A Future-Friendly Approach to Experience Design Pt. 2

This is a follow up to my InVision webinar discussing the future of UX/XD. Read Part 1 here.

~ Part 2~

Buzzwords like innovation and disruption get thrown around a lot without much meaning. If we dig deeper, at the core of the best experiences, there are fundamental paradigm shifts in perception and awareness. In this digital realm we’re starting to see unparalleled connectivity. We’re consuming more, using more, and interacting more with technology in our everyday lives and it’s all accessible anywhere, whenever, at your fingertips. Our relationship with technology will only grow closer.

We have such an intimate relationship with our mobile devices, we expect them to be extensions of ourselves — Brad Frost
The Many Faces of ‘Mobile First’

The Mobile Present

If you’re anything like me, the last thing you touch before falling asleep is your phone and it’s the first thing you reach for after you wake up (rise and shine, sleepyhead). The most widely used mobile platforms, iOS & Android, are worth exploring.

Reconciling iOS & Android Paradigms

How do you know when to use the operating system’s native controls, create new patterns, or use a hybrid approach? Creating a common design language can alleviate some of these pain points. Combining the best of both worlds, Apple’s “flat” iOS features and Google’s Material Design, can make your app feel native, yet unique enough that users realize they’re in a distinctly branded app.

Play by the rules in the beginning (when you’re still learning the ins and outs) by immersing yourself in the iOS Human Interface Guidelines & Material Design Guidelines. The material guidelines can feel especially overwhelming when you first dig into it but it’s that level of detail and sophistication that’s a designers’ dream come true. These fundamental principles can be applied and incorporated across mobile platforms. It’s important to stay true to the native OS without undermining fundamental patterns. By embracing the essence of both Material Design and Apple Design guidelines you can create cohesive app experiences fused with pragmatism, delight, and intention.

Breaking Conventions

Be intentional and back it up by good reasoning when you take liberties with the guidelines. Adapt these native paradigms into your designs by blending styles, varying contexts, and unifying the underlying patterns to create a seamless cross-pollinated experience across all mobile devices and interfaces. The only way we can push forward and innovate is by taking creative risks. New and inspiring work gives others a spark to push their own boundaries. Even if you’re compelled to follow a layout or style trend, add a touch of creativity to make it unique.

Post Flat

Fads come and go. In the last few years, we’ve gone from Web 2.0 to Skeumorphism to Flat to Flatter(with the release of iOS 8), and most recently Material Design. Could Skeuoflatism be the next trend?

Flat design is just the beginning. The real trend is towards simplicity and immediacy, and we expect that to go further than ever in 2015 — Jowita Ziobro

In reality, it’s not about trends, design systems are constantly building and improving on themselves adapting to the current zeitgeist. So by looking beyond basic visual aesthetics you can embed “personality” into an otherwise emotionless interface.

Bring your product to life by giving it a soul.

The meaning behind your product is essential to the nature of the experience you’re creating. Ask yourself this: would the experience be the same same if this meaning is not there? The most disruptive apps fuse meaning into the experience, making them inseparable. Take Uber for example, the real memorable experience begins when you enter vehicle, not so much when you fire up the app for the first time. Apple Watch facilitates this task by making it super easy. When you open the Uber app it goes straight to a screen showing you an ETA of when the next car can pick you up. From there it’s just a tap of a button and your driver is en route.

Apple Watch event
Sometimes it’s the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination — Drake

The journey is the experience. Making it desirable, unique, sticky, and covetable you can leave a memorable impression even after your users have reached their final “destination.”

Focus on fine tuning the experience; that’s all the customer cares about. Users focus on the experience and how it makes them feel. As soon as they experience a negative emotion — like frustration — the UI becomes “visible” and they question the design. We should strive to make our designs invisible so that our users don’t see, but rather experience them.

We’re all looking for the next creative spark to bring to our creations.

It’s the authenticity; the creative inventiveness that we can bring to our interfaces to not only make them unique but more meaningful.

Post Apps

It’s time to start thinking about designing multi-task apps, API’s, and integrative platforms. Apps are “becoming smart context-aware services that link, share, and talk to each other without us having to necessarily see or touch those little squares.” With the introduction of Google’s Now on Tap, Google Now has been seamlessly integrated so you can use it without leaving other apps. Apple is riding hot on Google’s heels with Siri’s advanced integration into iOS 9. Personal assistants will inevitably give way to entirely new product forms and will end up consuming single-task apps.

The AI Revolution

By far the most important topic for our future is Artificial Intelligence. The software and data behind Siri, Google Now, and Cortana is AI, the voice we hear is a personification of that AI. Artificial Intelligence is not a robot, the AI itself is the computer inside the robot, computer, or smartphone. Just ask one of these personal assistants and they should be able to answer any question (e.g., your hyperlocal weather forecast) in the near future.

The genre of science fiction has done a really good job humanizing technology through storytelling. Movies like Minority report, Star Wars, Star Trek, and Iron man has made tech more relatable on a human level. For instance, Iron Man’s helmet is futuristic UI. And the single most impressive thing about it is Jarvis, the hyper intelligent AI. It’s reciprocal to saying “OK google”, when Tony Stark asks Jarvis “Can you make this one thing happen?” And Jarvis makes it happen. That’s my type of future.

Jarvis simulation in Avengers: Age of Ultron

Intelligent assistants are still in early stages but what makes the experience different is the emotional connection with their voice, because they sound human and their traits and personalities are humanizing.

We are on the edge of change comparable to the rise of human life on Earth. — Vernor Vinge

The Singularity

We’re taking larger leaps forward at an ever-faster rate and at some point, we’ll make a leap so great that our perception will be altered to the point where we’ll have to reconsider what it means to be a human. Eventually we will consider AI — in a sense human.

We’re approaching a moment when computers will become intelligent, and not just intelligent but more intelligent than humans. When that happens, humanity — our bodies, our minds, our civilization — will be completely and irreversibly transformed. — Time

The interfaces we design may effectively become invisible and integrated over time but that will only happen if we design them to be legible, contextual, understandable and to foreground cultural experience over technology.

Designing for the Future

The future of design will anticipate our needs before we can run a search query or open our app home screen. Currently, we live in a world with highly visible interfaces but we may able to get away without having a interface if our intentions can be sensed reliably. Today’s device ecosystem makes it clear we may not be ready for zero interface quite yet but we’re getting closer. We’re already being fed a steady stream of contextual, personalized, and curated information seamlessly. We should strive to design interfaces that can fluidly interact with the complexities of the real world.

The future of experience design is about emotional awareness; connecting us with products the way we connect with each other.

Designers will be expected to create end-to-end experiences rather than just interfaces; product and services that exist across multiple screens and platforms that are device agnostic. UX design will be less about designing new features and more about designing ecosystems, where every detail of the user experience is scrutinized and perfected. That’s why “UX” (User Experience) will become a thing of the past and “XD” (Experience Design) is already the future.

If you found this insightful, please do me a favor and hit that heart icon ❤ — your future self will give you a tap on the shoulder ;-)

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Asher G. Blumberg is a UX/XD Designer standing at the intersection of technology and human empathy, bringing the two together via brand and interaction. He dedicates his spare time to making memes. Currently Asher is designing mobile first experiences #startuplife.

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Published in Startups, Wanderlust, and Life Hacking