Tom Adams, Head of Conversion at Code Computerlove and Tom Bradley, Design Director at the agency, highlight some of the year’s key trends in UX
- Designing with data – blending insights and metrics
The trend for designing with data doesn’t look like slowing down. As tools and methods mature, the expectation that design teams will provide measurable outcomes continues to grow. That said, teams seeking to push their work to a higher standard will learn to blend insight gained through the analysis of data collected through human-centred research methods such as observation, interviews and task-based usability testing. Teams that can find a balance between these rich sources and champion the need for both are most likely to find strategic advantages in increasingly competitive fields.
- No UI – software as a digital assistant
With Google Now, Microsoft Cortana and Apple’s Siri becoming increasingly sophisticated, as well as the introduction of Facebook’s ‘M’ service, user experiences that do not have a traditional user interface will become more prominent. This will be with either the stand-out mobile interaction pattern of text messaging, or with voice commands. Products that act as a digital assistant in our hectic lives will start to provide real value by making our daily routine more straightforward. This raises questions for design teams about the simplest way to communicate with these services, and how we strike a balance between genuinely useful notifications and the ones that nag us to do something against our will.
- Multichannel design of fragmented user experiences
As our expectations of digital services become more sophisticated, those services are also becoming more fragmented. As consumers we’ve learned to pick up and drop out of customer journeys, as our available time and connectivity varies. This makes it difficult to measure the effectiveness of a design. For example, visiting a site multiple times and not buying anything may be perfectly desirable if it’s part of the research phase prior to a purchase. With Amazon opening a physical store and exploring the ‘Dash’ button, and with the blended online/offline shopping experience from companies like John Lewis, organisations are beginning to respond to the emerging needs and expectations of the discerning digital shopper.
- Internet of things – wearables and smart devices
While this has been talked about conceptually for a number of years, 2016 will see the next wave of home connectivity, which will start to become an everyday part of people’s lives. Either at home with new Hive and Nest services, or further afield via Premier Inn Hub Hotels, we will start to see people given greater control over their physical environments, which will be made simpler to access via the devices they wear and carry. The challenge for designers will be how to meet these expectations by delivering snappy, responsive experiences across multiple touch-points, often via legacy systems and technology.
- Moment-by-moment personalisation: experiences that change with you
Logged in services are now widely accepted by mainstream audiences. Things that were previously considered ‘power features’ (such as great recommendations) are now falling into the minimum expectations category. The best experiences will have to shine, by adapting to the way our needs change from moment to moment. Simple features such as iOS Night Shift (the screen changes colour in the evening to reduce blue light) or more sophisticated algorithmic features like Spotify’s Now, will begin to unlock new experiences that fit around our changing energy levels and mood.
- Pervasive UI – every surface is a screen
As the range, size and diversity of devices we use changes, we can soon expect to be able to pick up where we left off regardless of the screen in front of us. IDEO’s work with IKEA on the kitchen of the future and recent experiments with smart bathroom mirrors point to a future where any surface can double as a user interface. The challenges around resolution and affordance are obvious, but more so, the question remains about how we deliver useful experiences into these moments that complement our real-world interactions.
- Designing for the virtual space
The world’s leading games manufacturers and social networks haven’t failed to notice that virtual reality technology has reached a price point where consumer-facing applications are within reach of the masses. The user experience challenge doesn’t stop with interface elements in virtual space; rather the real effort will be needed when considering the content or storytelling perspective, as these experiences obviously have a lot to live up to.
- Making use of all of our senses in communicating design intent
Alongside positive implications for accessibility, mainstream applications of interfaces that you can ‘feel’ are starting to cut through. The trackpad on the new MacBook, for example, replaces the physical press action with a sensory experience that really does ‘feel’ like you’ve clicked. This hints at future experiences that play to all our senses. When combined with real-world experiences, such as those that let people ‘feel’ ancient objects in museums, it’s clear to see how user experiences could become much richer when this type of feedback is provided.
- Design thinking as a business competency
Large scale business consultancies such as McKinsey, and technology giants like Google and IBM, are becoming increasingly active in the design thinking space as they search for new ideas that have value. The design process has matured to such an extent that it is being utilised to solve problems in a huge range of contexts, which has resulted in a shift in the role and expectation of designers from pure practitioners to process leaders.
- UX is a team sport
The idea of individual designers claiming responsibility for all aspects of the user experience has become outdated, as the effectiveness of collaboration has been proved.User experience designers will need to find ways to open up their process to their peers, so that everyone on the team can make a positive contribution. After all, if you’re not doing ‘user experience design’ what is it exactly that you are doing?