Designing for the Confluence of Physical and Digital Worlds

Two local UX managers share their predictions for 2022.

Written by Eva Roethler
Published on Jan. 24, 2022
Designing for the Confluence of Physical and Digital Worlds
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If 2021 left us with one takeaway, it’s that we’re going to continue to be online more than ever. 

According to data gathered by Gallup last fall, remote work is “trending permanent.” Meanwhile, Mark Zuckerberg thrust the metaverse into infamy upon announcing Facebook’s rebrand. Then Microsoft launched Mesh, a mixed-reality virtual meeting space. It appears we’re witnessing the confluence of the physical and digital worlds, and no aspect of our lives is immune. 

So, what does that mean for design in 2022?

Built In Chicago connected with two UX professionals about the trends that excite them as the world continues navigating the blurred boundaries of virtual and corporeal space. 

At Wipfli, UX and UI design manager Angela Moreno sees a need for digital design to replicate kinetic aspects of the physical world. “As virtual and augmented reality become more mainstream, the interface for them has to be responsive and have fluid animations as users engage with content,” she said.

Meanwhile at One North Interactive, Zach Schloss noted that the spaces in which the design process happens will also be impacted by this trend. “We will continue to see innovative work evolve beyond the physical spaces we used to see,” he said. 

Read on for more of these leaders’ predictions about what UX design will look like in 2022.

 

Wipfli team working together.
WIPFLI

 

Angela Moreno
Manager, UX/UI design, custom development • Wipfli

Wipfli is a technology consulting firm. 

 

What UX trends are inspiring you at the moment?

We are excited about micro-animations taking center stage in our designs and becoming more of a focus. Throughout the last year and a half, as we moved to mostly digital, we have realized how static technology design is as a whole. Humans long for connection, and we have had to find creative ways for that to happen in a socially distant world. Building a more tactile digital experience has been a luxury reserved for a particular type of app with a large budget or the subject of a cool Dribbble post. That doesn’t have to be the case anymore.

Humans long for connection, and we have had to find creative ways for that to happen in a socially distant world.” 

 

How do you plan to incorporate this trend in your work in the year ahead? 

We are incorporating this idea of micro- becoming macro-animations in many ways that don’t detract from the task at hand and instead enhance the experience. They can be small things, like when you submit a form — something few revel in — and are presented with a confetti animation or a satisfying, animated checkmark. Or they can be larger and more interactive examples like scratching off a digital coupon code akin to what you would do with a coin or having one image morph into another when you swipe across the screen. These things that we take for granted in the physical world become small joys in the digital space that brighten a user’s mood and create a more lifelike relationship with the devices we use on a daily basis.

 

How do you see this trend evolving? 

In the future, I see this trend merging with other technologies that are equally exciting to watch grow. As virtual and augmented reality become more mainstream, the interface for them has to be responsive and have fluid animations as users engage with content. We are working on empowering our designers with the correct toolkit and knowledge to create these experiences. 

So far, we have received positive reactions from our developers and stakeholders that encourage us to continue down this road. There are some great tools that have reduced the learning curve and become more accessible for all types of designers. Our physical world is kinetic — everything moves and sways with our interactions — so why shouldn’t our digital designs reflect that as we create delightful and thoughtful interactions?

 

 

 

Zach Schloss
Director, UX Strategy • One North

One North is a digital agency. 

 

What UX trend is inspiring you at the moment?

The pandemic and remote work has taught us that remote collaboration is key and the new norm. UX is a process-driven discipline. It requires coordinating a team of multidisciplinary practitioners to align around and create a vision of the future. Today, we get there through collaborating remotely using Miro.

 

How do you plan to incorporate this trend in your work in the year ahead?

We have spent time training our agency to operate within remote collaboration tools and spaces. We have also empowered design and strategy leaders to become facilitators of remote collaboration. We’ve placed an emphasis on tools that lead our clients through increasingly complex problems utilizing easy-to-use interfaces and activities. This democratizes the design process, allowing everyone to have a voice and contribute. It also drives participation and accountability in real time.

We have empowered design and strategy leaders to become facilitators of remote collaboration. 

How do you see this trend evolving in the future? 

This trend is not turning around anytime soon. We will continue to see innovative work evolve beyond the physical spaces we used to see. By doing this on every project and, in some cases, in every meeting, we’re driving teamwork, quality of our work and, ultimately, the solutions we deliver to end users.

 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images via listed companies and Shutterstock.

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