UX design trends: The factors that matter most in 2024

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.

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Our UX team has defined seven priorities for 2024 and here’s a quick summary before we look at each trend in more detail:

  1. Designing for new user demands: The web is in a period of fundamental change right now – more of a redefinition than the gradual evolution we’re used to seeing, largely driven by changing user demands.
  2. Finding the right omnichannel mix: Omnichannel isn’t the future of marketing, it’s the now – and brands need to be making things happen on the right mix of channels in 2024.
  3. Building trust with positive, relevant UX: You can’t expect to win user trust in a single session anymore; you need to earn, build and maintain trust over a series of interactions, sessions and channels with positive, relevant experiences.
  4. Contextual personalisation: As the web phases out third-party cookies, websites will have to adopt a more contextual approach to personalising experiences.
  5. Predictive personalisation: Marketers will increasingly turn to AI to fill in the data gaps left behind by cookies and power predictive personalisation to mitigate the limitations of contextual targeting.
  6. Accessibility is UX: The days of treating accessibility as an optional extra in UX design are, rightfully, coming to an end.
  7. Rethinking web architectures: To design experiences for the modern web and its users, designers need to rethink web architectures, site structures and navigation.

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.

1. Designing for new user demands

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 role of search is changing as younger users turn to social platforms like TikTok over Google.
  • The age of misinformation makes it harder than ever for people to trust online information and, by extension, harder for brands/publishers to earn their trust.
  • The age of permacrisis exposes people to an endless barrage of bad news and bleak predictions after already experiencing one of the darkest periods in modern history.
  • Gen Z is taking the lead as the first generation fully born into an online world.
  • The generational gap between Baby Boomers and Gen Z – and differences in their priorities – is more extreme than anything we’ve seen in the age of the internet (before you even consider Gen X, Millennials and Gen Alpha).
  • People are spending less time online as the impact of constant information and marketing messages on mental health becomes more apparent.
  • Content discovery and exploration are already central to the online experience, largely replacing the traditional system of actively searching for information.

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.

2. Finding the right omnichannel mix

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.

Native child google business profile

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.

3. Building trust with positive, relevant UX

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.

4. Contextual personalisation

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.

5. AI predictive personalisation

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.

6. Accessibility is UX

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.

Customers seek companies that prioritise the things they care about eg social responsibility, diversity, inclusion and empathy.
  • 22% of people in the UK live with a disability – and the number is rising quickly. (Gov.uk, 2020-2021)
  • In the UK alone, people living with disabilities add £274 billion to the economy every year. (We Are Purple, 2020)
  • 90% of disabled consumers are affected by poor accessibility during the decision-making stage of purchases – either by limitations of design, lack of information or poorly presented information. (Business Disability Forum, 2021)
  • 43% of disabled consumers regularly abandon shopping tasks due to accessibility issues. (Business Disability Forum, 2021)
  • Up to 94% of top-grossing eCommerce sites have accessibility issues (Baymard, 2021)
  • 63% of customers prefer to buy from socially responsible companies, while 54% want to buy from companies that prioritise diversity, equity and inclusion. (Zendesk, 2021)

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.

7. Rethinking information architecture & navigation

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.

Pull&Bear homepage

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.

Need help with your UX strategy for 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 Toovey profile picture
Rick Toovey

Rick is Head of Creative at Vertical Leap.

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