May 28, 2020

Searching our Past, Finding our Future: UX Trends Over 10 Years

They say hindsight is 20/20, so we figured what better time than now to look back at several notable website user experiences to see how they have evolved from 2010 to 2020. They also say those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it, so we will also be looking at these evolutions with an eye towards learning why these changes were adapted and discussing how you can learn from them to be better positioned for the future.

Definition of UX

Before we can begin to learn from the past, we must first understand what UX is and why it is important. For this, we turn to the experts – the User Experience Professionals Association – who define UX as:

“Every aspect of the user’s interaction with a product, service, or company that make up the user’s perceptions of the whole. User experience as a discipline is interface, layout, visual design, text, brand and interaction.”  

Obviously this is a critical element to consider, and the statistics back this up. According to some studies, 85% percent of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience. Meanwhile, Adobe found that 39% of people will stop engaging with a website if images won’t load or take too long to load. One study even showed a well-designed user interface could raise your website’s conversion rate by up to 200%, while better UX design could boost conversion rates up to 400%.  

  • The question then becomes what is good UX? Some bullet points to consider:  
  • Clear main headline and supporting headline
  • Hero shots and calls to action (CTA)
  • “The Power of 3s”
  • Showing benefits while providing “proof”
  • Clear closing statements    

Then vs Now

In 2010, people spent less than 30 minutes per day on mobile devices, versus 2020, we spend an average of 4 hours per day on mobile. Only 4.5 million US households had Amazon Prime in 2010, versus 68.7 US households now. Obviously, a lot has changed in 10 years, but what hasn’t changed is the fact that Ecommerce revenue growth was 15% in 2010, and it is expected to be 15% in 2020. With that in mind, let’s look at how some major sites have changed over the last ten years.


Believe it or not, Amazon did not have a search box on the home page in 2010. In 2020, the search box dominates the top of the site.

In 2010, Amazon used long lists for categories. Now, they are leading the charge in using less explicit categories and instead adopting themed groupings. Currently, you can easily configure and add options before adding a product to your cart. Ten years ago, the options were much more limited.

While Amazon broke ground early on personalization, the number of ways personalization is being used, and how often it’s being presented has skyrocketed over the years.


Grainger was doing better than Amazon by having a search box in 2010, but it was small and easily missed. Now in 2020, the search box is large and centered at the top of the page.

The category experience also dramatically improved over ten years. Originally, selecting a top-level category dumped you into thousands of products, where today a top-level category selection takes you to a sub-category navigation page, providing a cleaner customer journey.

In general, Grainger has taken the last ten years to improve the look of the site. The 2010 version of the site is cluttered with links, niche tools, navigation links, and generally looks messy. The 2020 version is clean and simple to navigate.


The 2010 version of the site was almost entirely text-based and covered in blue links. In 2020, the presentation has been cleaned up with images and a better overall organization of information.

Of all the sites we reviewed for this, IMDB leaned the most into how connected our modern world is. The 2010 version is static, where the 2020 version is filled with user reviews, live showtimes, movie trailers, etc.

Chicago Tribune

Navigation was vastly improved over the last ten years. The number of choices presented to a visitor was reduced almost in half, from 28 navigation links in 2010 to just 15 in 2020.

Context and additional information was added to article links to let visitors know more about the link before selecting it. Previously, the only information was a simple headline.

Personalization also became a huge influence on the UX. The Chicago Tribune now promotes related content and content specifically selected for the visitor to encourage them to spend more time on the site.

Lessons Learned

Looking over these sites changes from 2010 to now, several trends become clear. First and foremost, search is critically important. Every site we reviewed went from either having no search box, to making it one of the primary elements of their home page. Second, less is more when it comes to navigation. Instead of presenting walls of blue text, leverage fly out menus, images, and category theming to get your visitors to the content they want without introducing choice paralysis, or worse, a visitor having to hunt among the options to find what they want. We also saw a huge increase in the usage of recommendations and personalization. The technology is readily available and can dramatically improve a visitor’s experience on the site.

With these lessons learned, we can turn our attention to the future, and perhaps in 10 years time, we will be looking to your site to help identify the UX trends over the next ten years!


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