Service Design Innovation

Despite peaking fears for User Experience (UX), it’s the design discipline that’s gone large to reach global critical mass and underpin digital transformation across mobile, tablet, desktop and the wave of new ui technologies such as conversational bots and RPA. Today UX stands to be the biggest single design discipline on the globe and probably in history heretofore. That’s quite an achievement from its roots in Human-computer Interaction and heralds the new wave of UX.

In this article, I look at the seismic shifts that are happening in UX right now; these changes will shift the focus from consumer to co-creator and from metropolitan chic to global reach, thus realising the true value of science based design. Find out how UX can mature to reach its full potential, to become an indispensible business critical function that balances, human needs to technology in a sustainable business context.


Smart machines start to replace humans requiring a back to basics HCI approach

Expect more and deeper disruption in traditionally non-digital industries (e.g. law, accounting, health etc.) as digital transformation, automation and robotics change work and the workplace; replacing human workers with machines. This will shift focus in UX from consumers to co-creators and human activity/practice will become the domain with most potential and interest for UX as a discipline.

As smart machines start to replace human actors, UX will need to move from delivering simple usability to dealing with more complex domains that blend human and technological agency. Human-computer interaction (HCI) issues including previously niche topics, such as ethics will be dusted down and Mumford, Tavistock and UTOPIA correctly remembered and credited. The potential is huge and only good old HCI has the answers.


Tiny moments of value rather than big wow delight as UX tackles profit and value

Companies will find it harder to protect and grow revenue as new and disruptive newcomers, anti-competitive technologies and cross border competitors erode their core propositions and more importantly the size of individual transactions. Less will be sold in shops and more online and post crash economics will drive smaller faster rather than bigger slower; especially as the digital divide dissipates and global markets mature digitally.

Beyond removing barriers to conversion, UX will need to be even more tightly coupled with customer facing operations and ‘Business Thinking’. This means not just making technology usable but building value creation into all touchpoints and weaving it in as a design element. It will no longer suffice to make check-outs easy but instead UX will need to deliver sustainable engagement in order to safeguard the small returns companies will be making in the short term. Expect to see more ‘Business Designers’ as John Oswald calls them — the more globally local UX value propositions can be made the better too.


User Experience reaches global critical mass — the biggest design discipline on the planet

Just like the eponymous DJ, everyone is a UX designer nowadays. That’s great and with more doers and better platforms to create and showcase work and design patterns there’s never been an easier time to do user experience. For the more seasoned practitioner, it should all get easier cheaper and those pesky design tools actually become mass usable. As this growth continues (before the bubble bursts) there will be a gravitational shift from the centres of metropolitan cool to bottom of the pyramid glocal version power. What’s hip in ui will suddenly look like a first world problem as the global masses represent themselves at the interface.

This has many repercussions for UX as a discipline, practice and job. In the longer term, everyone doing UX will require a tighter, more focused and stronger core discipline. Indeed, the key issue is ensuring the long-term sustainability of the field is better professional standards and accreditation that recognises practice based experience. Lets hope that changes while at the same time embracing all of the energy and innovation that will stream out of a distributed global design practice.


Twixting existing systems is where innovation lies with the big SI pardners

As technology platforms mature, customer expectations grow and Service Design makes inroads into business; the job will be to join existing sub-services into holistic offerings, rather than designing new ones from scratch. All from scratch stuff will go to boutique start-ups by the way, who rarely and uniquely combine business, technology and design. Quick wins to reduce gaps will win out over big projects with little or no existing infrastructure. And in house teams will lead the way as they know the more mature domains that need fixing than the externals. The big software houses, SI people and their platforms will have to accelerate usability of their own stuff and be seen to relish partnerships and legacy migration to close service gaps.

For UX that means working closely with technology providers to focus on reducing pain points, integrating existing systems and driving standardization before then moving to optimize them. All of those creaky productivity systems will start to look consumer facing too. Service design will mirror this shift, maturing from design thinking to design doing and delivery; gone are the days of fluffy blue sky thinking and hello hard design in the real world.


