9 UX Questions for 2018

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I read a very interesting post over at The Next Web on 9 Questions that Could Change UX in 2018 from the fine folks at UXDesign.cc that I thought was very worth sharing with you.

Here it is, enjoy!

9 UX Questions Useful UsabilityEvery year, we at uxdesign.cc look back at what designers have been writing, sharing, and thinking about when it comes to User Experience.

2017 has been a quite transformative year for UX Design as a discipline. We have seen the rise and popularity of new technologies that will change the way we think about user experiences, the tools we use to design them, and the processes we use to get there — and we believe these new paradigms will set the stage for design in years to come.

Here are nine questions to ask ourselves in the new year.

#1: Is UX dead?

Articles about “the fall of UX” can make designers anxious about their careers. But if you have been working in this industry for long enough, you have probably seen this happen before. From “webmaster”, to “information architect”, to “interaction designer”, to “UX designer”, we have always been able to adapt what we do and call ourselves – while maintaining our mission of creating meaningful experiences for people.

2018 will be the year where designers will, not without struggle, learn to be more strategic about the features, screens, and experiences they design. It’s about time we accept the fact we are not artists, nor on a pedestal, and embrace being part of a business.

My take on this? I agree with the authors, there’s a bit of a hysteria from time to time on jobs ending. Part of this is due to the rampant changes in the middle class and their employment opportunities over the past decade. Part of this is the realization that as a UX designer you have to know and apply many skills; mapping user flows, wireframes, mockups, prototypes, interfaces, etc etc etc. It’s not enough to just create a pretty design (it never really was). And part of this is the press focusing on potential disruptive technologies. All in all, I think you as a UX-er are pretty safe in your job.

#2: How can we incorporate real-time experiences into our products?

Real-time social media experiences are changing people’s expectations around how long it should take for products and services to deliver on their needs. Users expect the same level of immediacy from the product or service you are working on right now.

This transformation is not as simple as adding new features to your product roadmap. Endless product backlogs and feature requests that never go live can hurt your brand and frustrate your audience. Businesses need to drastically change to deliver value for users earlier, faster, and more clearly.

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In 2018, we have to step back and look at the full ecosystem that brands and users share, to define how the business can still be relevant in a world ruled and disrupted by immediacy. As a designer, how will you incorporate that thinking into the product you are working on right now?

My take on this? I believe we all focus on the real-time experiences when creating user experiences, so that I think goes without saying. However, what IS new is the need to understand what Google calls “Micro Moments” and how those are impacting the way apps and websites are used. The immediate needs are not necessarily all transaction focuses (or task focused to use another term). Instead, information and actions are now more commonly non-linear. Multi-tasking is a real thing that absolutely can be disruptive to those who are not designing with “the moment” in mind.

#3: As designers, are we doing enough to promote diversity?

Short answer: no.

The global debate on cultural acceptance, diversity, and inclusion that took over the media in 2017 has raised the topic inside design firms as well. And a few of them have started to act.

Forward-thinking companies have started to take more tangible action toward more inclusive teams, processes and methodologies: Airbnb launched a toolkit for designing inclusive experiences; Microsoft announced a framework for Inclusiveness in Design; and there are tons of bottom-up initiatives emerging from the community itself, such as Dreamer Stories which showcases beautiful portraits of young Americans recipients of DACA.

Food for thought: what if your next side project was less focused on design gradients and more on taking action towards an inclusive design industry?

My take on this? To a certain extent I agree, but also disagree. I believe diversity is a function of the culture of a firm. To that end, yes, UX-ers can help by trying to be more inclusive in how they interact with teams, how they think about who will use the app, etc. But at the same time I’ve seen plenty of smaller firms that are very focused and doing a great job of being inclusive – so perhaps this one is more of a need to be aware.

#4: How can we improve the stories we tell with our products?

Browsing a well-crafted interface is like reading a great story, whether they are designing a landing page, a product page, a signup form, or a chatbot conversation. As a designer, how can you incorporate more sophisticated storytelling techniques into the experiences you create? At the end of the day, what is your design really trying to say?

My take on this? Story-telling and using stories is a big part of the Agile UX design process. It’s also something that firms like Disney or Intuit have been doing very well for decades. Storyboards I think are an under-utilized way to shape stories and UX. I’ve seen plenty of amazing UX design teams that do use storyboards, and just as many awesome teams that do not. The difference? In my opinion the ones that do not use storyboards sometimes struggle with how to accurately and simply portray the story of the interaction with the product. Remembering the story is probably the easy way to improve stories, but if you’ve not tried storyboards I suggest you research them and give them a try. I believe they help!

