I get it. Being a designer is tough. You feel the pressure to be the next Steve Jobs. You try to recognize each new UX trend before it blossoms. So you can’t be expected to go along with some fad just because “everyone’s doing it.”
Maybe your clients respect you more because you sneer at people who throw around terms like “responsive design” and “the Internet of things.” Maybe it clears your mind to ignore the newest definitions of old terms. But watch out! You might be missing amazing new opportunities. So here it is, 5 reasons to learn the latest UX trends – and how you can remain a hipster, but still stay informed.
1. We Have to Call it Something
One of my favorite hipster design friends recently accused me of “buying in” to the Internet of Things. I was just looking for a shorter way to say “phones, computers, watches, and other devices talking to one another.” “Internet of Things” is a significantly shorter phrase. Is it a trendy phrase at the moment? Yes. Still, we have to call it something.
So when a new trendy phrase rubs you the wrong way, ask yourself: “what does this phrase mean? Is the information itself of value?”
2. The Trend is Less Important than the Meaning Behind it
Language is a means of communication. For some hipsters, the methodologies and tools themselves are just fine. It’s the words or phrases being used to describe them that are unacceptably trendy. To those of you nodding along, I recommend you get over it.
Use that open mindedness that serves you so well in client meetings and usability testing, and look beyond the title.
3. Language Evolves
Speaking of being open minded, I hate when people use “real” in place of “really.” Unfortunately, no one has asked my permission – adverbs are on their way out. Language evolves, which means we say “I’m good” in place of “I’m well,” and “Google” is now a verb. Equally, being a “web writer and strategist” has evolved into being a “content strategist.” The job already existed, but the title is fairly new – and most importantly, with the birth of a new term, the connotation shifts. In time the denotation will also evolve and anyone who doesn’t adapt will be left behind.
Evaluate new terms as you would a user taxonomy or voice and tone guide: will these new words serve you well to communicate with certain clients or colleagues?
4. Every Best Practice was Once a UX Trend
Sometimes trends aren’t about the language – sometimes the technology itself is a new fad. We all laugh at TV shows with old timers scoffing at “newfangled inventions” and saying how “automobiles won’t last ten years.” Plenty of fads didn’t make it. Skip-Its and pogs were all the rage in 1994 – how do we explain why they have disappeared, but snap bracelets and sticker collections are still around? Why do people still collect records, but 8-tracks are long gone? Without knowing which UX trends will stick around, it’s only logical to keep an eye on what’s up and coming.
This is where the hipster cynicism is incredibly useful. Pick and choose the trends to follow, based on your best assumptions, your own research, and your interest!
5. We Can’t Learn from the Past if we Ignore the Present
My father has so far avoided getting a smart phone. At this point, the learning curve will be awfully steep. Luckily, he doesn’t work in UX design, but I do. The 5 smart phones I’ve had over the past eight years have provided me with a solid understanding of which features are valuable, and which are frustrating. When I approach a mobile project, I have the benefit of eight years of smart phone experience.
Obviously we can’t pay attention to each and every new fad. Let’s be sure we don’t isolate or silo ourselves in an attempt to maintain design purity. We are all lifelong learners.