Mobile App UI/UX Design Trends We’ll be Seeing a lot in 2021

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January 15, 2021

It may sound facetious, but the trend of design being ever-evolving is in fact the one trend that is guaranteed forever.” – Kevin Soon, Design Manager at CitrusBits.

As Kevin mentioned, everything is a variable except for ‘change’, which has remained the only constant in the design world. And with 2020 gone for good, let’s raise our glasses to 2021 and embrace whatever new trends – UI/UX or otherwise – this year bestows us with.

Before I begin, I would like to give the heartiest thanks to our Design Manager, Kevin Soon, Aimee Lin (UI/UX Designer), and Kristian Tumangan (UI/UX Designer) for collaborating with me on this piece. I believe no one could have provided insights on UI/UX trends better than our Design Lords themselves.

The Forces Behind Changing Mobile App UI/UX Design Trends

UI/UX design trends are always changing creating more positive experiences and facilitating more business success as they go but what forces are facilitating this change?

UI/UX design, says Kevin, is malleable in every facet; from the industry, it aims to serve, to the technology that makes it all possible. It’s safe to anticipate that the next big trend may very well be a derivative from something that was once abandoned, though it’s key to recognize that the experience and knowledge that was gained in between trends is what drives design to the next level.

Mobile App UI/UX Design Trends That will Dominate in 2021

People no longer desire meaningless designs. They don’t want designers to randomly jump onto trends. They want the ease of use functionality as well as form in UI/UX of apps and websites. Here are 6 UI/UX design trends (with a close take from UI/UX experts at CitrusBits) that heed to the aforementioned user concerns.

1. 3D Illustrations, Animations, & Motion graphics

While flat texts and 2D designs are somewhat ancient now. We’ll certainly be seeing a lot more 3D illustrations going forward in 2021. As for animations and motion graphics, who doesn’t love that? They are aesthetically pleasing, fun, and make everything less tedious and boring.

Here’s what our UI/UX Designer Aimee thinks,

I like how these 3D illustrations, animation, and motions in UI/UX add to the digital products. They definitely create the “sparkle” to the tech products that we are interacting with every day…

… At the same time, having too much sparkle can be distracting too; thus, finding the balance and sweet spot for these fancy designs will make them even more enjoyable from a product perspective.

While most designers are rooting for 3D illustrations, many are concerned that the trend will likely be replaced by real-life photography.

Well, according to Aimee, this rather depends on the context and purpose of the photography and/or illustration—both have their respective purposes in conveying ideas or information. Discretion is the key; some designs may find that an image is more appropriate than illustration and vice versa.

All in all, neither medium will ever fully replace the other!

2. AR/VR + Voice User Interface Augmenting Apps

Designers all over the world are hoping to see more of AR/VR and voice user interface in applications. So I decided to take our experts’ input on this.

Kevin believes in this day and age where “Hey Alexa” and “Hey Google” is already spoken within the homes of millions of users, I would love to see voice command features within apps (or even at the OS level) gain more traction. The challenge is ensuring that this voice commands truly enhance one’s experience with a product, versus serving merely as a party trick or feature with limited capabilities.

Adding further on AR/VR he says, ‘As for AR/VR, the emergence of AR/VR may be the trend that excites (or at least intrigued) users the most. I believe we are currently seeing this technology in its infancy, but it’s the most promising in terms of becoming “the next great leap” between 2D interfaces/experiences and how that translates to a 3D world.’

With the pandemic hitting in 2020, adds Kristian Tumangan (UIUX Designer), and the unpredictability of the circumstances that hit the world, many had to acclimate to virtual and remote experiences. I see 2021 building upon the improvement of virtual experiences as many systems and institutions had to rely on the virtual tools to adjust to the changing norm of the world’s reality.

Having worked on some awesome augmented reality projects ourselves (at CitrusBits) it’s something we can vouch for. Over the last few years, we have noticed how AR and VR advancement as an important technology is helping design and create better experiences in sectors and institutions including education and healthcare (ever more so during a pandemic).

