The other day a client gave us the task to point out some of the main UX trends at the moment. This led to a lot of interesting conversations at the office about what trends we see at the moment. We ended up pointing the client to several trends, but in this article we will dive into one trend that that we see is happening right now and that motivates us when designing UX – we call it “casual and fun”.
What is it?
Currently, we see a new tone of voice appearing in apps and websites – a relaxed, friendly and joyful attitude towards users, which is changing the way we engage with apps and websites. The new attitude is breaking down borders between users and the interface – and making the experience much more personal, casual and fun!
The trend is actually a mixture of a various design elements that we already know and uses as designers. Among some of them are trends like the use of large images, videos, gif animations, social media and gamification.
Images and video are getting more intrusive
One of the key elements in in creating a casual and engaging tone in a design, is to use large images and videos. An example that has been around for a while is several weather apps, where images, icons and illustrations play a central role and completely overshadows the actual data (temperature etc.).
Yahoo weather app and The Weather channel website are using images and illustrations to quickly tell you the weather as well as, location and time of day.
Using large images and video is not a new trend, and is more or less seen as a standard when designing UI’s these days. But we see a change in how the video and images are becoming more lively and moving. They are no longer used to show or explain what the product is, but also to create a feeling of the product. One example is Airbnb and their little video bits in the top of the website, letting us into people’s private lives and homes.
Airbnb uses video to give a feeling of what I likes living another place. This creates a relaxed and rather intimate tone that makes you want to be there with the locals.
The change towards a more moving and lively expression on websites in general might come from YouTube. YoutTube has made it easy to upload videos and share them with friends. This has led to a high amount of video consumption online, which can be linked to the trend towards moving images like videos and gifs that we see everytwhere. Just think of the amount of flying taco´s and cats playing piano going around the internet and how this affects us as digital users.
Here are some of our favorite taco gifs
Emojis and silliness
It is hard to not notice how emojis and animated gifs are getting more and more central in our online communication. Facebook have extended their iconic “like” function to include emojis that allows more personal reactions.
Snapchat (which is absolutely HUGE at the moment) have silliness and fun as key ingredients in their product. Allowing users to add silly hats, swop faces or put flying birds on top of the image is what attracts millions of users to the app.
Facebooks reactions buttons that allows the user to express more than a “like” and Snapchat with all its crazy filters
What is rather interesting about this type of communication, that is casual and fun, is that it is starting to appear in serious news apps and work tools as well.
These tools are normally focused on communicating news or creating a smooth workflow. Usually avoiding distraction by making the content accessible in the easiest and fastest way. But this is changing and “casual and fun” is appearing in serious tools as well.
One great example is the news app QZ where you read the news by communicating with a chatbot using emojis. The interaction is almost like texting, and you are only exposed to one news at the time. This is very unlike traditional news apps that are fast and presents more content to pick from. Less focus is put on efficiency, and more on a casual and fun experience.
The QZ app is full of emojis and gifs.
Another interesting example is Slack, which is a collaboration tool used by companies as well as individuals. The main feature is the timeline, where you can easily add images and videos or create a “reaction” with emojis. Slack it is actually quite a complex tool that allows for a variety of interactions, but the design is created to always give you a fun experience and an “easy-going” feeling.
Let us embrace “casual and fun”
At Usable Machine we are rather exited about this new tone of voice in the design field and how it is becoming a part of domains that normally don’t take this approach.
In our company we are specialized in UX design, often designing complex work tools. When we design for work tools we tend to focus on design principles like consistency, and usability. “Casual and fun” is seen as something you do in your private life, but Slack tells us that this is not necessarily the case.
That is why we are so exited about this trend and why we try to embrace it in our design – both for consumers and business users.
Want to learn more?
If you want to know what leading designers from Slack, Mailchimp, BuzzFeed, YouTube, Sketch and BBC think of “casual and fun”? Then have a look at the conference DesignMatters16 in Copenhagen, where the topic is “Casual and fun”.