The digital landscape has evolved rapidly, and it is commonplace as a consequence, that it is making demands in the evolution of our role as designers. According to Gartner by 2020, 30% of all web browsing sessions will be carried out without a screen as new audio-centric technologies make way. This being one of such predictions, our cognizance of how disruptive technologies, (imagine mixed reality, artificial intelligence, smart home devices) is taking huge steps towards mainstream adoption, signals an indicator to brace ourselves to ubiquitous transformation it would bring in its wake.
User Experience Design has parallely matured rapidly over the last number of years with deliverables spanning across — desktop and mobile, web and native, mouse and touch, with a clear emergence of ‘experience design' as a focus. What has remained constant in this whirlwind is the fundamental behavior and needs of the user himself.
How we move in pace with these unprecedented changes in technology while rapidly understanding the underlying behind the aspired needs of users (which change with context) would be a crucial question to unravel for growth and survival in 21st century.
Design Thinking: What we saw in 2018?
As an year of promise 2018 brought humongous opportunities for designers, design agencies, and consultancies working at the intersection of technology and design and likewise. Some things which filled in our bags were.
Growing Value for Design: Design thinking has long been a global buzzword, but less understood and invested into. When we say design saw a growth in its value, we mean an implicit growth in awareness of people made business get its due. Business grew as economy pushed new product development and innovation, fuelling the need of strategic design services additionally.
Enhanced Diversity in work: With clients across domains bracing to engage in transformational work, opportunities to sink teeths in different type of projects was created. This exacerbated learning through a healthy mix of work across enterprise or traditional industries-to diving into new age work intersecting with likes of IoT and AI. What stood out was the how design was not looked at in aiding standalone products (think of standalone UI interfaces) but accepted by businesses to transform entire processes and applications through mapping of comprehensive user journeys.
Consultations in approaching business problems: Corporations becoming digitally mature created a spurt in demand for consultation of design in understanding business. A major shift in the epicenter occurred as businesses came forward for consultations across intersections of design, technology and data leaving behind patterns of looking for segmented counsel .
Revising of our patterns: In sync with present times, work happening on a variety of mediums and interfaces of a newer format gained momentum. As set-top boxes, tv sticks, AR/VR systems and voice automated devices became commonplace among populace, designers ensured the relevancy and user-centricity around the use of these products to be in place.
Opportunity brings own set of challenges
And yet how every opportunity brought in its own set of challenges, is seeding ideas to learn and become future ready. A few being…
Catering the emerging need of understanding business goals holistically: As companies demanded integral end to end services, traditional designers faced an urgent challenge to upskill and burn more lamps to keep in pace with the rapid changes in demand, propelling urgency for cross-skill training. Hiring was stagnant as attracting the right talent (non traditional with cross-functional skills) remained an uphill journey with a paucity of people with the right mix of skills and experience.
Ensuring Cross collaboration: Integrating a media service provider's UX design with google's device would require a designer, developer and sometimes a data scientist to seamlessly understand the constraints of the interactions(and technology) to work together. Silo breaking remained a constant struggle to ensure that these new technologies were ready for adoption by the users.
Finding differentiation in competition: For organizations which have traditional ways approaching design for designing standalone products/interfaces, the market saturated with independent designers, agencies and in-house teams, bringing in competition in terms of quality vs time vs delivery. Differentiation in positioning became incumbent to re-establish value.
Design Thinking: What might be in store in 2019?
Understand data: One area which will open up with a plethora of opportunities is the ability to convert data to intelligence. With fast changing data streaming in large volumes, one who leverages to understand and monetize data would bring immense value to business. Plugging in gaps of data discovery to create smarter insights and visualizations would be an investment worth taking a bet on.
Build for niche capabilities: Fortune companies may yet not approach ux agencies for consultations, in the presence of specialists they base reliability upon. Building capability in specific and emerging areas of importance could add numbers to your revenue figure, be it a technology or an approach.
Diversify portfolio with expertise gained in newer sectors/technologies: Most millenials are eager to work for the technologies which are in buzz. Spurt in the growth of off the shelves solutions has also reduced coding time to learn and integrate to build solutions. Experience of work across domains and an ability to integrate and build new solutions will always be an irresistible mix to have.
The trends that might impact business and design thinker
As you plan for growth, it would yet be prudent to watch-out for some key trends which might impact the industry the coming year. These would not only impact how we live, work, interact but guide strategic decisions for our collective future.
Data security and governance on radar: The spurt in lawsuits concerning data breaches growing every year (2017 Data Breach Litigation Report indicated a 7% rise in lawsuits filed from 2016) give a clear indication how compliance with new data protection and privacy laws are of critical importance. Although Data security may be on everyone's minds these days, corporations need to strategize in pace with both technological advances and regulations, in an ecosystem where data collection and storage becomes increasingly varied and dispersed.
AI becoming a reality: Imagine chatbots obviating the need of your website. As virtual assistants, media specific to your personal preferences, tailored content, facial recognition were already a part of the discourse this year, the next will move towards making AI mainstream, impacting aspects of our lives in a truly ubiquitous and meaningful way.
Digital transformation of traditional players- . Just as banking, Life sciences and telecom have been transformed adopting the digital agenda integrally, many in the traditional manufacturing sector will be seen progressing towards encapsulating digital maturity in practice. Although many are still in their stages of digital enrichment and process automation embedding the agenda of Industry 4.0 would enable their workforce to put digital, flexible manufacturing into practice, moving towards a comprehensive digital ecosystem, creating newer opportunities.
Rise of the digital consultant: One approach of solving complex business problems might be to foster collaborations between multi-functional teams (cohesive working-brand/tech/design/media). Another would be where cross-functional training could build consultants who would approach business problems with a wider frame of reference integrating multidisciplinary knowledge. Corporate maturity will grow as the newer generation adapts to the role and becomes a part of workforce.
A smaller world of smarter devices: IHS survey estimates that there are 20 billion connected devices globally as of this year, and is growing steadily. Augmented reality and wearables, objects that speak will soon flood our day to life. Whether these new devices face an uphill battle for time and attention, or seamlessly integrate as a part of living experience would determine a lot of future course of work.
The Future for Designers
The future is multidisciplinary. The new-age agenda for designers to adopt would be:
Agility: As technologies upgrade, change and mature, it would pay heed to be agile on a continuous curve of learning, unlearning and relearning
Thinking Systemically: Looking at business problems holistically from end to end, widening your frame of reference, zooming in and out just in time would be immensely and increasingly valued
Building Skills of collaboration: Future solutions would be build on the plinth of collaborative problem solving. Practicing empathy, understanding customers/colleagues and how to make yourself understood would help you build integral and the most relevant solutions.
An exciting time heralds ahead for all of us! Let us not forget the intentionality of our existence and the purpose to serve our users as we progress ahead.
The author is founder and CEO of “Think Design”, a User Experience strategist, Designer, Speaker and Educator.