What is the Future of UX Design?

This topic was triggered over here https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-future-of-UX-UI-designer 

Image courtesy: https://unsplash.com/@garidy_sanders 

I am pasting the same answer here for convenience. I have consciously left UI out and sticking to just UX. I have another post on Quora on this and the UX Vs. UI discussion.

My answer to this question is in two parts — a near future and a long-term future.

Short term (up to and around 2020) — very bright future. Demand for pixel perfect, usable and delightful UX demand is high, especially with accelerating digital transformation underway globally. Evidence to support is in this graph of top design-driven companies against all of S&P index –

 

Source: Job Trends Report: The Job Market for UX/UI Designers

If topline growth of marquee brands is significant, today, design is a buzzword among other companies too, who often are guided by the leaders. Coupled with digital transformation, where information technology is ubiquitous across most business processes, design is a key skill that teams within companies and service providers seek.


Long-term (beyond 2020) — This is the interesting one. If you subscribe to Clayton Christensen’s disruption model

Source: What Is Disruptive Innovation?

Then UI generators such as https://thegrid.io/ are the disruptors who will likely be the norm (read this about Websites that design themselves on Wired). Handcrafted UI and UX design will likely transform to curation and product management aspect of UX.

IMO, the future of UX is likely to change — Self-taught machines perhaps can soon and will iterate 1000 times faster and produce far greater variety than human history has ever. In such a scenario, whenever that happens in 10, 20 years from now, UX design education and training need to transform.

If UX design in future were to include more formal studies (no pun there) viz.

  1. Study of cognitive neurosciences and human behaviour
  2. Study of ethics
  3. Product management — to envision for technology-aided interfaces stemming from AI advances, generated and unsupervised ML-based system interactions, predictive UX, personalized robotic services, and similar emerging tech.

In conjunction with this, I predict that engineering performance will come to fore and UX designers will work closely with technical architects, who together will overshadow the current marketing driven/business agenda that is at a core of decision making. My premise is that Process is given overdue importance over design action. Agile, Design Thinking, etc will have to give way to design execution. I do not mean the process will go away, but it gets more below the hood, and intrinsic to a flexible work culture of the digital information age. As for business strategy, its agility will be about how its customers will define for them…not in some wood panelled boardroom or digital wall Pods to aid decision making. Agility will be about how plugged in businesses are to their users without restrictive filters. Agility is not just the agile as a process, but an attitude. Instead of insights gathered out of noise-free data, the effort will be to remove noise from the analytics. Decision-making power will shift to customers.

Its against such a scenario driven by large-scale deployment of AI and related tech that the future of UX designers will unravel, as to what roles they will play.


Postscript:
And this about AI impact on UX Design has been discussed a lot. So has the example of The Grid, who I refer to as a Clayton Christensen disruptive entrant. In some ways, The Grid is the hero (like the mini steel plants and minicomputers.) Here is one great piece from UX Collective by Fabricio Teixeira — “How AI has started to impact our work as designers.” Fabricio is bang on about the impact of AI and that its well-suited to do the chores like cropping images, maybe sort and tag images. However, I believe this is the sort of productivity we will see in the short term, not wholesale, but in those large agencies with large stable accounts and steady budget flows. My point is that in the longer term, as technologies mature, they will be capable of doing good design maybe with 1000x more iterations, A/B test, iterate again and publish widely. During the early days of WWW, we had designers handcrafting attractive banner ads. In the future, these may just be the output of an AI-driven ad serving platform that creates a campaign, negotiates and buys spots, runs the campaign, learns from it and repeats. Of course, the path to that has its trials and tribulations like Microsoft’s Tay! These are those patchy early version prototypes that will eventually disrupt.

Instead, UX professionals in future need not be limited to UX or the stuff above line of visibility, which machines may replace. They ought to work closely with Product Managers and Engineers to reimagine product experiences.

 
source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/dd/Star_rating_1_of_5.png

 

For example let us consider the common, abstract five-star rating feedback method. This UX is a legacy of OLTP (transaction) systems in its thinking. Feedback is captured in a manner that suits how its processed, which is rule-based, rigid. Go with me and imagine how this feedback mechanism overhauled assuming the rigid rules are replaced by self-learning AI systems.

 
A concept for an AI-based feedback system where FEEDBACK is a RELATIONSHIP and not a TRANSACTION. What if AI inverts the feedback from an explicit, overt system to an implicit covert approach, wherein, AI system observes and learns user relationship with products or services in a context that it determines as appropriate, to capture the feedback as a continuous ‘relationship’ with the product/service as against a ‘transaction’ with the product. This image is only a conceptual illustration wherein Feedback = relationship is constructed and changes with time. There can be an aggregate view or the splits to drill down. User has control on which view or all views to share. This is an example of how UXers can question the norm and reimagine the product to address the power of new technologies while allowing the same system to focus on the chores of generating ‘designs’ for UXer to choose from. In that sense, the future of UX Designer would be a part curator, part designer. The distinction between what a designer does and AI does is likely to be between rich organic memories (human) and artificial rules/graphs (AI). Those memories will be our strength and guide our hand and eye.

As you leave, read this brilliant piece by Mariana Lin on the distinction between an artificial persona and a human persona.

 

Caveat: I admit to an overly optimistic and exuberant assessment here and this is an area of speculation. I am informed by my own 7-year journey as a designer co-founder at a Hadoop based big data startup (see – ramblings from a failed startup journey )

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