As technology continues to advance, so does the way digital products are designed. Here, we take a look at some of the key trends shaping the industry in 2023 and beyond.
- Atomic Design
- Remote Asynchronous Collaboration
- Lean Brand
- Design Tokens
With an increasing number of devices and screens to design for, creating web applications and sites that work seamlessly across all of them can be a challenging task. To tackle this, designer Brad Frost introduced the concept of “atomic design” in 2016. This method breaks down user interface (UI) elements into smaller components that can be combined to create any desired layout.
The five stages in atomic design are atoms, molecules, organisms, templates, and pages. Atoms are basic elements such as buttons or labels; molecules are combinations of various atoms; organisms are assemblages of molecules; templates utilise organisms for page archetypes; and pages use templates for specific examples, such as a user’s profile page.
This approach ensures consistency and avoids repetition, as it makes use of reusable atoms, molecules, and organisms. Its popularity among designers has grown rapidly since its inception.
Remote Asynchronous Collaboration
Digital product design teams have long been distributed, whether across large offices or working remotely in different parts of the world. With the rise of remote working practices in recent years, designers and software engineers have had to adapt by embracing asynchronous collaboration tools.
These digital solutions enable teams to collaborate remotely without having to coordinate the same time and place (unlike synchronous tools like Zoom). Some examples of asynchronous tools include:
- Figma: an integrated online whiteboard and collaboration platform with powerful plug-ins
- Miro: a visual online collaboration tool
- Notion: an online workspace for building knowledge around a problem area or design challenge
- Dovetail: a user research tool for capturing insights and spotting patterns and themes
- Maze: a collaborative product research platform that helps gather user feedback quickly
Developed within the startup world, the concept of lean brand has been adopted by digital product designers. A lean brand is more than just a logo and corporate colour; it encompasses the entire connection between business and customer, including the experience they provide. Lean brand development involves experimentation, iteration, and reducing the unnecessary effort to create a scaled framework to improve customer relations continually.
This is achieved through the “build-measure-learn” loop, which enables teams to define what needs to be learned, determine how it should be measured, and run tests to do this.
Ultimately, a lean brand allows for quicker decisions in digital product design, leading to better products with aligned customer experiences that are underpinned by emotional value but with reduced chances of not meeting client demands.
Maintaining design consistency across multiple platforms can be a challenge for digital designers. Design tokens provide a solution to this problem. They are smaller pieces of code that represent aspects of UI like colour, typeface, and transparency value. Tokenization is used in the system where one element represents another.
For example, every token holds a unique name (like ‘CTA button colour 1’) and its value (such as RGB code “00FF00”). This means developers do not need to hard code CTA buttons as green on all digital properties but rather assign them with the design token name instead.
The real colour then gets read from a central repository or design system management tool, and it can be altered effortlessly into various formats for multiple platforms using automation. Design tokens make it easier for designers to ensure brand elements remain constant across all digital channels, as there is only one source of truth, making it even swiffer