Jan 30

The State of UX in 2024


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Around this time of year, we like to predict 2024 UI UX design trends and see how the latest technologies will impact our industry.

But after the interesting year that was 2023, we feel it’s only appropriate to reflect on everything that happened in the UX world and talk frankly about where that leaves designers for the upcoming year.

While we may discuss some anxiety-inducing topics, we’re by no means all doom and gloom. 2024 will present some intriguing challenges for digital designers, but familiarizing yourself with the current landscape will make you a critical component in keeping human-centered design alive and well.

Late-Stage UX: What Does It Mean For Designers?

Yep, we gotta start by talking about (or alluding to) politics! *Turns comments off*

In a recent UX collective article by Fabricio Teixeira and Caio Braga, “Enter Late-Stage UX”, the writers compare the current state of UX to late-stage capitalism.

“Much like late-stage capitalism, late-stage UX is characterized by its market saturation, heavy focus on financial growth, commoditization, automation, and increased financialization. Corporations exert significant influence over the economy and society, and designers can only push so far when advocating for user needs,” says Teixeria and Braga.

No matter what side of the political spectrum you fall on, we can all agree that corporations exert power in almost every corner of our lives. But what does that mean for the quality of our digital product moving forward?

Supply & Demand: A Vicious Cycle

We went to great lengths at the beginning of 2023 to examine AI's impact on our jobs (more about that here: Will AI Replace UX Designers?). But as we enter the new year, let’s step back to see if our prediction was correct.

New AI automation systems seemingly spring out of the ground overnight. They have the power to make some of our most mind-numbing, repetitive tasks obsolete — allowing us to focus more on creativity and innovation.

But as more systems for UI and UX like MidJourney, Relume, and UIzard pop up, businesses are finding new ways to streamline design processes and cut costs.

And now for the uncomfortable truth…

With inflation up 3.7% compared to 2022, the average American’s spending power is down — meaning less revenue for several digital-first businesses. According to TechCrunch, over 240,000 people were laid off in 2023, a whopping 50% jump from last year.

Before you panic and jump ship, UX design is far from dead. We’re not saying you should change careers or avoid getting into UX altogether. AI will always need humans to enter prompts and train the algorithm to spit out intuitive designs, and even then, the result is never 100% perfect.

However, the supply of designers in the current job market drastically outweighs the demand. Companies hiring for UX positions in 2024 will probably favor more seasoned designers with AI knowledge, which means junior design positions will be few and far between.

Declining Consumer Trust: The World Needs UX Now More Than Ever

Remember when we said AI will always need humans to create effective solutions? Simply put, UX design isn’t UX without people. Period.

Whether it’s the users you interview and collect data from or the designers who construct logical flows around their specific behaviors, UX without human input is just web design. The field of UX will always call for solutions tailored to specific audiences, creating more intuitive experiences than a typical website can offer.

Piggybacking off everything we said about inflation, the American spending power is dropping. Fewer consumers are willing to spend money on paid services and premium subscriptions. Businesses are scrambling to reduce their overhead costs and turn a profit.

AI seemingly offers an answer to cutting budgets and timelines. However, it lacks the human touch that makes products usable. The widespread concerns about the quality and ethics of AI are just the icing on the cake.

Companies can’t expect consumers to pay top dollar for outdated products with an over-reliance on AI — especially when the cost of basic necessities makes digital products feel more and more like luxury items.

It’s true, AI has AMAZING capabilities. But in 2024, usability, accessibility, and convenience will be the factors that gain and maintain consumer trust. Those are things that computers can’t provide on their own, it’s up to us UX designers to steer the ship.

Scalability: Friend or Foe?

In the last few years, many companies realized the importance of user experience design in their digital presence and hopped on the UX/UI bandwagon.

The scalability of digital products evens the playing field, making all kinds of tools for different purposes accessible on a larger scale. UX design is no exception.

New softwares for wireframing, graphic design, and even research certainly make our jobs easier, but they also put these capabilities in the hands of less experienced web designers.

We’re not knocking these products altogether. We think they’re valuable tools for learning the ins and outs of UX and visual design. However, many companies see them as a shortcut to creating necessary assets without understanding how users interact with them.

This means that skilled designers lose out on clients, and users lose out on products designed around their needs and behaviors. But how do we embrace scalable software solutions while still convincing clients that they need experienced designers at the helm?

The answer lies in the user research and testing methods that validate every decision we make. Midjourney or Adobe Express can generate visually appealing designs and mockups, but the system doesn’t know who it’s designing for.

With our UX design methods, companies can understand their target audience on a deeper level, create something they’ll react positively to, and ensure they’re designing in the right direction before launching the product to market. We protect their bottom line while using AI to enhance our accuracy and streamline processes.

