The internet is always changing but the past few years have been particularly disruptive. Aside from the pandemic, the world is entering a new phase of uncertainty while technologies like generative AI bring industries to their knees. At the same time, user habits are changing faster and more drastically than we’ve ever seen – all of which points to a busy 2024 for UX design.
Our UX team has defined seven priorities for 2024 and here’s a quick summary before we look at each trend in more detail:
As you’ll see throughout this article, these trends will force brands, marketers and designers to re-evaluate everything about the online experience. Those who don’t risk being left behind as the web moves into a new chapter.
Amidst all the hype surrounding AI and other tech trends, it’s easy to forget that people are the driving force behind the web. We recently published an article on the future of search and all of the biggest influences come down to user demands:
The fundamentals of online experiences are changing as we speak. The shift is so strong that keeping up with the news and events is no longer the second main purpose of spending time online. In the age of misinformation, people are increasingly turning to the web for inspiration, entertainment and keeping in touch with people they care about.
The good news is that finding information is still the most common reason for using the web, but it’s losing ground on other purposes. With the shift towards content discovery and exploration, users are moving towards a different kind of online experience. More significantly, the very reasons people use the internet are shifting and UX designers need to pay close attention to this, above all else.
We’ve been talking about omnichannel marketing for years now but, for the most part, brands have been pretty slow on this. Consumers are already using multiple channels – both online and offline – to navigate the customer cycle.
In 2022, joint insights from Google and Ipsos found 60% of consumers in the UK like to visit stores to see or touch products even if they plan to buy online, which is higher compared to the previous year.
The problem is, most companies haven’t built omnichannel funnels that keep users locked in as they move across different channels. So, consumers are finding brands on one channel, discovering similar brands elsewhere, testing products in a store and, then, buying from a completely different retailer.
Brands are letting customers slip through the gaps between omnichannel interactions. In 2024, simply being present on multiple channels isn’t going to keep consumers engaged with your brand throughout the customer cycle. You have to know how your customers navigate the buying cycle and intervene at the right moments – online and offline.
In 2024, the casual web user has more reason to be concerned about their online activity than ever. Internet users are also increasingly aware of risks, amidst the rise of fake news, security threats and privacy concerns.
Brands have to work harder now to earn users’ trust and you can’t expect to win it in a single session. As the typical consumer journey becomes more complex, brands need to build cross-platform experiences that earn, build and maintain trust across a wider variety of interactions.
At the same time, users’ attention is spread thinner as consumers engage with more and more channels. As a result, brands and marketers need to piece together a higher quantity of smaller interactions into the wider experience.
As the web moves away from third-party cookies, the old way of personalising online experiences becomes redundant. Instead, brands use alternative strategies that don’t rely on identifying individuals and storing their personal data.
Contextual personalisation is the obvious answer, adapting the experience based on actions users take within a single session. For example, when a user shows interest in a specific range of products, you can recommend similar products. Instead of using any personal information, you simply use the page URLs from the current session to make recommendations.
Obviously, contextual personalisation has its limitations but it also has several benefits over cookie-based methods. Above all, you don’t need any consent and there’s no risk of data leaks or worrying about GDPR fines for breaches. Whatever personalisation strategy you implement for the cookie-less web, contextual methods provide the ideal baseline to build on.
Given the limitations of contextual targeting, most brands will want to stack more sophisticated methods on top of it. Predictive personalisation is a great place to start, using historical data and current session events to predict the interests and potential actions of users.
You can use these insights to personalise experiences for users without requiring any personal data. Let’s say your data reveals a cohort of users who click through to a specific page from a particular Facebook Ads campaign. If this cohort shows a tendency to explore a related topic in more detail or view a certain line of products, you can personalise the experience, content, CTAs, etc. to point them in the right direction.
It’s a crude example but this is one area where AI technology is already helping us to fill in data gaps left behind by cookies and other tracking technologies. In fact, Google is using the same approach with GA4 – powered by Google Signals – to use AI insights for predictive reporting.
UX design has a patchy history with accessibility, to say the least. Far too often, accessibility is treated as an optional extra but things are changing. Thankfully, greater awareness and shifting attitudes are helping but, ultimately, it will be the law that forces every brand to take accessibility seriously.
Legal guidelines are already in place but enforcement is limited – something that is gradually changing. Moral questions aside, brands can’t afford to wait until the heavy fines get handed out to take action.
Accessibility is UX and brands need to move quickly to make sure they cater for all user needs.
Unfortunately, many companies will still wait until they see the economic incentive is prioritising accessibility. The thing is, if you do homework, the numbers already make a strong case for investing in accessibility.
If your company and/or clients are behind on accessibility, the first thing to do is bring accessibility experts into your UX team. Develop a roadmap for optimising your website and make sure you have the right analytics system to measure results. The sooner you can prove the ROI of accessibility, the easier it will be to convince clients and board members.
If the web is in a state of fundamental change, designers need to question every tradition and assumption. In this article alone, we’ve discussed changes to the role of search, personalisation, analytics, accessibility and plenty more – including the very reasons people use the internet.
This brings us back to the first point we made today: designing for changing user demands. Instead of using the same old templates and principles, UX teams have to rethink every aspect of the online experience.
For example, if we’re talking about contextual personalisation, how can designers create immersive experiences that not only make it possible, but also add value to the end user? UK retailer Pull&Bear greets new visitors with a split screen for them to select “woman” or “man” to instantly segment the experience.
Once users make their first selection, on-page navigational elements (mostly image links) refine the product selection further. Users select their fit, styles and other characteristics, personalising the experience with every click.
To satisfy changing user demands, Pull&Bear rethought the structure of its website, navigation system and personalisation strategy – something more brands will need to do in 2024.
If your UX design strategy is falling behind the times, our creative and UX team can help you develop a roadmap for the year ahead. Call us on 023 9283 0281 or send us your details and we’ll be in touch.
Rick is Head of Creative at Vertical Leap.
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Categories: Design, Web dev't