Design, as we’ve known it, has been based on what we’ve deemed critical to-date—and rightly so. With the ever popular ‘omni-channel’ approach, our focus has been to first establish requirements for users, the business and the technical environment. We’ve then comfortably created personas and user journeys that allow us to define workflows, in an attempt to predict consumer needs. Translating all of that to wireframes, clickable prototypes and, finally, visual designs. Leading us to create what we’ve reasoned as ‘personalized’ experiences.
These generalized approaches, which we’ve determined are the results of “best practices” and “usability standards”, will soon become less commonplace—assuming we choose to evolve.
It is this evolution that I will explain here. It will be the product of the shifting demands of the digital landscape — which will include more natural gestures, intuitive interactions and larger digital ecosystems, incorporating a number of platforms and products. This new demand will give rise to a more capable and robust Experiential Designer. Let’s take a closer look at what I mean.
Digital today is already providing an augmented and intelligent world.
For those who are exploring IOT and connected objects, we are already seeing a predicted revolution. Through the integration of sensors and connected objects, digital experiences have become more intelligent—capable of collecting real-time data. All the while being able to activate some if to create more meaningful experiences in real-time.
For example, almost a year ago, Miami’s International Airport installed a network of 400 beacons in order to enhance their airport environment. For those with the app, the beacons allow direct access to location-appropriate information. Things such as nearby restaurants and bathrooms, timely alerts like gate and flight time changes—even an estimation of the time it will take you to walk to the nearest security gate.
You might imagine that all of this is communicated to the user through a library of connected interactions. Alerts, messages and pertinent information can be delivered through visual, auditory or sensory methods. Fully informing a traveler through a robust ecosystem that includes wearables, displays and even sounds—all collectively forming an experience that must be realized through the abilities of an Experience Designer.
Detecting and guiding is one thing, but what about learning and predicting?
Let’s look at a great example by Intuition Robotics, to show you what I mean. Their ‘active aging companion’, known as the Elli•Q (still in testing), is exploring a collaboration between technology and humanity that learns more about you as you use it. And in doing so, has the ability to direct, and ultimately, improve your day-to-day, connecting you to people based on your history of interactions. Knowing your daily tendencies and patterns, it learns to remind you to take medications, to exercise, when to eat and so forth. Elli•Q proves that this space can create a level of companionship that is highly personalized. And the true success of this product ultimately lies in its ability to communicate to you and to your environment, creating an entirely responsive ecosystem.
Then there’s the Replika AI. Another kind of companion that you nurture and raise through text conversations. It’s pretty damn creepy, especially if you remember the Joaquin Phoenix movie, Her. Replika designers are ensuring that this is not about dating AI, but rather about building a “like-minded” relationship with someone who shares a similar personality.
Both of these show how truly empathetic experiences will be created. And, most importantly, that the interactions between machine and man will be changing.
Which lead to the changing demands of design.
Simply, the role of design has evolved. In a previous post I spoke about the importance of context. Recently I explored a specifically contextual experience.
The idea was to create an app that would allow friends and family to follow a person’s travel in order to ensure that they reached their destination safely. It was clear that I needed to consider the entirety of the driving ecosystem—the environment inside & outside the cabin, the data that could be mined to improve the experience, and finally, even the individual that would be engaged in this ecosystem.
So I began to think about the tendencies of the driver. Her music choices. Her favorite types of food. I even considered statistical data on cities along her route. All extracted in order to offer music selections, an improved cabin environment, or maybe even recommendations along the way for places to eat based on her diet and time of day.
All with the common goal of creating personalization. Also proving that the experience needs to be more about the data captured, the insights formulated and their presentation, versus the technologies behind them.
And, thus, proving the importance of Experience Designers.
Designers now have more to consider than ever before. Our old model of prediction just won’t work anymore. This new paradigm of design has three main components:
The new digital landscape often times is created individually and needs to be woven together.
Secondly, each of these parts has the ability to collect and share pertinent data in real-time, thus allowing for truly personalized experiences.
And, finally, we must find the magic sauce for hiding both of the above and simply creating meaningful interactions.
So the challenge for UX/UI Designers is to take all of those things that made us adept at designing and begin to meld those into one. Starting from the understanding that we’re solving a specific problem, we will first apply the criticality of building usable environments. We must then understand the various touch points and opportunities for interaction that will exist. As Experience Designers, we will work seamlessly across all of those in presenting a UI that naturally enhances and integrates into a person’s digital life.
This new industry brings a tremendous amount of opportunity. But it’s predicated on an evolution that will impact all of who will design and development the new landscape of tools. This evolution will require a new interaction model between technologists and designers. We will all need to work more closely, allowing each of us to understand how we can collectively impact the needs of those who will use our platforms.
Looking to 2017 and beyond.
All that said, I certainly expect there will continue to be some need for those who choose to follow the current expiring standard of design. For some, opportunities will continue to exist to create some new and exciting conceptual narratives.
But for others we have a tremendous opportunity to make a different impact—a longer lasting one. One where we are integral in helping to design ecosystems that are naturally grown and formed versus fabricated and constructed.* Our joy will lie in connecting people to their environments in ways that will not replace human interaction, but improve it.
So join me in following this new world order of intelligent design: one where imagination, collaboration and intellect will once again prevail.
*A couple of inspirations came from this very insightful TED talk. Please take a look: http://www.ted.com/talks/maurice_conti_the_incredible_inventions_of_intuitive_ai