3. A 2021 without ‘Dark Mode’? Not a Chance!

I mean, it’s 2021, it’s one of the first things we notice about mobile apps now. Could you possibly imagine a life without dark mode? LinkedIn doesn’t have a dark mode and to this day, you will see users demanding a dark mode in the polls. To define this trend in a few words, dark mode looks elegant, modern, and stylish… and well, DARK!

While that is enough to make you want to change from black on white to white on black, that’s not all. The dark mode has the following plus points too,

  • Saves you from screen fatigue
  • Saves your device’s battery (enabling a better user experience)
  • Perfect for people with medical conditions like photophobia

No matter which of these dark mode advantages appeals to you, this is a UI trend that has ruled 2020 and will undoubtedly reign in 2021 too.

4. Will We Continue to See Minimalistic UI, Glass Morphism & Skeuomorphism?

It’s something we discussed last year and we have all read ‘less is more, a gazillion times’. But is it really? As per Aimee, our UI/UX Designer, minimalistic UI becomes a trend with the recent digital interfaces and products created by the larger tech company, for example, Apple and Google.

Minimalistic UI allows people to not only focus on the tasks & goals but also enjoy the clean user interfaces. – Aimee (UIUX Designer)

As a heavy-tech user herself, she believes this trend will be followed by the majority of corporations and is well-liked.

As far as glass-morphism is concerned, she thinks, it’s a design trend that we’ve seen within mobile and desktop UI for several years now. Some notable examples include Windows Vista way back in 2006 and iOS 7 back in 2013. The concept of translucency in applications itself—the ability to see the interface that lies beneath the user’s foremost window—was once regarded as Hollywood, sci-fi/tech fiction.

Skeuomorphism in the late ’00s and early 2010s gave users more polished, futuristic interfaces. It’s possible the trend may return across native OS and mobile apps, as we are already heading back towards design elements that contain more detail and depth.

That sums it pretty well.

5. We’ll be seeing a lot more of ‘Personalized’ Design

Advanced personalization for users is definitely one of those trends that we’ll be seeing a lot in 2021.

With content being important to a product or experience, adds Tristian, catering to the user’s own needs or personalizations in a product/experience’s ecosystem will be an important design trend that will be seen throughout the year 2021.

Netflix is one of the awesome examples to follow, in this case. even Flipkart and Amazon are opting for it.

Personalized watching and buying recommendations – great psychological factors – help overcome the ‘I don’t need it’ buyer resistance. When the user knows the options are personalized, they accept that they need it. Therefore, iterates Kevin, designing for form over function is a trend that doesn’t—and will likely never—resonate well with users.

“Designing for ‘wow factor’ cripples the UX! – Kristian (UI/UX Designer)

Designing for the “wow factor” over usability is a ‘highly’ overrated trend, he says. Breaking away from the norm of commonly accepted design standards and practices can be risky if aesthetics are prioritized over the user’s needs. Concepts are nice, but if they are also absent from technical feasibility, the product at hand may lack a solid experience.

Therefore, for a design to hit home, and resonate well with the users, it needs to be human-centered. It’s an approach, explains Tristian, where you consider the experience and needs of a user to determine the strategy and effectiveness of a product/experience.

To follow ‘human-centered’ design methodology there are several steps to accomplish understanding the needs of a user and these elements include strategy and assessment (ie. user research, understanding existing user behaviors, quantitative and qualitative research), and design implementation toward user needs (ie. prototyping, usability testing and receiving user engagement).

“People Ignore Design that Ignores People – Frank Chimero

The message is pretty evident here. When it comes to mobile app UI/UX, it is most important to be cohesive, distinctive, keep evolving, and prioritize your end user. A design that respects people will likely be popular with people. The above-mentioned made to our list solely because these trends are centered around people.

At CitrusBits, we have some of the best designers in our arsenal to provide you with the ultimate design experience. Looking to get a mobile app designed and developed? Ping us here or check out our portfolio to get to know us better. Talk to you soon!

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