How can UX professionals plan for AI as it shapes the future of the industry?
Scan through any tech blog and you’ll most likely see numerous posts about Artificial Intelligence and how it is revolutionizing just about every industry.
It will change UX, but AI is not going to take over our jobs. AI should excite us, not scare us. In fact, it will only help us work more efficiently and create better human-centered designs (as ironic as that may sound right now).
I became interested in AI a couple years ago when I was having my taxes done at H&R Block. During the process, I was introduced to IBM Watson. Watson can synthesize massive amounts of information and then generate possible solutions.
Watson worked alongside the tax professional to assess my options based on my tax situation. Watson did, and continues to consume and analyze data on a large scale.
The following ideas are only predictions. I’m only just beginning to learn about AI and thinking about how it will impact the industry I work in. At this time, this post is what I anticipate the future to look like and what impact AI will have on the future of UX.
Planning for Artificial Intelligence
AI will be an evolution, not something that will happen overnight. Without a doubt, the world will be changing. Many jobs that we are used to seeing today, will evolve into something else. Jobs that haven’t even been defined yet, will be the hot jobs of the future.
To be prepared, it’s good to keep up and think about the future of what your job might look like. Be open to new possibilities and you’ll adapt just fine.
AI will change the UX role, but there will still be a need for user experience professionals. In fact, there’s reason to believe that the need will increase – see the State of UX in the Enterprise 2019 survey, where it’s the number one trend concerning UX teams in 2019.
It’s nothing to worry about, as UX professionals we’re used to constantly learning to keep up with an ever-changing field.
To better understand the current culture of user research and UX in enterprise organizations, download our latest State of UX in the Enterprise report and discover all the data, trends and insights that are most important to UX teams right now:
Analyzing huge amounts of data
Data is nothing new, the amount of data available has been steadily increasing. As time goes on, the amount of data being kept is going to increase exponentially.
There are more and more products that users regularly interact with: sites, applciations, and other digital services. UXers rely on this data currently, this will become more and more important as AI becomes part of our everyday work.
What is the ‘AI plan’?
There’s not really a set plan for AI yet, and it will always be changing as the technology becomes more sophisticated. Right now, it’s good to plan for change.
Knowing what possibilities come along with artificial intelligence and keeping up with the most recent happenings in the AI field, is a great way to anticipate future possibilities.
The future of AI and user experience
User research will be heavily impacted by AI.
There are many ways to do research. Things like usability studies, card sorting, design trend research, interviews, surveys, etc. are all ways to learn more about users and what they need.
AI will benefit user experience professionals by helping them collect, analyze, and aggregate data. Analytics continues to be important so that an accurate analysis of the users’ behaviors will help define the growth of the product.
Artificial intelligence will help the UX professional make sense of the data, process the information quickly, and provide insights.
Machine learning will help with some of the more basic tasks. Take A/B testing for example. Currently you have to set up the test, monitor the test and analytics, and synthesise the findings.
Eventually, there will be little to no effort required on the UX front. Machines will be able to take the user data and identify where things can be changed and optimized.
With the ability to process and synthesize so much user data quickly, AI will help identify what design changes will help the user. Is it a different button style? A complete page reorder? Machine learning will do this so quickly and iteratively; continuous improvement will be a constant thing.
The UX professional will be doing less of the test setup and will be in charge of overseeing the process.
It’s exciting to hear of products that optimize themselves. The research process will be improved by AI which will allow for more ownership and time spent on the strategic vision of the product.
Rather than spending a lot of time on the task of making sense of and documenting the research findings, UXers will be heavily involved in the product direction.
The more things change, the more they remain the same. As long as we’re designing the experience for humans, research should be a human experience. The focus will always be how to gain a deeper understanding of human behaviors.
Human to human conversations and interviewing won’t change much even when AI becomes more mainstream in the industry. No matter how advanced artificial intelligence becomes, there is no substitute for learning about the user’s journey during user interviews and observation.
Visual design and wireframing
The good news is, some of the more repetitive tasks will be a thing of the past. I’ve done more than my share of cropping, contrast adjusting, etc. and look forward to the future of streamlining work like this. The behind the scenes tasks like this, will be automated to some extent.
Many UX professionals have a visual design as part of something they do on the job and some UXers specialize in visual design. Rather than spending time on minor production tasks, visual designers will have more of a director role.
They will be overseeing things, performing research, and doing general concept work. There will still be a need to create the design strategy, manage the project, and have stakeholder meetings.
AI will help identify changes that need to be made without a lot of designer intervention. Maybe there’s a need to provide multiple versions or layouts. AI would power the needed technology to produce multiple versions/layouts.
The designer will still need to verify and approve the designs of course, but AI is going to save them a lot of time.
