Mobile-first design has been growing in importance for years. As smartphone browsers grew more powerful – eventually rivaling desktop browsers – web developers learned that their products could not succeed without a strong mobile presence. According to Smart Insights, the rise of mobile has overtaken desktop growth, and 25 percent of mobile web users only access the internet with their mobile devices.

It’s not just about making apps. In fact, studies have shown that mobile internet is surpassing apps in terms of audience and usage time. For instance, Morgan Stanley found that U.S. mobile browser audiences are two times larger than app audiences across the 50 largest web properties.

While the present state of mobile user experience design emphasizes readability, smooth scrolling and design elements that can easily adjust to different screen sizes, there’s plenty of room for designers to think outside the box. Current smartphones rely mostly on touch inputs to operate, but manufacturers are experimenting with alternative inputs that could soon surpass them.

  • Voice commands: When Apple first released Siri in 2011, it marked the shift toward smart voice-activated devices. Siri was initially quite limited, but is now capable of controlling many aspects of iOS devices. Other device makers are working on speech-driven technology that is capable of learning through use, and new designs will need to reflect this.
  • Gestures: Apple’s 3D touch feature showed that touch  screens still have space in which to evolve. Tomorrow’s designers will take advantage of screens that are far more sensitive, allowing for functionality that previously required multiple taps or swipes.
  • Touch-free: While it hasn’t reached the mainstream yet, smartphone makers have experimented with retina scanners that can control devices through eye gestures. For instance, looking away from a video while it is playing could make it automatically pause. UX designers will have to think beyond touch if they are going to make their content shine on the devices of tomorrow.
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