Congratulations, you’ve just survived another rollercoaster of a year! Prep yourself for 2022, a year of product design trends that will respond to the still-forming “new normal.” Get familiar with MXDPs, NFTs, RPAs, and have a bit of nostalgia for dessert.
After another turbulent year, the physical world has reached an even deeper merge with its digital counterpart. We’ve become best friends with smart devices, adapted our home offices for productive remote work, and watched businesses move their activities from paper to bytes of data.
The software industry never sleeps, but recent years have accelerated the development of this area, spreading the use of digital technology that was previously reserved for tech-focused businesses and individuals.
We trust our machines more than ever, which affects the way we want to experience their presence in our everyday lives. Let’s see how multi-experience platforms, conversational interfaces, even smarter algorithms, and other emerging phenomena make this list of top trends in product design for 2022.
“If a process can be automated, it should be automated,” — this concept will become so real in 2022 among product design trends. Automation has gained a lot of traction over the past few years and accelerated even more with the COVID-19 pandemic. As businesses and organizations encounter the challenges of the “new normal,” they have been increasing their spending on automation and will continue to do so in 2022.
RPAs (Robotic Process Automation) and “intelligent automation” took the lead in automation system design in 2021. The main goal of RPAs is to relieve a person from performing tedious and repetitive work that takes precious time and focus.
At the same time, intelligent automation stands for creating algorithms that are able to perform more and more complex tasks, such as approve a loan application or scan an invoice.
Another exciting product design trend that involves automation systems design is the task-based approach replacing the tool-based approach. In practice, this means that the users of multiple business applications will receive a curated feed of tasks, delivered with automation algorithms. Results? Better focus, higher productivity, and simplified workflows.
Conversational experience design
Social isolation and lockdown showed how much time we truly spend communicating with machines. The tech giants have raised the bar of human-to-machine communication high by popularizing the conversational experience approach in their products, making the interaction feel as human as possible.
Conversational UX design is based on language interaction through chatting or voice control, with the last one stealing the show as the easiest to operate for the largest group of users.
Voice interfaces took over our everyday lives as tech giants introduced their voice assistants and you could hear “Alexa,“ “Hey, Siri,” and “OK, Google,” all around — navigating, shopping, booking, researching.
The next step for this product design trend is to move from personal devices to other products like home appliances, cars, and medical equipment. Such an expansion wouldn’t be possible without the ever-evolving capabilities of artificial intelligence (AI), the integral element of every conversational experience design.
Motion design and animation
In August 2021, Facebook announced they were changing their company name to Meta and introduced the concept of the Metaverse, the virtual reality network described by Zuckerberg himself as “embodied internet.”
You could say that the Metaverse will have businesses focus heavily on VR and augmented reality again, but that’s not all. With billions of dollars being invested in creating a whole new 3D world, the development of animation and motion design is unstoppable.
The Metaverse might be a gigantic VR endeavor, but the increasing product design trends to incorporate motion design and animation will create an opportunity to work with it on different platforms and levels of complexity.
Smartly used, motion design and animation create a visual rhythm that attracts and keeps the viewer’s or user’s attention. As animation creates a stronger impact than a static image, it can enhance storytelling, and shape the brand personality and experience.
When it comes to the tech industry, there’s no better time for designers to learn motion design principles and tools. In digital software design and development, a sprinkle of animation in navigation, menus, or interactions brings moments of delight that make the product pop.
Inclusive design and beyond
In an ideal world, inclusivity wouldn’t be a design trend but a must-have in the design process. Since we don’t live in the ideal world, you might even be wondering — what is inclusive design? How is it different from accessible design? Let’s give it the spotlight it fully deserves.
Accessibility focuses on making a product or service usable for as many users as possible, overcoming their impairments or disabilities. But that’s not all that should be incorporated into good product design.
Inclusive design acknowledges human diversity in such areas as race, ethnic origin, age, gender, language, and sociocultural background. The list goes on. Inclusiveness in product design avoids the stereotypical assumptions made by privileged social groups and opens the narrative to those previously overlooked, especially minorities.
To give some inclusive design examples, take a look at the growing range of emojis that have taken over our chats, Slack messages, and emails. Over the years, we have gained a selection of skin tones, gender identities, age groups, and relationship models.
