The rapid advancement of technology is changing everything about the way we live and work and that is most definitely the case when it comes to user experience. As we use an increasing amount and variety of technologies to shop, learn and socialise, we are changing the playing field for user experience and UX designers, developers and consultants are all having to step up to the challenge.
UX has been around for a long time, it involves trying to delight the user and make things look visually appealing but it’s also so much more than that. When it comes to user experience, it’s vital to design experiences that are functional, supportive and inclusive. Experiences should be designed to accommodate social and emotional context and the varied perceptions and backgrounds of users. And it isn’t static, it evolves with people and technology and varies across platforms and channels. As new technologies are added into the mix and become more mainstream, they will have a substantial impact on what the future looks like for UX developers.
Technologies that Are Shaping UX
New technologies are having a fundamental impact on user experience and how we interact with computers. Some of the big technologies that are already starting to shape user experience include:
- Virtual Reality (VR) – there are endless possibilities when users are immersed in a three-dimensional digital environment or objects within it
- that they can interact with and manipulate. VR offers new ways to consume media, create content and experience just about anything.
- Augmented Reality (AR) – delivering an interactive experience in the real world where digital content overlays physical objects so they appear to exist together. AR technologies have the potential to decrease interaction cost, cognitive load and attention switching.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) – allowing machines or software systems to carry out tasks that are typically done by humans based on rules provided as input data. AI is able to analyse vast amounts of data and intelligently predict results.
- Voice Control – allowing users to get answers to questions, make phone calls and control smart devices without ever touching a physical interface. Voice control is changing the interface for UX design. As it is so different from graphical user interfaces, the same design principles can’t be applied.
How Technology is Changing UX
These leading technologies are having a huge impact on UX design and are shaping our future experiences and interactions with everything around us. With the help of technologies such as AI, AR and VR, UX design is becoming more:
- Customer-focused – instead of the focus being on how to get a user to take a desired action, design now focuses more heavily on how it can serve the customer. This is a fundamental shift between designing a pre-determined solution or creating a solution based on customer needs. With this shift, the product becomes the actual experience that is provided and that comes down to UX design.
- Personalised – there used to be a very much one-size-fits-all approach to UX design but that has changed immeasurably. With the ability to compile information about individual users, UX design is able to ensure that it appeals to each person that is being serviced and to cater for individual needs.
- Integrated – experiences aren’t just for one device or one place, they are portable and everything is interconnected. Whether it is self-driving cars or smart homes, automation, interaction and communication are strong drivers of the user experience.
- Data-driven – technologies such as AI help UX consultants to present users with more intuitive, useful data based on their needs. This means that what is delivered to the end-user can be more relevant and can help them to complete their desired tasks more quickly and easily.
- Screenless – as technology evolves, we are beginning to use fewer screens. In fact, technologies such as virtual reality and voice-guided interfaces create personalised experiences that almost feel as if there is no interface present at all. As products become interface-less, designers need to rethink how devices interact with human users and how to maximise these interactions.
User experience design is all about creating systems that deliver great experiences and today that means so much more than just creating a visually pleasing graphical interface. As technology and design become more intertwined, UX designers need to understand technology, people and how the two interact. After all, it will be a combination of new technologies and human abilities that delivers the best possible user experience.
Companies need to start thinking of the persona that they wish to be represented through all user experiences. Ultimately, thanks to technology, brands have become interactive things with personalities that can create connections anywhere at any time. With this in mind, there are some important considerations to bear in mind:
- Hardware limitations – the limitations of platforms rendering applications should always be considered, whether it is the screen size, camera resolution or sophistication of the voice interface.
- Target audience – when designing for any advanced technology it’s vital to consider how it will be used and by who. There are opportunities with every new technology to deliver more intense, immersive experiences, but they have to suit the user and actually add value.
- Feedback – today’s digital products are being designed for systems and humans simultaneously but user feedback is vital. By taking on board feedback as a continual loop, systems can be continuously improved to deliver better experiences.
- Community – while it’s vital to consider personalisation and individual users, products also need to be designed for users in the context of their social groups or community. By working together, it’s easier to solve problems and develop the right solutions.
- Inclusivity and accessibility – this goes hand in hand with identifying target audiences and considering where and when a product will be used. Every user isn’t the same and gender, racial biases and disabilities should all be considered when it comes to any UX design project. , while designing a user experience is core and this is augmented further when it comes to new technologies.
The Future of UX
It’s impossible to predict what the world will look like in ten years’ time, let alone to know the intricacies of how UX will evolve. However, what is blatantly obvious is that new and emerging technologies will have a huge impact. UX designers need to understand the capabilities and limitations of these new technologies and how people will interact with them if they are to continue to deliver excellent experiences.
The end goal of any user experience is that a user achieves their goals or needs. They don’t care what channel, technology or platform they’re using, they treat everything as a systemic whole. That means that there needs to be cohesion between every element of a brand and every product that it creates. New technologies have the ability to deliver high value and amazing user experiences, but only if they are used in the right way.