#5: How can we redesign our workspace and workflow?

Designers are increasingly encouraged by companies to design not only the product but their process and the work environment around them. Design is a process that can be applied to anything, including our work environment. Why are you still complaining about bad meetings, instead of redesigning them?

In 2018, let’s design our process before designing our products.

My take on this? Meetings and workspace environment are also a function of corporate culture. To the extent you can influence the culture, by God, do it! But don’t beat yourself up if people CONTINUE to be chronically late for meetings, or have useless meetings, or otherwise continue to amaze you at their inefficiency. As to the work environment, designing your own space given the push for “open office concepts” and shared tables seems to be something of a fact of life these days. Do your best to influence how that space is used, but don’t beat yourself up if the guy sitting across from you continue to leave used coffee cups all over the desk.

#6: What tools do we really need to collaborate?

It has never been so easy and accessible to create prototypes. But it’s never been so critical to find better ways of collaborating beyond them.

In 2017 we saw a shift from an extreme focus and interest in prototyping tools to a new set of tools that consider the design process more holistically: real-time collaboration, version control,  and knowledge transfer are just some examples.

If you are looking for a side project in 2018, what about exploring new ways to improve collaboration, knowledge sharing, and communication within your team?

My take on this? Invision, Sketch and other tools have come a long way in enabling collaboration. So have tools like Skype, Slack and the other IM tools. Being able to collaborate seems to be making great inroads, and that’s a good thing!

#7: What’s happening to branding in the era of invisible interfaces?

As we move into a world of fragmented, less visible interfaces, branding means a lot more than how a brand looks or what it says in mass media. Non-pixel-based experiences are pushing designers to rethink a brand’s personality, actions, and signifiers.

As designers of experiences, we are frequently looking at the brand’s ecosystem holistically, to ensure its customers can frictionlessly transition from one channel to another. Whether you are accessing the brand’s website, downloading their app, watching a TV commercial or merely reading a story in the news, all these moments are adding up to the experience you have with a brand.

My take on this? A brand or marketer definition of Brand is the experience, perception and attitude a person has with the firm. Yes, interfaces are changing, but no, that doesn’t mean Brand and the experience of the Brand have morphed. I agree that the ‘micro moment’ UX we now have with Brands is different from a time and energy perspective, but considering the Brand (beyond just complying with Brand design guidelines) should still be a core function of UX. A ‘true’ invisible interface is voice and AI, and in that regard I totally agree with the authors that how we design for those engagements requires much more thought than just a quick update of a webpage.

#8: How can we help build a better design community?

As companies become more interested in the design process and approach and boot camps certify thousands of new designers every year, the number of articles, videos, podcasts, and content related to UX grew significantly.

How do we balance the energy spent creating the content vs. the value it adds to the community? Are we spending all this energy to genuinely give back to the community, or are doing it for the claps, likes, and the visibility that it brings?

My take on this? Yes, I totally agree. I started writing this blog waaaaay back in 2008 because I wanted to help build a community of people that cared about the user experience. I was also the President of the Austin chapter of the UXPA for the same reason. Focusing on providing helpful communities that want to grow UX is a worthy cause for sure.

#9: Why AI?

Every new disruptive technology follows the same pattern: designers fall into the trap of focusing on the how to only then ask about the why. With AI it isn’t any different. Our entire industry is rushing to launch the world’s first AI-powered [insert industry here], not always with a proper use case for it. As soon as we decide on a technology over user needs, we fail to be user-centered.

What if this time around we leapfrogged to thinking about “why” we are creating these AI-powered services and what it really means for our users?

My take on this? Amen!

A report to challenge ourselves in the coming year

These are just some of the topics we’re covering on our end of year report. 2017 has been a year where we had to forget the old ways of doing design. A year to leave habits behind. A year we had to be humble enough to learn things that were foreign (and scary) to us, but that will only make us stronger and more prepared to design experiences in 2018.

My take on this? I found this very interesting and I hope you agree! If you want to add your thoughts to this discussion be sure to leave a comment below!

Good luck with 2018 and all your UX-ness!

This post originally appeared on The Next Web.

This was an excerpt from The State of UX in 2018. See the full report on uxdesign.cc

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