Although the term ‘User Experience’ was not used until the early 1990s – when it was first used by Don Norman, an electrical engineer and cognitive psychologist for Apple Electronics – humans have been designing increasingly functional and enjoyable products throughout history.
This is because superior customer experiences sell products, which is also why UX design will continue to be of great importance to businesses for decades to come.
So, what can we expect from UX design in the future?
Broadly speaking, more of the same: businesses will use the latest technologies to provide superior experiences. More specifically, there are a couple of exciting technologies which may revolutionize the way we provide great user experiences: Virtual (and Augmented) Reality and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Virtual Reality and Gesture Technology
The way we interact with computers has evolved significantly: the very first computers received input from punched tapes, which users had to make and then load. Later, the keyboard and mouse dominated. More recently, phones, watches, and computers have made use of touch technology to improve usability.
In the future, almost every device will be smart – we’ve already seen a huge proliferation of smart devices – from smart printers to smart refrigerators – as part of the Internet of Things (IoT) trend. But the keyboard, mouse and touchscreen all offer a poor user experience when used outside of the context of the devices for which they were designed: we’ll need new ways of interacting.
Recent trends have been towards voice control, but the future will also see an increase in gesture technology: instead of tapping on icons we’ll be waving our arms. More excitingly, companies such as Facebook are investing in research into brain-computer interfaces which will allow users to use computers with their mind. Why move or speak, when you can simply think?
Brain-computer interfaces will combine with virtual and augmented reality to shape and improve future user experiences. For example, let’s assume you need directions. Today, users have to take out their smartphones, open up their map app and input an address to receive directions. Imagine, instead, that a user will simply need to think that they need directions to a certain location and directions will appear on an augmented reality overlay provided by their glasses. Simple, easy, convenient.
Upping the Stakes: Artificial Intelligence
Research into AI will take UX to the next level. Imagine a world in which you won’t need to take action because an AI will already have figured out what you need and provided it for you. Here are a few examples of what may be possible:
- You visit your favorite news website, which tracks how you use it and what you look at. An AI uses this information to change the appearance of the website as you use it, to better suit your needs and preferences. The website could look totally different for you and your friend; each of you will be receiving the unique experience that suits you best.
- You’re traveling to a meeting when you hit an unexpected delay due to traffic. Your artificial intelligence is tracking your movement and detects that you will be late. It automatically sends out a message to other participants informing them of your delay and requesting a change to your schedule.
- You come home from work stressed. The artificial intelligence that runs your home calculates your mood by looking at your blood pressure readings, facial expression and other factors. Sensing your mood, and based on your past behavior, it automatically adjusts the lighting, music and other environmental factors to reduce your stress.
In the past, User Experience has meant improving the way a customer carries out a specific task or activity. With AI, the customer won’t even have to act – the perfect user experience.