How would you manage day to day if you didn't have access to a mobile phone or to the internet at all? How many mobile applications do you currently have on your own devices? How many hours a day do you spend scrolling through your phone? The answers to these questions will tell you a lot about whether or not UX design has a future.
Still, if you need further evidence, look at how quickly social media has grown and become a part of our daily lives as a result of the pandemic in particular, as well as how many apps of all kinds are being added to Google Play and the App Store every day. All of this has kept UX designers on their toes, because there is a lot of work to be done to produce an app that users will enjoy. But before we jump to any conclusions, let's look at the numbers.
Stats about the UX design industry
The following data was taken from an online analytical platform called data.ai, which analyzed 250,000 apps across 356 genres. In general, consumer time spent and transactions made in apps continue to increase across different industries, from gaming and retail to food, finance, and edtech. So we wouldn't be wrong if we called the world we live in today a mobile-centric one, since app use is at an all-time high. Let’s dive in!
Time users spend on mobile apps
The weighted average of time users spend on apps in the top ten markets studied exceeded five hours and two minutes in 2022, up 9% from 2020 at the start of COVID.
The most active app users are from Indonesia, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and South Korea. However, the time spent grew the fastest over four years in Saudi Arabia, Australia, and Singapore, at 68%, 67%, and 62%, respectively.
In the United States, the trend of increased mobile app usage continued to grow in 2022, with American users spending an average of 4 hours and 16 minutes per day on their mobile devices. This represents a significant increase from the pre-pandemic levels in 2019, when users spent an average of 3 hours and 29 minutes daily on mobile apps.
Consumers spent the most time on short videos, media-sharing networks, and social communication apps. Globally, users spent more than two trillion hours on social apps and 110 billion hours on shopping apps!
Even as countries around the world reopen post-lockdown, consumers seem to prefer the convenience of food delivery. Sessions on food and grocery delivery apps have continued to rise following a spike at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Globally, time spent on these types of apps increased by 10% in 2022, compared to 35% in 2021 and 17% in 2019.
Number of mobile app downloads
With 255 billion new app downloads worldwide in 2022, app downloads increased 11%. In 2022, 485,000 apps were downloaded every minute!
The number of app users in Pakistan, Russia, and Ukraine increased by 20%, 20%, and 45%, respectively. During the conflict in Ukraine, users have relied on their mobile devices for communication and connection even more.
The most downloaded categories of apps globally are mobile cleaners and antivirus software, downloaders, VPN services, and web accelerators.
The most popular business applications in terms of downloads were business software apps. Downloads of meeting apps dropped by 35% as offices began reopening post-lockdown. Downloads of business communication apps grew by 33%, with WhatsApp Business seeing 67% growth.
As the economy continues to struggle, people seem to be open to exploring additional ways to supplement their income. Job-hunting apps saw a 60% increase in downloads, and apps like Doordash Driver and Uber Driver were among the most popular in the United States.
Consumer spending on apps
$167 billion was spent on apps globally in 2022. Since then, consumer spending on apps has decreased by 2%. Taiwan, Brazil, Hong Kong, and Mexico outperformed the rest of the world in terms of app spending growth at 15%, 22%, 34%, and 17%, respectively.
The app categories where consumers spend the most money are short video apps like TikTok, over-the-top (OTT) platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu, and dating apps.
The decline in spending disproportionately impacted top games. While games represent over 60% of apps in all measures, they were also the most affected by the cooling of consumer spending. Consumer spending on mobile gaming fell by 5%. Nonetheless, the market fared well, with downloads reaching nearly 90 billion.
Which apps are trending?
Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, Netflix, and Spotify are the top five most-used apps. The top five apps with the most active users are Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook Messenger, and TikTok. No surprises there; in fact, TikTok became the second non-game app to surpass $3 billion in consumer spending, causing us to rethink how high consumer spending on apps—particularly those other than mobile games—can happen.
Another emerging trend is the popularity of apps that represent more "must-have" services—like online banking, for example. The rapid shift to mobile banking that began at the outset of the pandemic in 2020 continued in 2022. Increased adoption has been seen across all popular categories, including digital wallets and personal loans at 466 million and 331 million downloads, respectively.
Now that travel is finally back in our lives, all top subgenres have surpassed pre-pandemic levels, revealing an overall healthy travel market after two rough years.
Language-learning apps represent another breakthrough. Border reopenings and countries relaxing travel restrictions increased demand for language-learning apps by 31%.
