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User experience (UX) design has become an essential part of the design process and its value continues to grow as consumers demand digital products that are simple, accessible, and efficient.
To help you prepare for what’s coming up in the world of UX in 2019, we spoke to Teresa Man, Experience Director at Konrad Group, a leading global digital agency and innovation firm.
From next-level personalization to machine learning, virtual reality, and accessibility, here are some of the top UX design trends to look out for in 2019.
Taking Personalization to the Next Level
Personalization is at the heart of UX design. What’s changing is the way artificial intelligence (AI) is being used to take personalization to the next level.
“Every single interaction is a data point for personalization,” says Man.
Beyond designing for static personas, machine learning can help create custom user experiences that evolve based on a user’s actions. Amazon is possibly the most obvious example, as the platform makes suggestions that are “related to items you’ve viewed” and “inspired by your wishlist.” YouTube also personalizes its user experience by suggesting content based on videos you’ve previously watched.
“As users, we are no longer feeding what we would like into the system. Making digital profiles based on implicit user behaviors is the next phase of personalization, and this “inaction” helps craft our data profiles because it tells the system what we don’t like,” says Man.
While AI has the power to hyper-personalize the user experience, data collection opens up another big UX topic: privacy.
There’s a good chance you interacted with or shopped at one of the companies affected by privacy breaches in 2018, and for that reason, privacy will continue to be a hot topic when it comes to UX design in 2019.
Users are becoming more conscious of how their personal data is being collected and used, and UX design will play an important part in building user trust.
“Continuing in 2019 there will be a big focus on privacy – how do designers ensure transparency and regain trust back from people who may have lost it?” says Man.
The days of scrolling through pages of text on privacy and assuming users will click “ok” are coming to an end. More and more users want to understand exactly what they’re signing up for and designing transparent and easy to understand privacy protocols is becoming an essential part of the UX design process.
Further Integrating Offline and Online
Ordering a coffee on your phone and picking it up in a store isn’t new. What’s changing is the way the typically offline, in-store experience is moving online.
“There’s a new cycle that is more like online to offline to online,” says Man.
For example, a customer might browse products online or on an app, visit a store and then use that same app to purchase the products. One example is the Loblaws PC Express app that lets customers create shopping lists at home, scan items with their phone once they are in the store, and then proceed to their kiosks to checkout.
Another example is the Amazon GO store that opened in 2018, which lets customers pick up items off the shelf, put them in their bag, and walk out of the store. Dubbed “Just Walk Out,” the technology uses hundreds of cameras and “computer vision” – the process of allowing machines to “see” and determine what an object is – to detect when an item has been taken from a shelf. With this, Amazon’s network of cameras can track people in the store, without having to rely on facial recognition.
“The traditional e-commerce journey is becoming more holistic than ever with different interjection points of online and offline interactions. The final phase of the journey always finds itself back in digital. Even though you’re having an in-store experience, the method of purchasing is on an online platform. It’s becoming a lot more integrated than the simple app to store journey,” says Man.
UX and Virtual Reality
Virtual reality (VR) has a long way to go before it becomes a common consumer product, but it has started to find use in corporate cases. Walmart, for example, is using Oculus VR headsets to provide training for more than one million employees at thousands of its stores.
In a time when entire industries are concerned with digital transformation and skills training, this kind of flexibility demonstrates the potential for VR use. Man believes it may also be a sign of things to come.
“In general, UX Designers should always be aware of what’s coming, and I think it’s a good time to learn about VR, and how UX fits into the 3D design process. Even if it isn’t commonly used now, it will be quickly eased into the consumer market in the coming years,” she says.
Accessibility and Inclusion 2.0
As UX design evolves to include new elements like machine learning, voice design, and VR, designing for accessibility and inclusion is becoming increasingly important.
“Designing for voice is becoming more prevalent and it can improve a product’s accessibility, but that also treads this area of inclusive design. When it comes to voice there is the importance of recognizing accents, for example,” says Man.
Image and facial recognition is another area that highlights the importance of designing for inclusion in 2019. For example, a good UX might mean that a user can search their digital photo album for “wedding” and pull up photos from a friend’s wedding. This could easily turn into a bad user experience if the user searches for “wedding” and an image of two men getting married in suits is recognized as a conference or work setting, instead of a wedding.
“As automation is continuously being improved and powered by algorithms, we have a responsibility to make sure that the underlying AI and the design is the consumer wrapper presents an equitable experience. Companies are more being proactive and making sure that they are using inclusive practices when it comes to designing machine intelligence,” says Man.
Taking things a step further, Google has created the Inclusive ML guide to help promote a “human-centered approach that foregrounds responsible AI practices and products that work well for all people and contexts.” The guide offers guidelines on how to assess your use case for fairness in machine learning (and AutoML), avoid common biases in data analysis, evaluate your model’s performance, and more.
The past few years have seen rising concerns about tech addiction from consumers and investors, and UX Designers are now asking questions about ethics in the early stages of the design process.
Good UX design, of course, keeps users coming back (hands up if you’ve ever lost hours scrolling through Instagram) but it’s now also paying attention to how users are spending their time.
“There’s a new wave of design for digital wellness that’s asking ‘How do you make ethical products so that people are not so heads down, spending hours on apps? It’s not so much about being efficient with time, but being conscious about time,” says Man, adding that in the end, this kind of ethical approach is part and parcel of a UX Designer’s ultimate goal.
“It’s all about creating the best possible experience for our users.”