As a designer I believe that it’s important to be a student of society, culture, current events, and yes, the future. A few years ago, I became interested in apocalyptic prophecy, more specifically the work of 16th century French soothsayer Nostradamus.
Both have had their fair share of claims with pretty mixed results when it comes to predicting forthcoming events with some notable successes and failures.
Despite any inaccuracy in predicting the future, his work sheds light on one undeniable kernel of truth which I like to live my life by: Learn from the past, be aware of the present, but keep your eyes moving forward so you don’t trip. And I have really bad balance.
The writing is on the wall: We are entering a time in our history in which a software’s user interface will be less and less important. A time when a word, nay a thought will be more powerful than a keystroke, click, or tap ever was. A time where we won’t judge software on the perfection of its pixels, but rather the content of its logic. We are entering a No-UI Era. Join me on Friday, September 18 at the Big Design Conference to hear the full detail of my predictions for our UI UX future. In the meantime, here’s a peek into my predictions:
Prophecy #1: Good UX Will Become The Rule, Not The Exception
A frictionless experience, it’s what millennials crave!
Millennials grew up in a time of prosperity and plenty, but they also grew up with real war, real terrorism, and ultimately watching the American dream that their Boomer parents had built falling down to reality.
The millennial perspective: A combination of realism and cynical irony drives millennials' ever-growing sense of impatience.
While the population size and technology usage habits makes millennials the target market for a growing number of products, regardless of which generation we fall into, we can all agree there are some common everyday interactions that we all hate. Why do we hate them? FRICTION. We’ve all heard it, “Don’t make me think.” It’s the UX designer’s mantra for a reason. If we expect too much effort from our users, they lose interest, and we lose them.
Complicated UI + UX = friction.
Prophecy #2: There Will Be A Golden (Girls) Era For Technology
Your grandma is on Facebook...and it’s getting awkward.
We are living longer, more fulfilling lives so it’s no surprise that there’s a growing issue with current technology trends and interaction patterns not meeting the needs of an aging user base that grew up in the analog world but are still intent on staying connected with friends and loved ones using the digital world.
With that desire comes inherent complications from digital communications like a tweet or a wall comment - both of which are void of historical precedent and ultimately, brand new experiences.
This is further complicated by a UI that gives very little in the way of context clues about what an action’s ramifications truly are.
A little guidance in the user interface would be helpful as more generations embrace technology.
Prophecy #3: There Will Be a Polar Shift In Users’ Expectations...and You’re Not Ready
Self-awareness is a virtue.
When I was a kid, I became obsessed with words and the sound of them. So much so that I loved to mindlessly, sometimes loudly repeat whatever word happened to catch my fancy at the time (much to my parents’ chagrin).
Unfortunately, two of those words were “wiener” and “butt” and I would sometimes chant “wiener...butt...wiener...butt” at inappropriate times and without the proper ‘world view’ that a child learns over the years. One day, during an especially boring trip to the grocery store with my mom, I started chanting out loud: "wiener...butt..wiener...OH MY GOD!"
That was the day I first became self aware.
My point is this: You find something that works for you, it’s comfortable so you use it over and over again.
We all have our bag of design tricks that we rely upon in our work. If you get too comfortable and don’t look around sometimes, things may have changed (technologies, expectations, trends) and you may find yourself out of touch. Technology is moving toward less friction and less dependence on a visible UI.
Self-awareness is a virtue...and “U” and “I” should have it.
Prophecy #4: A Wealth of Information Will Be Just A Thought Away
Your children and their children will be smarter than you. A lot smarter.
For decades we’ve romanticised what technology will become, popular culture has played a large part in this and technology is becoming more human, and so must become our interaction with it.
For anybody making a living peddling pixels, the idea of ubiquitous computing certainly is intimidating. The touchless and all but invisible experiences that these devices facilitate are meant to be spoken to rather than physically manipulated. Our children will have all but unfettered access to information whenever they want it. We have to accept this and design for this new reality.
The Microsoft Windows 10 commercial captures the essence of this brave new world best: “Imagine: These kids won’t have to remember passwords, or obsess about security. They’ll expect their devices to listen to them, talk, sing, and tell a funny joke. And as they grow and get better at things, their technology will too. They’ll do things that their parents never even dreamed of. The future starts now, for all of us.”
Our kids may be smarter than us, but we need to continue to create the tools for them to get there...and that’s on us.
Prophecy #5: The UI Designer, As We Know it, Will soon be Obsolete
Visual UI is on its way out, but your don’t have to be.
The idea of someone who makes a living solely designing user interfaces for a living is quickly going away.
The appearance of an app’s UI is fickle and driven by the whims of what design trends mandate. This isn’t the case for interaction patterns.
Remember “pull to refresh”? It first showed up in Loren Birtcher’s iOS twitter client, Tweetie. He created nay, DESIGNED a memorable experience - a great UX that had a life much greater than the app or the UI he created for Tweetie.
The lesson? We as UI designers should care more about the memorable experience we are crafting than what it looks like.
But at the end of the day we are all just overgrown primates and we want to touch things. History and reality dictates that, in all likelihood, UI will not go away completely.
Likely it will become the secondary form of interaction. The fact is, even the best engineered technology will fail, and in our no-UI future, a visible UI is that fall back. So it needs to be sound and have a UX that makes sense to the no-UI user.
UI as we know it may be obsolete, but yours doesn’t have to be.
Experiences Are Forever
Designer as Soothsayer.
So there you have it: The future as I see it.
Predictions aside, we are moving toward a future that in all likelihood will look different than today. We need to be aware and not forget what part of our work really matters: the experience. As designers and technologists, we have the opportunity to effect and improve the future. It’s ours to utilize or squander.
To learn more about how Dialexa solves problems (and helps create the future) for our customers, including our software development process, click the image below.