When it comes to the younger generation, or "Gen Z," they are more interested in video, user-generated content, and mindfulness apps, according to the data.
What is the future of UX design?
The years between 2010 and 2017 are often referred to as the "Golden Age" of UX, because it was during this time that the field gained widespread exposure, and the importance of carefully crafting the user journey became widely recognized.
The data suggests that the widespread adoption of apps we’ve seen thus far will only accelerate. In order to meet the ever-increasing expectations of both businesses and consumers, the demand for UX designers is only expected to rise. However, just like with most other areas of technology, the work itself changes as new tools and methods come along. As a result, UX must adapt to and evolve alongside technological advancements.
What are the trends in UX design?
Let's dive deeper into this new context of technological advancements and high demand for UX design in apps and examine the trends, challenges, and opportunities that it presents.
In collaboration with AI
Whether or not AI will eliminate the need for human workers is a question that may trouble specialists in every area of technology.
While AI can analyze massive amounts of data and produce high-quality prototypes rapidly, it still lacks the emotional and social intelligence to deal with complex or sensitive issues. A few good examples include identifying the issues that need to be resolved, knowing the right questions to ask, and using empathy when dealing with such sensitive user topics as money and family.
AI will undoubtedly make the job of UX designers faster and easier, as they will be able to delegate the majority of data analysis to AI systems and focus more energy on their designs. So our advice is to take an optimistic approach and see AI for what it truly is: a useful tool rather than an enemy.
As the expertise and capacity of UX designers of all levels increase, it’s going to become much more important for designers to have a specialty or focused discipline. This is already reflected in many current job listings for UX positions, with companies asking for UX/UI specialists, interaction designers, UX researchers, content and product designers, and even voice-guided UI specialists.
If you have solid UX expertise, consider how you might narrow or diversify your knowledge. If you are a beginner, it may be a good idea to focus on one area from the get-go. Being proactive about your UX career future by learning to code or diving deeper into analytics, for example, could be a great start.
Having a product that works and helps people isn't enough anymore. Nowadays, consumers expect products to be simple to use, engaging, and aesthetically pleasing.
Motion design allows for the voids in a user's experience to be filled with lively animations and smooth transitions, which have proven to be an effective way to appeal to the user's emotions, keep them engaged, and give the impression of a seamless user experience.
It's clear that as mobile usage grows, so does the expectation that users have the same capabilities on their mobile devices as they do on a desktop computer. That said, smaller devices mean less space on the screen.
That’s why many designers are now incorporating gestures like swiping, pinching, tapping, and tilting into the design of apps, which not only allow for more content to be stored within the app without overwhelming the user but also provide a more on-the-go type of experience.
Low- to no-contact interfaces
Keeping with the theme of convenience, voice-activated digital assistants like Google Assistant, Alexa, and Siri continue to become increasingly popular. It’s no surprise, because they allow users to multitask more effectively by using voice commands instead of touching their screen.
A good piece of advice for UX designers here is to consider learning some voice user interface design, or at the very least, developing a strong understanding of how to design visually in ways that work with voice commands.
Technologies of the future
Do you remember when Pokémon GO swept the world? This was an excellent example of how virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR), 3D user interfaces, and other cutting-edge technologies are winning over users' hearts.
People are more eager than ever to engage with these kinds of virtual reality technologies, and an increasing number of businesses are now using them in their operations, too. IKEA and Target are just two of the big retailers that have started adding augmented reality features to their online stores.
The visual aspects of metaverses—which rest on the concept that people can communicate, work, play, build businesses, earn money, and sell products in the same way they do in reality—have been discussed for some time. Facebook, in fact, has been renamed "Meta'' in order to expand on this concept. Isn’t that alone a big sign that the metaverse-style of user interface design is here to stay for the foreseeable future? We think so.
Breaking the rules
It's becoming increasingly common for websites and mobile apps to feature complex, visually overwhelming, interactive experiences that make extensive use of a wide variety of hover and scrolling effects to fill every available space on a user's screen. Does it look a bit like breaking the rules? That's correct. We have no idea how we got here, but this is the new reality.
UX is essential because it serves as the foundation for so many other specializations, including product design, graphical user interface design, physical interaction design, and even programming. In the years to come, as new technologies and user demands have an impact on the UX industry, it may look somewhat different from what experts in the field currently think of as "UX." However, one thing is certain: the UX industry is not going away any time soon.
In other words, if you're interested in user experience design, now is a great time to get started so you can be a part of the amazing changes that will happen over the next few years!