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- Technology will still lead product decisions, but UX will remain a critical voice
- Artificial intelligence will shift our design focus to a different role for users
- Personalisation will become more context-aware
- Metaverse and Extended Reality will solve some issues we face in remote working
- Inclusivity and ethics will become a stronger component of our UX work
- UX teams will need to be more data-focused and integrated with wider business functions
Many articles about the future of UX get caught up in design trends. Whilst design is critical, I wanted to take a broader more strategic view on how UX is likely to change in terms of what we work on, and how we deliver the work.
Nielsen Norman Group estimate that there will be 100 million UX professionals by 2050. As more and more UXers join us, we will become the ones who shape the future of our profession. So what does the future look like for UX?
Whilst the focus of our work as UX professionals will still remain focused on people, I do predict some shifts in the interactions we’ll be designing for.
Technology will still lead product decisions, but UX will remain a critical voice
Technology is changing at a rapid pace and I only see this speeding up. But the fact is that while technology evolves, our needs as humans remain pretty consistent. So while the devices, gadgets, and products we use will continue to advance, if we remain focused on what people really need, we will always have an important role to play.
Whilst technology will probably still be the dominant driving force behind new products, UX research will help product teams escape the ‘build trap’ of shipping feature after feature. Instead, I think we’ll see a shift towards solving unmet user needs identified through great research. Where product teams will design features that deliver a positive and lasting impact on the lives of users.
Artificial intelligence will shift our design focus to a different role for users
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML) will most likely influence new ways to interact with technology. But rather than put us all out of jobs, I believe AI/ML will shift our focus to designing for a different role for the user who will become less of an actor, initiating actions, to more of an overseer who’s interpreting data and managing automated processes.
Our UX efforts will focus on designing intelligent and easy-to-understand dashboards that convey meaning at a glance, facilitate the exploration of anomalies with ease, and allow people to initiate new instructions efficiently.
As AI/ML becomes more context-aware, it will be more able to help us in our daily lives. Rather than trawling through files and folders to find information relevant to a task, the interface will notice the context we are in and offer a small selection of supporting information it determines to be relevant. Our relationship will shift with technology to one where the promise of Siri, or even Clippy in days gone by, can be realised.
Our work will focus on empowering users to be more efficient and effective, rather than the user having to plan and initiate an interaction with the device doing what it is told. When this enhanced technology is mainstream, we’ll finally see the Zero UI movement realised as we break away from our shackles of sitting behind a workstation and will be free to interact with a minimal interface.
Personalisation will become more context-aware
The enhancement in intelligence and data processing will also allow us to benefit from more advanced personalisation. The most common examples of personalisation we see at the moment are superficial, such as a customer’s purchase history being used to recommend other products they may like. As the technology develops, we will see personalisation that changes the user journey dynamically based on factors such as a user’s ability, attitude, and the context they are in.
A journey might be very different for a user who’s recently signed up where they are unfamiliar with the service, compared with someone who’s a long-standing member with several preferences and previous interactions logged. The first user is likely to have to enter more personal data and interact with more supporting information, whereas the second user is likely to skip major chunks of the journey and only interact when new data is needed or a change in action is requested.
Metaverse and Extended Reality will solve some issues we face in remote working
No article talking about the future would be complete without a mention of the Metaverse and extended reality. Whilst the fully immersive Metaverse experience is an exciting idea, I think the area we’ll see most user adoption in will be the use of augmented and mixed reality to enhance our day-to-day experiences. Adding a layer of context-aware information to our interactions in the real world will need creative design solutions, but if done well could deliver more productive and fulfilling experiences.
I believe we’ll see the most impact, at least in the early stages of the Metaverse, in helping us to solve the problem of hybrid working. A meeting with some people together physically, and others remotely interacting via video, is currently an issue for most of us. It’s a problem I believe we’ll see extended reality stepping into and helping us to realise a new way of working, learning, and collaborating that brings the Metaverse to the forefront of workplaces across the world. This is a really exciting area to be focused on as a UXer, and one I hope to be involved in shaping.
We’ve looked at different areas of focus for our UX work in the future. How about the different ways we might go about our work?
Inclusivity and ethics will become a stronger component of our UX work
Ensuring we are inclusive in our research and design practice will be a major focus in the near future. It is already a critical component for many teams. Not only is it ethically and morally right to ensure we don’t exclude anyone, but it also makes business sense to reach a wider audience, create a positive sentiment among customers, and even avoid litigation or regulatory issues.
Design teams will need to adapt their thinking, challenge personal biases, recruit diverse teams, and ensure research participants represent a broad range of abilities, backgrounds, and access needs. We’ll also need to get much better at challenging upwards and making a business case for inclusivity in our projects.
I believe we will also see much more emphasis on ethics and harm prevention. We’ll need to be more aware of the unintended consequences by building in processes to consider the potential negative impact our work might have. I think we’ll see more teams using anti-personas, provocatypes, red teams, and a human factors method called Hazops, to predict and mitigate malicious acts or potential vulnerabilities in our design work.
UX teams will need to be more data-focused and integrated with wider business functions
I believe we’ll see UX teams becoming integrated with CX teams. We’ll need to adopt a more expansive strategic view of customer interactions and assess how all departments serve users. By becoming more collaborative, more familiar with business goals, and taking a broader view of the impact of our work, we have huge potential to impact the overall business goals.
As data becomes more integrated into business decision-making, UX teams will have no choice but to prove their value and impact, using quantitative and qualitative data. Mixed methods are already practised among many UX teams, and I believe we will see more separations in job roles, with specialist qualitative and quantitative UX researchers within a team.
In addition, we will also utilise more interesting data through biometrics, smartwatches, brain imaging, and facial coding which will only elevate the quality and output of our work. As a community, I believe this shift will drive us to align our work with business goals and therefore raise the profile and impact UX work has on the bottom line, which can only be a good thing.
We can make educated guesses as I have attempted here, but obviously, none of us really knows what the future holds. Abraham Lincoln had it spot on with this quote
“The most reliable way to predict your future is to create it”.
Whilst we may not know what the future holds, if we remain focused on what people really need from technology, we really can’t go too far wrong. Stay focused on the people, and don’t get too distracted by the technology.
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