17 January 2018

Trends Shaping Experience Design In 2018

2017 made bold and effective strides into a number of sectors that we are enjoying the benefit of as we move into 2018. As these trends garner more interest we’re excited by the direction this is taking UX, UI and Service Design. For a trend to pique our interest we look at how it can elevate customer service, create a differentiated, personalised customer experience, build competitive advantage for businesses and disrupt traditional business models.


User Centred Banking

Challenger banks are changing traditional business models in an industry fraught with customer dissatisfaction and in so doing are evolving customer’s behaviours and expectations. Notable disruptors in fin-tech are the experience led emergence of start-ups like Monzo who are taking user centred design to heart and developing a product that understands and answers users’ needs. A lean approach, exempt from legacy IT systems and the burden of brick and mortar overheads gives them the flexibility to be adaptive in contrast to the seemingly tectonic adaptation of traditional banking. The resultant surge in uptake is testament to the markets desire for this refreshing approach to banking from challengers unblemished by the recent financial crisis. Offering transparency and a feature rich experience including spending breakdowns, api integrations, allowing for a fully-fledged market place within an app and zero foreign exchange rates. The challenge we now face as designers is helping big clients think and move like startups. In a world where accelerated change is the new norm, incumbents will need to work hard to keep up with ever-changing customer expectations. Major players in this space are Monzo, Atom and Starling.



Blockchain Is Changing Our World

Forrester Research predicts “a viable blockchain-based market will be commercialised” in 2018 and Deloitte Insights note public and private sector organisations potentially using blockchain to share information selectively and securely with others, exchange assets, and offer digital contracts. Consumers increasingly want to know that the ethical claims companies make about their products and services are real and distributed public ledgers provide an easy way to certify the backstories are genuine, important for transparent supply chain auditing. Blockchain’s irrefutable transaction capability, if understood, and transparency, if transmittable, can serve as a critical trust marker for transactions.

For individuals, Blockchain can remove transactional complexity to provide faster, frictionless exchanges and eliminate the use of gatekeepers such as banks verifying credit card transactions when shopping online. Businesses can show their trustworthy reputation by using blockchain mechanisms presenting themselves as fully transparent, verifiable and accountable to their customers. Blockchain mechanisms to bring everyone to the highest degree of accountability solves the problem of data being manipulated and offers transparency in private or public form.

User experience is key in getting people to adopt a new solution, particularly when the technical comprehension curve is steep. Our job is to lower that barrier to entry, initially by designing interfaces that abstract the complexity of blockchain. For example, one doesn’t have to fully understand a combustion engine or fuel cell generator to drive a car, but ultimately the challenge is to develop UX that centres around the key values of blockchain.



Invisible Interfaces

Expect the pervasiveness of virtual assistance to gather momentum as Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant’s conversational technology develops to not only better comprehend our instructions and requests but evolves to include emotional sensitivity and translation technology. Air New Zealand is already experimenting with in-flight service ordering in multiple languages, while Alexa is being trained to recognise speech patterns that may indicate distress. As this technology matures and becomes more perceptive, voice users interfaces (VUI) will be used to enhance user experiences and improve customer services. Voice will change how we interact with machines and this poses some exciting challenges as we look at design without an interface, voice personas and how critical they are for brand identity, the shift from text input to natural speech, the demands of context for voice input, and cognitive overload for users. Voice is set to impact all industries over the next decade, getting the technology and experience to adapt to human needs as opposed to us adapting to the experience is the critical uptake.



AI’s Human Heart

AI (artificial intelligence) is redefining user interfaces and design will play a critical role in both the adoption of AI and its advancement. Frog Design’s Matteo Penzo and Viral Shah note, “As AI becomes embedded into our products and services, designers are tasked not just with creating machines for humans, but creating machines that are human-like. In the process, we’re dissecting what it means to actually be human ourselves. As more consumers demand their AI not just have a personality, but a charismatic one that they want in their lives, we enter into an unprecedented level of intimacy between human and machine. To succeed in this world will require a human-centred touch.” Designing responsibly around AI is being taken seriously as noted by Google’s PAIR (People + AI Research initiative) set up to understand how humans interact with machine learning and is developing best practise principals for designing experiences that involve machine learning. Accenture’s paper AI is the new UI delves into the increasingly sophisticated roles AI is taking within technology interfaces. 



Big Data Evolution

With AI and IoT (Internet of Things) finding their way into our everyday lives, more data is collected and analysed then ever before. Real-time data analytics play an important role in creating an immediate involvement with consumers allowing semantic manipulation and combination of data sets. We will go beyond the static/time-based visualisation of data allowing users to interact, utilise and combine various data sources in real-time. The key is to keep the visualisation simple and relevant without overwhelming users. With every new data set added, users are required to evaluate and understand the visualisation and appropriate meaning to the data and findings.

In health care, people will be empowered to monitor their health and identify any concerns early by comparing data across peers. Smart food management might suggest changes to diet and lifestyle as well as make recommendations to see a specialist in their area. Because the data and experience is highly personalised, health care solutions will become increasingly immersive, memorable and transformative in people’s lives.

As consumers become increasingly suspicious of data collection and privacy concerns, our challenge is how to collect this data while maintaining trust and ensuring users are always in control of their own information. Choice and free will, our given human characteristics, should never be underestimated when creating automated predictions and decision-making matrices using AI.

For businesses wanting to create data-centric experiences there are multiple obstacles to overcome. Starting with the availability of data and creating redundancy to cater for larger data volumes to process in parallel across geographic locations for scalable usage. Another challenge when it comes to data collection is security and accuracy. These questions need to be answered to address customers’ concerns regarding choice and control. Companies such as Nvidia are working on dual execution systems to run every calculation at least twice to make sure the analysed data is accurate. Intel works with neuromorphic computing to mimic the human nervous system allowing for similar prediction and decision-making processes taking place in the human brain. The systems and processes will result in software that feels natural to customers.