New ui paradigms incubate in the workplace to the home

Enterprises will drive internal adoption of innovative technology, mobility and innovative interfaces such as wearables as workforce enablers; at the same time as consumer goods and services plateau in terms of ui, quality and functionality. The exception is voice (no not VR except for entertainment) which has user value beyond novelty. You’ll start to see people talk to do on phones rather than push and touch interaction on the high streets; it’ll start getting noisy out there and what stuff looks like will decline in importance. Generally, though anything new will get matured in a work environment rather than in a domestic one before being productised for the consuming masses.

Because of the new work front for innovation, enterprise will be where the cool kids are and the behemoths of productivity software will need to revolutionise their offerings to become the new digital darlings. UX will grow into and back to its socio-technical roots, making work better, more enjoyable and hopefully steering those integrators in the right direction and doing generally useful good stuff with new ui.


Safe will overtake cool as driver for adoption and use spawning a new design field

The robustness, clarity and visibility of organisations trustworthiness and security will become a primary part of the customer proposition and a constant draw on organisations resources. Unlike performance, which is a non-designed part of the user experience, security and trust will become part of the UX designers domain and a brand value.

Indeed, security will become its own design domain with discrete practices, language and practitioner based community e.g. User Security Designer. UX will need to support this shift by seamlessly integrating security and safety features, cues and signposts to help users build trust and know how to deal with risks.


Huge growth in adoption outside of the trendy fringe(s)

The biggest driver in consumer digital transformation will be from growth in current platforms and technologies by the so far less connected masses currently not using top of the range smart devices; rather than from the cool early to mid adopter segments. It’s the Clapham omnibus connected rather than Minority Report. In fact, it’s more correctly the Lagos omnibus, as UX reaches global presence and smart takes over the world with cheaper cheaper.

For UX that means tackling the full range of platforms and devices to not just deliver omni-channel experience for the few but reach for the masses. Localisation will re-emerge as a delivery capability, this time done locally rather than centrally. Expect to see more middling UX too as mass adoption becomes more important than design awards. Lastly, Android will go big and go wide globally.


Design gets automated, personal and ahem…a bit boring

As previously discussed, the integration of design, marketing and optimisation tools will reduce human aided design and automate the process. UX Agencies will need to focus on their craft, to deliver niche, focussed design propositions as their customers adopt better and more integrated automated design and delivery solutions from new providers such ad agencies. Everything will start to look the same too except where the craft of UX is being done well.

For UX this will see the emergence of the Design Scientist:

‘Design Scientists will tweak the values, select the parameters and apply relevant aesthetics models for the system to work with rather than working up stuff and passing over to developers. They’ll probably build generative experiential programmes based on gestalt principles rather than rendering. Design Thinking will be a filter to apply just as Monochrome, Novelty and Complexity will be. Anything transient like fashion will go to the way of machines and stuff will move and change at clock speed rather than good old seasons.’


Data enables every experience to be personalised

Aggregated data has enabled single customer views and will go on to enable UX to deliver truly personalized content, interactions and services. In reality, UX will be a secondary partner in personalisation as it will be pretty much an automated process. However, this shift will require a much more agile approach to design where rather than single solutions there will be multiple segmented and highly tailored interaction patterns. UX will need to be the true voice of the user in the world of data-driven engagement and atomic personalisation to survive against the data and optimisation providers; to do that requires focussing on UX unique combination of design, delivery and research.


Integration, integration, integration…

Forget UCD or for that matter traditional market research. Understanding tomorrows co-creating service encounter requires a new research toolkit. Organisations will integrate the range of research methods into a set of cross functional enablers that draw on the benefits of market research, UCD and optimisation as a single end-to-end in house service. UX practitioners will need to be open to and with their research peers and drive quality in user research through robust methods and qual-feel feedback loops into design. The three strongest research methods for UX? Well that would good old usability testing, co-design and those dusted off formal HCI methods such as GOMS/KLM.

© John Knight, 2017

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