2016 IxD Trends

Allow me to wax prophetic.

A vibrant, waning year tends to open our imaginations to the unexplored horizons yet to come, and this is especially true of the IxD world.  If the past year has taught us anything, it is that we have absolutely no clue what to expect. But heck… that just makes conjecture more fun.

So…come along as I attempt to follow our current, cryptic trajectories into an unknown and exciting future. Let the wild speculations commence!

Sketch vs. Illustrator Wars

Mark my words: Adobe Illustrator has a new Bohemian contender. In 2016, Sketch is ready to put down a beating on the World Heavyweight Vector-Graphics Champion. Why?

First and foremost, it’s cheaper. A $99 flat fee vs. $49 per month for Creative Cloud is hard to ignore. And it’s ALMOST as powerful as Illustrator. I’m still learning about Sketch, but the Art Board controls are much slicker and plug-ins, like the content generator, kick some serious butt.

Best of all is Sketch’s seamless integration with other applications. InVision offers real-time syncing with Sketch files. Make an update in Sketch, and your Invision prototypes reflect those updates instantly. Zeplin works beautifully with Sketch files as well. Forget spending countless hours creating UI pattern libraries and communicating with developers about your work. Upload your Sketch files to Zeplin, and you’re pretty much done.

The only area where Sketch seems to be a little behind is in pure vector editing. That being said, keep your eye on Sketch. It floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee.

One Material Design to Rule Them All

Watch your back, Mac. Material Design is poised to take over the world this year.

When creating a native iOS or Android app, it’s important to be an upstanding citizen in that space. In other words, if you’re creating an iOS app, it should look like an iOS app. To help IxDs model good citizenship, Apple has provided Human Interface Guidelines. For Google/Android, there’s Material Design.

Material Design standards attempt to define all Google’s branding across all of its properties, from layout and typography to UI patterns and components. In the process, they’ve created a style guide that is simple, intentional, easy to apply across various products, and, in their own words, “delightful.” In my estimation, they’ve largely succeeded.

As Material Design continues its meteoric rise, Human Interface seems to be floundering. Always considered a bastion of hope and adoration by designers worldwide, now Apple design standards are under active attack. No longer a sacred cow, Bruce Tognazzini and Don Norman recently tore Apple a new one, accusing them of losing their way, designing for design’s sake, and focusing inwardly rather than on users.

In today’s user-focused digital space, Material Design just makes more sense, and I predict that it will slowly envelop our design consciousness to the exclusion of all else.

Lean UX Getting Leaner

Clients and companies all want to create more from less, and for some reason, UX always stands out as a target for attrition. So UX will get leaner this year. The question is: In what way?

I attended a Lean UX workshop, and I was shocked to learn that “lean” to the presenter definitely wasn’t lean to me.

For example, he kept his UX cost down by doing fewer focus groups with fewer people when testing. On my team, we go even leaner, sending out surveys periodically in order to inform our decisions on a feature, or conducting very small focus groups ONLY WHEN there’s significant question about an interaction. We also rely heavily on our application’s User Feedback section.

He also focused on creating much lower fidelity prototypes for stakeholders — using what looked like InVision. Once again, my team takes lean prototyping even further. I generally tell an interactive “story” with a series of non-interactive comps viewed in order.

So who of us struck the appropriate balance between and efficiency and efficacy? Who knows. I predict that, in 2016, we’ll spend a lot more time answering questions like this.

The Great Rapid Prototyping Conflict of our Time

When technology is new and demand is high, multiple solution providers always vie for top-honors. When it comes to prototyping tech, our clear-cut front runner remains undecided. This year, a leader may finally emerge.

InVision is certainly one of, if not the most, commonly used prototyping application today. However, common usage hardly denotes a front-runner. Despite awesome features like improved animations and transitions, cross-platform support, real-time collaboration, etc., designers still pine for more robust offerings.

Axure Pro provides more robust features than InVision, but at $589 per license, many clients still deem free InVision “good enough.”

Several impressive image-to-code tools are also waiting their turn in the limelight: Macaw and Pixate in particular. And for those in love with code, don’t forget the power of customization inherent in front-end frameworks like Bootstrap.

Who will emerge triumphant from the maelstorm? Maybe 2016 will decide.

There you have it: A few predictions for our ephemeral IxD world. What do you think? Did I hit the nail on the prognosticative head? Or is there a whole lotta “NO” in my Nostradamus? Email neal.jenks@stgconsulting.com, and let me know!