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Where Experience Design is Headed: Five Predictions for 2018

1 Feb 2018

Posted by Gareth Sully


Trends, by definition, come and go. Some stay the course and become fundamentals. Some come and go, and then return (skeuomorphism anyone?). Our mission, as experience designers, remains the same: to make people’s lives better. Here are my predictions for 2018.

Data revolution

When GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) takes effect in May this year, many companies will face the prospect of being non-compliant and will need to redesign their services. As customers will hold all the power over the use of their personal data, companies will have a duty to inform them of how they gather, store and use any of that data.

From a customer perspective, this increase in awareness of the value of their personal data, coupled with the trend for more value sensitive design, will lead to a call for greater transparency and a revolution in digital engagement.

The challenge for us will be to design new ways of helping people really understand the new policies and how they can take back control of their data.

The days of dark patterns in data harvesting will be no more.

Voice is here to stay 

The success of Siri, Alexa, Cortana and OK Google suggests that voice interaction is here to stay. In 2018 we will continue to move away from focusing purely on design for the traditional graphical user interface (GUI) towards the domain of voice user interfaces (VUI).

The potential for VUI is huge: Gartner suggests that, by 2020, 30% of all web browsing sessions will be carried out without a screen. Voice will still need to continue to live alongside the more traditional interface for a while longer: it’s not always appropriate to use voice input, and there is still a lot of improvement to be done in the conversational systems.

The challenge, from an experience design perspective, is to really understand how people currently interact with all the various devices using VUI, and see how they can impact users’ day-to-day lives in a positive way.

As we move into the world of VUI, branding too will need a rethink. Non-pixel-based experiences will challenge us to rethink a brand’s personality and portrayal.

Make it accessible

In 2018, designers must finally embrace the fact that accessibility is fundamental to providing the best experience for everyone. The subject has been discussed for years (the first guidelines were published way back in 1995), but still is not top of the agenda: for example: fewer than a third of UK council websites are accessible to disabled people.

Despite the advances in assistive technologies, available bandwidth and computing speed, it’s still difficult for people with disabilities and motion or sight deficiencies to use software. Given that 1 in 5 people in the UK have a disability, it’s a huge issue.

But the tide is turning. Let’s ensure we make 2018 the year we put accessibility front and centre. It’s about designing and developing for as many people as possible. It’s about doing the right thing and creating a more inclusive web.

Every second counts

It’s official: Google has announced that, from July, slow mobile pages will hurt your search ranking. Most websites are nowhere near the halfway point of Google's benchmarks which means there is plenty of time to get ahead of the competition.

Performance is user experience. The average online shopper expects pages to load in two seconds or less, down from four seconds in 2006; after three seconds, up to 40% will abandon a site. Our goal, as experience designers, is to evoke emotions that produce desired outcomes. All too often, particularly on mobile, this is not happening.

Including speed as part of the design process is no different from accounting for the limitations of other creative mediums. So let’s continue to embrace those limitations in 2018.

Password reset

There are certain design features that tend to cause unnecessary confusion, cognitive load or frustration: passwords are well up there. (The hamburger menu too, but that’s one for another day.)

So many digital services that we interact with on a daily basis require a login/password combination to access. We are encouraged to commit this information to memory and need to enter them each time we login, from whatever device we may be using. Passwords are getting more complicated, often due to overly complex security requirements, and many of us continually make use of password recovery. And follow a long (and boring) procedure to reset.

Verification codes have helped ease the security pain, but the two-step verification process often requires access to more than one device, tricky if you are out and about.

Welcome to Biometric Authentication. This year we should see less traditional passwords and more use of facial, voice recognition and fingerprints.

So, say goodbye to long, complicated passwords: you are your password.

The year of empathy

To help our clients create real value for their customers, we need to understand those customers even better than ever. Understanding underpins experience design. Let 2018 be the year of empathy.

Gareth Sully
Posted by Gareth Sully

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