So, How Are We Looking In 2024?

Just as we predicted at the end of 2023, UX design is far from dead — and even though companies are scrambling to cut costs with AI, it’s nowhere near perfect enough to replace an experienced designer.

However, we can expect many changes in the landscape of UX this year. From shifting team/client dynamics to layoffs and fluctuating processes, how can we prepare for the unexpected and prove our worth as professionals in this new normal?

Lean On The Power Of User Research

UX is all about designing for people, not computers. That is something AI will never understand. (Unless you feed it a bunch of qualitative and quantitative data about the user. But the system still needs us to ask the right questions to get that high-quality data in the first place.)

User research is the bridge between mind-blowing experiences and products that just look nice. When we gather data directly from the source that makes or breaks your product, we get vivid insights into what makes your users unique and how your product fits into their everyday lives.

While data might not be the most exciting part of designing, it's priceless in the long haul. It shows us exactly where to spend the most time and what we don’t need to waste our budget on. In short, it’s the quickest path to smarter decision-making and better business strategies.

Focus On Usability & Accessibility

Sure, an AI design system (or even a corporate boardroom) can conceptualize visuals that feel on-brand. But there are usually a few stones left unturned.

For example, how does the design translate to mobile? Does the color palette make the interface hard to read? Is it obstructing a critical conversion point? Can the audience quickly view and interpret graphics and iconography? Or are the contrast ratios making the experience difficult for users with poor eyesight?

UX designers consider all these scenarios and more when constructing a digital product. Companies can’t afford to ignore those details in the age of declining consumer trust.

Our research, strategies, and testing methods address all those factors and uncover some more along the way. The emphasis on usability and accessibility for diverse user types is an asset in maintaining consumer satisfaction; it is also the peace of mind a digital-first business needs.

Educate Prospective Clients On The Value Of UX

No, we’re not just talking about the insane ROI of UX (although it’s definitely persuasive).

Though many businesses are hopping on the UX/UI train, they may not fully understand everything that goes into it. Our design process is typically more involved than a simple web design project, so there is always some pushback on timelines and budgets.

Instead, look at that pushback as a valuable opportunity to demonstrate the impact of UX on user perceptions and core KPIs. If you can align your experience with their bottom line, you make a powerful case for the efficacy of UX and can secure more time and resources to make the product the best it can be.

This education shouldn’t end after the product launches. Through continuous research and iteration, you can deepen the loyalty between users and businesses with new technologies and intuitive features. Show the client that you (and UX design) are essential in their business strategy.

Stay Agile & Adaptable

We’ve talked both positively and negatively about emerging technologies in the past. However, we'll never be closed-minded about them.

It’s normal to feel anxious when you hear about an AI product or software system that can do your job more efficiently. But don’t be shocked when your clients or team leaders become curious about its capabilities.

Our industry is dynamic by nature, and we’ve quickly integrated new technologies into existing products in the past as a means of improving user experiences. Why should our jobs be any different?

That’s not to say every software will find a home in our arsenal of tools. But as the dependency on AI technology grows, our clients will expect us to leverage these systems to keep up with the rapid pace of the market.

As technology takes over in 2024, use this year as an opportunity to position yourself as a forward-thinking designer. Adopt new systems, try out new practices, listen to feedback, and discover what works for your design process.

If All Else Fails, Keep Your Portfolio Updated

We hate to end things on a downer, but let’s be practical.

Layoffs are an unfortunate reality in any industry, especially in the harsh and unpredictable economy we’re living in. In UX design, it’s important to cover all the bases and prepare for the unexpected — whether you’re actively searching for a job or not.

It’s crucial to keep your portfolio updated with your latest projects (your dream client could be viewing your website as we speak). Showcase who you are as a designer, your process, special skills, experience, and how you applied everything to the final product.

This is your chance to display how you’ve navigated challenges to create something truly impressive. And because we’re data nerds, don’t forget to top everything off with success metrics.

Worst comes to worst, you have a valuable asset to help you stand out among other applicants. Best case scenario, a potential new client or employer has immediate access to your work and contact information. Talk about a win-win!

Looking Forward…

2024 is already shaping up to be a pivotal year for UX design and its professionals. With the challenges arising from the economy and current job market, it’s hard to predict where most UX experts will find themselves in their careers by 2025.

But with every uncertainty, there is a silver lining — an array of opportunities to adapt and innovate. If there was ever a time to prove our worth, it’s now!

Remember that UX design begins and ends with human-centered interactions. No matter how many systems emerge in the coming months, corporations still need our guidance to turn that output into usable, accessible, and convenient solutions. You have the intelligence, you have the experience, and the digital market needs people like you now more than ever.

Here's to another year full of adaption, growth, and evolution for UX pros!

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