Is 2020 the Year of UX?

We are entering a new age of web design and development, much like when the web starting evolving in the late 80’s and early 90’s.  The difference is now there are far more options available for viewing the web.  With the invention of new web-capable mobile devices with varying screen sizes and resolutions, it becomes overwhelming to create applications for each device and tablet operating system, screen resolution, and size.  John Herlihy, Google’s VP of online sales, believes that the desktop has about three years before the phone replaces it – and he stated that two years ago, so the countdown has begun. In the article “The Mobile Future of UX” by Robert Hoekman he states that most tablet users will find everything they need in an increasingly cheaper tablet market.   Intel and Samsung are working hard to be the ones to provide those cheap tablets.  Consumers will realize their tablet is no longer chained to a PC, so simple everyday users who don’t have a need for anything more than a tablet will no longer find a use for Personal Computers.

Apple and Windows are both releasing tablets that are unchained and with the release of Windows 10 and Samsung’s Tablet to support the Windows Touch Screen operating system, we may find that ”responsive design” is the only solution.    Below is a diagram of display sizes and layouts User Architects now need to account for in the mobile and web space.  We call this “Responsive Design”, because the application needs to be coded in such a way as to respond to what device is displaying it, and show the correct design for the screen size and rotation. (Thanks to Kayla Knight from Smashing Magazine for the below diagram.)

Smashing Magazine writes, “Web design should automatically adjust” believing everything should be designed specifically for touchscreen and a wide array of touchscreen-enabled devices.

(An example of a responsive website, The Boston Globe, displayed on multiple devices)

The need to design increasingly for touch screen as multi-touch, gestures and real-time 3D human interface technology increases to impact user experience.  User Experience doesn’t just put lipstick on the pig.  UX looks at how the consumers are influenced to use applications, and how technology changes the way consumers interact with various interfaces.  If the interface changes entirely to a gesture-based application, how will that impact design?  Hot spots and Usability take on a whole new role when whole body gestures are used to access application points.  Not to mention voice activation and voice navigation.  Intel has just announced its intention to release new software that is shifting to “one based on perceptual computing where devices will take on human-like senses to perceive the user’s intentions” utilizing gesture integration, facial recognition (Samsung and Apple) and voice recognition (Apple, Amazon, and Google), and bringing “augmented reality to life” virtual reality.

For instance, the use of gestures in gaming has changed the way consumers navigate eliminating joysticks and controllers like Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox 360 that can sense when you are in a room, even working its way into your everyday devices.  Tap to share images with Samsung Phones, and on your iPhone ask Siri how to get to the closest Starbucks.  Instead of unlocking a phone, going to the browser and typing in Starbucks.  The user doesn’t land on the Starbucks site for locations, Siri bypasses all that and goes directly to Google Maps and plots locations.  How can Usability counter ease of use, when applications are built to bypass anything you design and get the information in another manner entirely?  It’s up to UX to build a roadmap to functionality that can commandeer or work with or around applications that can potentially hijack the user’s experience.  UX strives to stay ahead of trends and think of new ways to treat information to lead consumers down the path to buying a particular product or perceiving a Brand a certain way.

As UX We are Taught to “Think Disruptive”

User Experience Architects and Designers have to think disruptively and think outside the box to get inspiration on how to make the user’s lives easier.  Usability Experts also make the business see the needs of the users over the impact to their current business models and methods.  Companies that are eager enough to make a change that might differentiate themselves from their competitors and make them market leaders are thus disrupting the market.

Luke Williams, a Fellow at Frog Design and Adjunct Professor of Innovation at NYU Stern School of Business states, “Disruptive Thinking utilizes unconventional strategies to look at an industry in an entirely new way and drives innovation by introducing something totally different,” he explains.  By seeing through what usually gets ignored and paying attention to what’s not obvious, he used the rental car experience as an example.

There’s an expectation with rental cars that you will see the customer, complete paperwork and rent cars by the day,” he explained. But what happens when you invert all of these attributes and, “You don’t see the customer, you skip the paperwork, and you rent cars by the hour? You have the Zipcar.” he said.

Williams also proposed five stages of Disruptive Thinking that every Usability Expert has already committed to heart:

  • Craft a disruptive hypothesis
  • Define a disruptive market opportunity
  • Generate several disruptive ideas
  • Shape a disruptive solution
  • Make a disruptive pitch

The Zipcar is just one in many innovations UX people have brought to bear on the market as innovative ways to take the consumer’s needs ahead of the business and build a better user experience and mold the business model to acclimate to these changes.

So Why is 2020 the “Year of UX”?

Brands are realizing that their brand identity isn’t engaging their users.  So now Brands are scrambling to try and get their identities in place and evoke those feelings of brand loyalty and a gut reaction to their brand that is positive and consistent.   User Experience is reviving stagnant markets and altering the trajectory of businesses with innovative thinking that takes the user perspective into the mind and bends the business model to support those consumers.  A recent study by Google (Google hails ‘The New Multi-screen World: Understanding Cross-Platform Consumer Behavior”) states that 90% of the consumers they surveyed move between different devices sometimes simultaneously to complete a goal.  77% of the time consumers watch TV they have another device active and are searching or shopping while viewing content.  Consumers are engaging in new activities to get more content from what they are watching and it is up to Usability Experts to figure out ways to tap into these markets to mine for gold.  If it is an application the consumer can access while watching a TV show, hidden content available through Shazam or some other type of mobile or web application, it’s up to UX to understand the prevalence of sequential usage between devices and identify that opportunity and how it can be leveraged with your product.

