Design Thinking & UX Trendscape 2024: What To Expect?

The evolution will be driven by trends ranging from the integration of AI, sustainability, and ethical considerations to shifts towards future-focused thinking

The current world is constantly propelled by innovation, making it increasingly challenging to keep up with these relentless transformations occurring on a day-to-day basis. Over the last five decades, we've seen remarkable technological advancements—from GPS, MRI, and social media platforms like Facebook, to self-driving cars, AI, 3D printing, humanoid robots, space tops and more. The range of progress appears limitless. Now more than ever, the abundance of resources and new knowledge available to mankind has accelerated the pace of innovation, bringing forth new changes at the horizon across different domains.

With the new year just around the corner, the anticipation for what 2024 holds intensifies, particularly after a momentous 2023 marked by significant technological breakthroughs.

Talking about the UX field, it has undergone transformative changes, notably marked by the integration of AI, Machine Learning, Inclusive design, and more. With user needs at the core, UX and Design Thinking are inextricably linked, navigating the evolving technological terrain in tandem. In response to ever-changing and ever-evolving user requirements, new trends continue to emerge to maintain alignment with the swift pace of innovation. As we delve into the anticipation of the upcoming year, let's explore the predicted trends for 2024.

Upcoming Trends in UX and Design Thinking

AI at the vanguard: Besides earning the title of the Collins Dictionary's Word of the Year, AI has seamlessly woven itself into various domains, and UX is no exception. AI is set to take on a pivotal role in UX design in 2024. AI-driven tools will play a more significant role in guiding UX design decisions, by automating activities, such as categorising user actions, predicting future behaviours, and extracting relevant insights from large volumes of user data. The integration of AI within design processes will unleash new strides in UX, driven by user-centric and data-driven approaches, including AI-driven design recommendations.

Personalisation: Personalisation stands as an escalating trend in UI/UX design, set to evolve even further in 2024. In an era where users increasingly seek tailored experiences aligned with their preferences and needs, the expectations rest on seasoned designers to leverage data and AI to craft personalised interfaces, content, and recommendations.

Voice User Interface (VUI): The prominence of VUIs has surged in recent years and is set for further expansion in 2024. The rise of smart speakers and voice-activated devices underscores a growing user comfort in engaging with technology through verbal interactions. Designers must hone their skills to create VUIs that not only meet the current needs but also exceed expectations to ensure user engagement and satisfaction, focusing on delivering an experience that feels both natural and conversational.

Accessibility: According to the World Health Organisation, over one billion individuals globally grapple with some form of disability, a figure anticipated to surge with the aging population. Accessibility is a foundational principle of user-centered design. Looking ahead to 2024, designers will have to intensify their focus on crafting user interfaces accessible to everyone, including the elderly and those with disabilities. This involves integrating features like screen readers, keyboard navigation, high-contrast modes and multilingual interfaces. Prioritising accessibility in crafting solutions will extend the product’s reach to a broader, more diverse audience.

AR/VR: Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are set for the spotlight in 2024. With innovations like Space Tops (an AR laptop by Sightful), these technologies promise immersive experiences that can take product interaction and engagement to the next level. This trend is fueled further by Gen Z and Virtual Natives, who seamlessly navigate between real and virtual realms. These practices are set to accelerate the investments in advanced AR/VR headsets that contribute to increased accessibility, while designers must evolve to craft not just VR interfaces but holistic virtual experiences, aligning with the behavioural shifts of these tech-savvy demographics.

Privacy and ethics: In the era of hyper-personalisation and customisation, the call for ethical design has never been more pronounced, gaining momentum from mounting concerns about data breaches and the ethical dimensions of technology. To uphold user privacy and transparency, designers, acting as architects of the digital landscape, must ensure that as AI accesses and processes data for personalised responses, there is increased transparency for users. Adopting a privacy-first approach in design has become crucial, emphasising transparency, consent-based practices, and secure data management to instil trust and uphold user well-being.

Futures Thinking: Another notable shift that may occur is from Design Thinking, i.e., from user-centric, iterative prototyping-driven problem-solving and innovation to a heightened emphasis on envisioning and innovating for possible futures. In a rapidly evolving era, where change is happening at an exponential speed and the future is uncertain, it has become critical for organisations to anticipate and prepare for future scenarios. This trend signifies that the design endeavours will evolve, to focus on understanding and navigating the complexities of impending change, ensuring that design solutions are not just reactive and future-proof but visionary and future-shaping.

Strategic evolution in start-ups: A gradual evolution is underway within the start-up ecosystem driven by the understanding of the value of Strategic User Research. Recognising the invaluable benefits of a user-centric approach instead of a solution-centric approach, start-ups will leverage strategic user research to identify and evaluate if they are solving the right problem before focusing on building a product and evaluating the efficiencies of the solution they have built. This practice will lead to swift and informed decision-making, proving indispensable for those operating in dynamic industries where adaptability is the key. Strategic User Research stands to become a cornerstone of innovation, as start-ups gear up to grow driven by the identification of the right long-term direction, based on strategic insights. Thus, user researchers should embrace the mindset and develop the skills required to undertake strategic user research.

UX and design thinking are poised for a significant evolution, driven by trends ranging from the integration of AI, sustainability, and ethical considerations to shifts towards future-focused thinking. The challenges of 2023 have paved the way for a resilient future, demanding adaptability and proficiency, especially in response to the growing influence of AI and learning methods that help solve complex problems and anticipate and shape the future. Embracing these trends and navigating uncertainties will not only shape the industry's trajectory but also present thrilling opportunities for those prepared to influence the future of user experience.

*The author is Shipra Bhutada, Founder & Director (User Research), User Connect Consultancy

Tags assigned to this article:

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.