AI is really taking off. Be sure to check out some of Google’s AI Experiments. You can get an idea of what a huge time saver AI will be. Wouldn’t it be great to have your rough sketches quickly turn into polished wireframes?
Auto Draw follows a similar concept, it’s only going to improve as time goes on. You can sketch something and it will turn into a better, cleaner image.
There is a lot of user data that has been analyzed. When users draw their own sketches, machine learning is used to learn about what users are trying to draw.
AI and wireframing
Wireframing and prototyping can get repetitive. What if AI could help with the process? Instead of taking sketches and creating wireframes from them, what if the process was simplified?
How great would it be if a whiteboard sketch could instantly be converted into a workable prototype? Take a look at sketches being turned into a prototype, this technology isn’t too far away from being integrated into our daily design life.
Thanks to AI, all of these technology optimizations will allow designers to have time for more important product decisions.
Focus on the design system
Designers are responsible for creating UIs that are optimized for the user. AI will help with testing designs with users, but best practices will be the responsibility of the UX professional. It will be a very long time, if ever, that AI takes over the UI visual design work.
Design systems aren’t a new thing. Many companies have one and both designers and developers are finding value in this tool. Design systems will continue to be important because they contain the visuals and guidelines for the components in the application.
If you watched the video above, you can see how rapid prototyping will improve the process. The components in the design system will serve as the building blocks for this. A design process using AI will render these components from just a rough sketch.
More interfaces to design
Design is going to look a bit different for many designers. At this time it seems that the majority of UX professionals work on websites, applications, or other digital products.
AI is going to be involved in every aspect of our daily life. Because of this, user experience becomes important in everything that we interact with. In some cases, the lines between what we think of as user experience and industrial design, might become blurred.
When self driving cars become a reality, an experience designer might team up with an automotive industrial designer to design the digital interior experience of the car. Homes are becoming increasingly connected, user experience designers might find that they are creating wireframes for a UI on a ‘smart door’.
No matter what product designers are working on, there will be a great opportunity to provide a more personalized experience.
AI will present the opportunity to give the user the right content at the right time. Experiences will be personalized for the user so it becomes less about a set flow and more about how to present an experience that lets that particular user work more efficiently.
Let’s say you have designed a Pet Sitting application and have been keeping notes on a particular user and how they consistently use the product. 90% of the time this particular user goes right to the pet report and reads through the list.
Data is being generated about how and when the user chooses to take another action.
With AI, a personalized experience can be created. This user does not need the default application behavior of going to the homepage and making a selection since they want to go right to the pet report most of the time.
AI also knows what is happening the other 10% of the time.
The algorithm knows that on Fridays, the user does not go right to the report. They go to the live cam to keep an eye on their pet. Fridays are the only day where the users pet is alone in the morning and they want to keep an eye on them. When the user logs in on Friday mornings, the first thing they see is the pet cam.
Another user type may have a different way of using the application. By knowing what they like to do at different times of day, different days of the week, holidays, etc, a personalized experience can be created.
Personalized experiences exist now, but there is so much more potential with AI. It still continues to be a more manual process. Teams look at the analytics, user type, and provide the most personal experience with the data that they have.
AI will dig a little deeper and provide insight into possible use cases and scenarios. When AI takes over the process, the ability to make them hyper-personalized will become common and accessible for more companies and products.
Chatbots and virtual assistants have made great progress in the last few years. They are becoming more ‘natural’ and will continue to do so. They are another way to personalize the experience for the user. Each user is unique and it’s an opportunity to design a personalized script and account for individual needs.
This is an important one. Just because you can do something, it doesn’t mean that you should. Ethics is not just a UXers responsibility but as user advocates, some of it will most likely fall onto you. This is a complex topic that requires a lot of study and becomes more important as AI advances.
Designing responsibly seems pretty obvious to UX professionals. AI will play a significant role in shaping the user experience of products and services. It’s important to think of what data and scenarios could be potentially harmful. If careful consideration isn’t taken, harm could be done on a large scale.
It’s an exciting time to be a UX professional. New possibilities will open up as AI matures and becomes part of the UX process. AI isn’t going to change the fundamentals of UX. No matter how advanced artificial intelligence becomes, it’s important to be user focused and create the best experiences for your users.
If you’d like to know more about how UserZoom can help test, measure and improve your own site’s UX, please get in touch!
Main image by Arif Wahid
Abbey Fitzgerald has worked in various digital roles throughout her career. She feels very fortunate to help students with their learning journey and spends her day designing educational software. She loves talking to product users and collaborating with an amazing team to create useful, usable and enjoyable products. When not in front of a backlit device, she dabbles in charcoal and oil paints on location.