What Defines (UX) User Experience?

A color or a specific design isn’t what defines UX; it’s a feeling of accomplishment and pride.  It doesn’t sell directly, but it immerses the user in the brand experience. There is rarely need for a description of a company, rather the experience reveals the brand’s value to the user in a natural and intuitive manner.  The User Experience is a reflection of the business it symbolizes and is more important than what it looks like.  Consumers like innovation and new ideas, and flock to use new technology and devices.  So it is safe to say that innovative thinking and intuitive design can only enhance the user’s experience and drive brand loyalty.  So what defines User Experience is innovation, and the ability to be nimble enough to make those leaps in technology and is responsive enough to leave no one behind.  User Experience isn’t simply looking forward, but keeping in mind those stragglers and business users who might not have the latest browser installed.  User Experience is about knowing the users in the past, present and the future.  User Experience Designers like to innovate but also understand enough to not move the line too much, and when to go an entirely new direction.

Responsive Website Demands

It’s not an impossible task to build a responsive website capable of taking on the many varied states of access to its web assets, it’s just a question of how far a company is willing to take it.  How many screen resolutions does a company want to build optimally to reach their users, and why exactly are those users going to that website?  If it is something as simple as pushing a payment to a utility company, it may make sense to make a simple mobile application, but be sure your user base is utilizing that specific mobile platform, for instance, iPhone, Android or Windows Mobile.

Testing and Usability can be the biggest asset to your brand’s web strategy.  That’s where UX comes into play, we know where to look for your user’s information and comb through the comments to see why they aren’t using your web application or mobile application and determine what it is that would make a better experience for the users and make them lifelong customers.

Do you go to the bank or take a picture of the check to make a deposit now?  Thank [x]cube for the innovation.  Along with this innovation, they developed ways to make banking more secure in a digital world, a truly disruptive company of epic proportions.  [x]cube Labs developed the Chase mobile application and introduced many new innovations to how we do banking today.  Users of Chase Bank’s online iPhone app were more likely to return to Chase after switching banks because “their new bank’s mobile application was inferior.” [x]cube impacted banking on a global scale when it was seeing a definitive downturn in revenue and people fleeing banks at an alarming rate because of financial scandals.  Suddenly people were fiercely loyal to a bank because of ease of use of something as simple as a mobile application.  What this tells us is that a company can make loyal customers with User-Centered Design, so it is valuable and can be quantified.

What’s Next?

As tablets become unchained to PCs and users find more and more functional uses for tablets and mobile devices, the Year of UX explodes upon us in 2019.  We find ourselves faced with making fluid designs for all types of media and “responsive design” is now a part of our vocabulary along with Usability and testing for User Acceptance.   PC World states in “The Next Big Thing(s) in Tech” that we need to say goodbye to the PC!  So what is the next device that will emerge and penetrate the market so thoroughly as the iPhone and iPad?  By building responsively your digital presence can adapt to these new demands while delivering a relevant and seamless experience to your consumers no matter the new device it’s displayed upon. Why is it the Year of UX? Brands will find they have more need of Usability Experts than any year previously, to build brand loyalty and think disruptively and meet the consumers needs no matter where they go, otherwise, they will be left behind in the virtual dust.  User Experience Architects and Designers question why companies are doing a thing a certain way when the users don’t want it and bang away trying to mold the businesses into being more consumer savvy.  User Experience is the voice of your users unchained and ready to make a change for the better!  There has never been a better year to make ourselves a voice of disruptive change, watch out or your business could be one of the ones we leave behind while innovating another…

Reference Articles

  1. The Mobile Future of UX by Robert Hoekman
  2. In three years desktops will be irrelevant – Google Sales Chief by John Kennedy of SiliconeRepublic.com
  3. Responsive Web Design, A List Apart
  4. Responsive Web Design: What It Is and How to Use It – Ref. Smashing Magazine – By Kayla Knight
  5. Intel: Low-Power Processors to Fuel Future of Mobile Computing Innovation posted by IntelPR in News Stories on intel.com
  6. The Future of UX Work, Human Factors
  7. CSS Media Query for Mobile is Fool’s Gold, Cloud Four
  8. Designing for a Responsive Web with Heuristic Methods, Design Reviver
  9. Examples Of Flexible Layouts With CSS3 Media Queries, Zoe Mickley Gillenwater
  10. The Big Web Show #9: Responsive Web Design, 5by5 Studios
  11. How to Use CSS3 Media Queries to Create a Mobile Version of Your Website, Smashing Magazine
  12. Application: Rapid Prototyping of Adaptive CSS and Responsive Design, ProtoFluid
  13. Handcrafted CSS: More Bulletproof Web Design, Dan Cederholm (printed book)
  14. Responsive Web Design Wikipedia Definition
  15. The Next Big Thing(s) in Tech by David Daw of PCWorld
  16. Flexible Web Book, Zoe Mickley Gillenwater (printed book)
  17. Smart Customers Abandon Stupid Companies by Bruce Kasanoff on Bloomberg Business Week