The digital world changes fast. That should come as a surprise to no one. Just look at the evolution of web design from its humble beginnings in the 90s to the robust and mature thing it is today. By the end of 2016, annual IP traffic will pass the zettabyte threshold, a staggeringly huge figure, and by 2020, we will cross 2 zettabytes annually.
The point is that the digital world is growing rapidly, and digital design is evolving to match its pace. This year in technology alone, we’ve seen HR reinvent itself digitally, AR technology achieves a commercial breakthrough with Pokémon Go, and SpaceX land its rockets on water. 2017 promises to be just as tumultuous a year in technology as 2016, which means that design will also see some major changes in the new year. So what should you expect?
Here are 5 inspiring digital design trends for 2017:
As a reaction to the growing use of templates, minimalism, and design standards, companies are increasingly turning towards hand-drawn typography, or hand-lettering, in order to create a distinguishing element in their branding. Hand-drawn typography brings a human element into digital design and can create a unique aesthetic for a business, and these hand-drawn letters are typically used for the name of the business or less commonly a tagline because the lettering is usually too visually complex to be used for the majority of the content. In 2017, expect to see more of hand-crafted letters in boutique websites and apps as they work to distinguish themselves from the rest of the digital sphere.
Similar to the push toward hand-drawn typography, there is a growing reaction against stock imagery in web design. This is nothing new, given the rise of the hero image in web design in recent years, but in 2017 authentic imagery will be even more in demand. Supplied by professional photographers and online photography shopping sites, such as 500px and unsplash, authentic imagery that audiences haven’t encountered before (no more office photoshoots) will play a key part in design in 2017. Alongside unique photography, the illustration will also continue to be popular in 2017 as a way to provide visual authenticity to consumers.
User testing 2.0
Everyone knows that user testing is crucial to successful designs. Heat maps of user activity, moderated user tests, A/B testing on live designs, and more are all ways that businesses test their digital presence to see if what they published is actually working to engage and convert visitors into paying customers. In 2017, new forms of user testing will become more popular. Among them will be failure mapping (the opposite of journey testing) as designers research how consumers fail to interact with a design in order to fix and optimise their work. Other new techniques will be dependent on cutting-edge face-tracking technology. HotJar, for example, now offers eye-tracking technology, so brands can track what consumers look at in their digital designs, and other startups are working on emotion-tracking technology, so that businesses will be able to tell not just how you behave, but you feel about it. In 2017, designers will be using these new tools to gain even more understanding of their target audience.
Age-based responsive design
In 2015, mobile-based search surpassed desktop search, reinforcing the importance of responsive design—designs that respond to different devices and match their screen size, adapting to the needs of each piece of hardware. These days, much of what we do is tracked online, including what we buy, what sites we visit, and what are interested are. Targeted advertising is proof of this. The next stage of this personalised, responsive experience is one that takes a consumer’s age into account. Why should a senior citizen experience a website in the same way as a tech-savvy teen? It would better for them to experience a website with larger fonts, more explicit menus, and perhaps even different language in content. This is just one example of how websites could and will respond to different age groups and improve their experience in 2017.
The new faces of UX
In the past few years, much focus has been given to UX design in the consumer journey and rightly so. UX design is the foundation upon which digital design is built and is the first step in the process of creating a successful design. In 2017, the nature of UX will evolve to meet developing technologies, and the new face of UX will be one defined by human language. Chatbots and voice-controlled technology have been making a lot of headlines recently, and next year digital designers have their work cut out for them as they adapt to technology that will radically change the way interfaces behave. After all, what’s the point of navigation and page layout if consumers can simply ask about their needs directly in their native language, no search or exploration needed?
Ellie Martin is business and marketing writer. Her works have been featured on Entrepreneur, Business Insider, Girls Tech. among others. She currently splits her time between her home office in New York and Israel. You may connect with her on twitter.