As we’re exploring new virtual worlds and relying heavily on digital communication, businesses will invest more towards inclusive design in 2022. How do we create virtual environments that are not only accessible, but also inclusive? There’s no single handbook of ready-to-use principles, which makes inclusive design an even more difficult challenge, but with new examples and best practices emerging, design inclusivity should earn its position as an industry standard.
NFT: Non-fungible token as digital ownership
Another one worth mentioning among product design trends is NFTs (non-fungible tokens), which made the news last year thanks to Nyan Cat getting sold as a one-of-a-kind digital good and Grimes making millions on Nifty Gateway.
A non-fungible token is a blockchain-based digital object (piece of data) that conveys ownership of a virtual or physical good. An NFT is irreplaceable and one of a kind, which makes it different from your regular cryptocurrency and creates opportunities for business models that reinvent ownership.
Artists can attach terms and conditions to an NFT that ensure they receive a portion of the proceeds on each resale, which means they stand to benefit if their work rises in value. When customers borrow or buy artwork on an NFT platform, they can display it on screen knowing that there are no copyright or originality issues.
Ensured by NFT and blockchain, both technologies guarantee the authenticity of the ownership rights. Currently, Adobe is working on a new feature that will allow users to save their artworks as NFTs directly from Photoshop.
Outside of these areas, the potential of NFTs goes much further, as it completely changes the rules of ownership. It diminishes the necessity of trusted intermediaries and replaces them with a solid transactional platform. That can be a door-opener for many businesses but also a great perk for today's consumers.
The challenge in NFT-based product design focuses on creating trust and credibility among both sellers and buyers, ensuring the security and clarity of the transaction process. Can you think of a better UX design challenge than a crossover between the digital art and fintech worlds?
MXDP: Multi-experience development platforms
Even though multi-experience development platforms (MXDPs) are dedicated to frontend and backend developers, they’re definitely a must-have on the list of product design trends for 2022 as one of the key drivers for digital transformation.
The last two years have forced the world to turn to software solutions massively, which resulted in new digital touch points popping everywhere. Using a MXDP helps businesses keep up with this trend and respond to their customers’ needs and expectations.
MXDPs empower developers to create fit-for-purpose software that uses different modalities (touch, voice, gesture) and touch points (web, mobile, wearables, AR/VR, chatbots). The growing demand for such apps will also affect the demand for product designers who are capable of delivering a corresponding UX. Conversational and immersive designs are the signature elements of user experience for multi-platform applications.
It’s fascinating how human brains operate in difficult times — we crave for something we know, something that will make us feel safe. No wonder 2021 was the year of visual nostalgia, and this trend in product design seems unstoppable in 2022. As the world is slowly picking itself back up, nostalgic designs remind us that there can be (and will be) better times.
Generally speaking, nostalgia is a positive sentiment, a soothing emotion that occurs when something reminds you of your past — an image, a sound, even a smell. A deja-vu, but in a good sense. Phil Garnam of Monotype, a renowned typography studio, explains it perfectly:
“The idea of pure nostalgia isn't really a trend that drives for change, but it is a vehicle for empathy in a world that seeks familiarity and comfort during difficult times. As we optimistically prepare to pivot, to re-open out of lockdown, this sense of familiarity will help stabilize, reassure, and provide a grounding for trust as we move forward.”
Consumers’ desire for something familiar and tangible is stronger than ever. In the pursuit of better connection with customers, many brands tap the quirky aesthetics of the past decades and reinterpret them into their current designs. Bright color blocks, neon palettes mixed with gothic serifs, and lo-fi 90’s glitch effects have saturated contemporary digital products. In a nutshell — vintage is the new black.
Pay attention to product design trends but don't follow them blindly
The 2022 trends in product design paint a picture of a dynamic environment that offers more flexibility for software creators, encourages rapid adoption of new concepts, and offers better user experience for more user groups than ever. I hope this short ranking will get you excited about learning new concepts and trying fresh approaches!
There’s an important thing to remember for every product designer — the key to good design is not following the trends blindly, but encapsulating your users’ needs and desires in a contemporary fashion, which is what we’re doing at Netguru. Browse our product design services and you’ll find projects that combine current trends with our top-notch design process.