarly, let’s say you’re standing in line at the grocery store and scroll past a video on your smartphone that looks interesting. You don’t want to play the video and use up data, but because you paused, a social app with intelligent assistance can tell that you may be interested in that content. Later on when you’re home and on wifi, those videos surface again for your consideration.

UX designers and businesses owners can leverage intelligent assistance to create a better user experience, but it will require changing the way we think about design.


Traditionally, the first question we ask ourselves is, “How do we communicate this message?” Now, it’s going to be, “How do we design a tool that will assist our users and suggest options that will help them make decisions?”


Creating the future in 2016

2015 was a big year for UX. Companies of all industries and sizes are realizing the power design can have in helping them achieve success, and we expect that trend will continue to grow in 2016. Those who push back on this evolution and cling to the past will fall by the wayside. Meanwhile, those who keep a close eye on where design is headed and embrace change will be the ones who create the future.

Putting The User Back Into User Experience

Putting the “User” Back in “User Experience”

“We’re struggling with UX.”

It’s a statement our team hears constantly from businesses of all sizes and industries. What they usually mean is something like:

  • “Our customers are having a hard time using our product.”
  • “It takes our employees too much time and too many steps to use our internal system.”
  • “We’ve added all these cool features, but the results aren’t what we thought they would be.”

These problems usually stem from a design process that’s engineering- or development-driven, instead of user-driven. Like a sports star that’s an individual winner but whose teammates feel left behind, products often have tons of features that functionally work, but their users still feel lost and aren’t able to accomplish their tasks.

When companies realize there’s an issue, the solution is often to add more features. Without a Product Owner who can prioritize them, all of the features end up being added, which leads to experience rot. Even with a Product Owner or executive decision maker driving the process, self-design and lack of internal alignment wreak havoc, with stakeholders designing the product the way they use it and departments butting heads over competing visions and priorities.

Regardless of why teams are struggling with UX, the impact on the business is often the same: More confusion. Higher abandonment rates. More calls to customer support. Lower satisfaction. Lost revenue. The list goes on.

So, what’s the solution to these UX struggles? It’s not more technology. It’s not a fancy new website. It’s not a slick app.

It’s putting users first.

Start by collaborating with your team to answer some basic questions, empathize with your users, and define their needs. (Better yet, invite your users in to talk with them and observe them.)

  • Who are our users?
  • How many different types of users do we have?
  • What goals or tasks or workflows are they trying to complete?
  • Why do the tasks exist in the first place?
  • Are these the right tasks?

Then, work through the design thinking process one step at a time. Within the bounds of user goals, explore ways you could meet their needs, prototype a few of the options that seem the most promising and then test them with real users to see how they actually work.

Going through this process and fixing the problem may not be easy or cheap. But it’s worth it. Take professional athletes, for example. Michael Jordan is one of the best basketball players of all time, but he wasn’t that way on day one. It took years of understanding the intricacies of the sport (empathizing and defining), practicing different drills to improve his skills (ideating and prototyping) and trying moves during real games (testing). Only then could he make the right plays, the right way, at the right moments, and deliver a sports experience that made him a legend. The same goes for design.

If you want to be the Michael Jordan of your industry, stop following competitors or the latest shiny trends, and try following your users instead. You’ll be surprised how putting the “user” back into “user experience” turns struggles into successes.

How Being Dissatisfied Fuels New Ideas

Some of the world’s greatest achievements have come from dissatisfaction.

The desire to have things better than they are.

  • Where are you dissatisfied?
  • Why is it unsatisfactory?
  • How will you resolve it?

When the passion and drive is built up enough, things change.

Where is your dissatisfaction and inner drive to change things the strongest? Wherever that it is, that’s your new obsession, new passion, new company and new product.

At Drawbackwards, our product development process for Forward Framework and WordPress Starter Theme came out of this dissatisfaction. We were starting our WordPress sites from a less-than-optimal place every time. Being a team that loves the details, we carefully crafted a custom starting point on each project that lines up our code and workflow for success.

Now, with our framework and theme, we can start from a better place. You can too. And we can all be a little less dissatisfied.

Time and Space

Leveraging the Power of Time in UX Design

One of the best ways to improve and innovate a product or service experience is to observe time’s impact upon it. Crafting the presentation of time is one of the least discussed and most important UX design principles to leverage.

Create with Time in Mind

Designers and developers should craft products with reverence to the creative power of time. The best product designers understand how time affects the end experience. Use materials that weather time well. Architects use metal walls that rust over time to the desired color and texture. Packaging designers create boxes that allow for products to be slowly revealed and revered through the time it takes to open them (think Apple’s iPhone box).


Consider how In-N-Out Burger extends employees out of the building and down a drive-thru line as the line gets long. This transforms the customer experience in key ways:

  1. A friendly In-N-Out employee greets a hungry customer sooner.
  2. There’s more time to help customers decide, thus speeding up the order process and ensuring they get what they really want.
  3. The more time there is between when customers order and when they arrive at the register, the more time the kitchen has to prepare their orders.

Bonus: If customers know In-N-Out’s secret menu items, they get access to a different experience with faster ordering and unique food options by saying a secret word or two.

Observe Time’s Power and Impact

In designing UX for apps and websites, think beyond the single interface screen and into the context of how a user arrived there and where the user wants to go. Think in terms of the user’s journey, timeline and overall story.

Start looking at everything in every day life and you’ll see time drives it. Human growth and development rides on time. Music rides on time. Movies ride on time. Games depend on time. Our lives don’t move forward or change without time. Our universe doesn’t grow, expand and create without time.

Without time, you wouldn’t have experience. We would all be stuck in static moments. These moments would be disconnected and not even have meaning.

As we start observing the element of time as a key aspect in user experience design we will be much more likely to achieve an improved experience by providing context, relevance and meaning to the product or service. By focusing on how time can be altered and leveraged in a product or service, we will become more innovative in delivering that end experience.

Something New To Share

Our previous iteration of Design.org was a collection of visual design execution from elsewhere, and often we focused on the surface and not the ideas and process and outcomes surrounding them.
As we’ve considered our purpose, values and mission at Drawbackwards, it’s become clear that a reboot of Design.org around sharing our ideas, tools, artwork, assets, code and process with you is in order.
We can’t wait to see what you create with us. Our first release under the new Design.org platform is our WordPress Starter Theme. Check it out and let us know what you think.