The impact that Apple had — and continues to make — on modern design is hard to miss. The idea of “flat” colors instead of textures in iOS7 wasn’t a surprise. But whether their September upgrade influenced design trends today or they’re following a shift brewing over the past few years, everywhere we look we see flat, geometric, texture-free interfaces.
It’s said that anyone can predict today. What about tomorrow? While we can’t make promises, here are a few things we expect in the coming years.
Simple and single numbers. Specialized interfaces will feature a single datum and rely on users’ memories to fill in the gaps. For example, when you launch your favorite weather app and see a giant “72” on a cool blue background, you can infer it means “72 degrees Fahrenheit.”
Dabbling with black and white. What’s flatter than flat color? No color. Sapping away hues for a grayscale interface isn’t always practical — let alone practical — but we may see a brief comeback before users are drawn back to candy-colored competitors.
Geometry, but more of it. When we recently redesigned our free icon set, our designers maintained consistency with each other by using the same circles, squares and triangles. We think designers in general will keep using fundamental building blocks to build complex shapes rather than using fewer shapes with complex curves.
Gestures replace buttons. Sometimes. Swipes, pinches, zooms will become more common than single or double taps — but mostly in the operating system, not within websites or web apps.
Voice interfaces. Swipes might not stand a chance. Touch UI will start to look dated as people find convenience in Siri, Android 4.3 Voice Search, Dragon, Skyvi, or other apps that interpret the human voice.
Apps with personality. But while you may spend more time talking to your phone instead of on it, anything interactive will seem to be an entity, not a mere tool. But this may fade alongside black-and-white design. Especially when combined with voice UIs, users may not appreciate apps that talk back.
Virtual keyboards. All-glass devices were the first step away from physical keyboards. The next step will be virtual representations of real buttons. We’ve seen prototypes before. They’ll be customized with your favorite shortcuts, and even sized properly for your fingers.
Interfaces meant to be worn. A swath of new devices will weave their ways into our shirts, hats, shoes, cars… Design for these devices will follow suit. Watch out for:
- One-handed UIs for wristwatch (wrist-top?) devices.
- Single-purpose interfaces for specialized functions like calories burned.
- Shirts that warn you if they clash with your pants. Well, maybe not, but we wouldn’t put it past a Kickstarter campaign to try that on.
A wise man once said that the universe isn’t stranger than we imagine; it’s stranger than we can imagine. The device on which you’re reading this is the stuff of yesteryear’s science fiction. Maybe few — or none — of our predictions will come true. That’s fine if, in five years, we look back at this blog post and think, “keyboards — how quaint.”