1. Conversational interfaces
Millions of voice-activated smart home devices (like Amazon Echo, Echo Dot and Google Assistant) were sold just during the holiday season in 2016, and it was a shock to some. The surprises are over. Conversation is something we all know to engage in. We’re not sure how to talk to our machines fluently yet, but we’re trying harder. With devices in our cars and homes “listening” and waiting for us to talk to them, I predict the trend will continue throughout 2017 and well beyond. There’s no doubt in my mind — we will talk to everything.
How will the trend show itself in our non-verbal digital lives? User interfaces that are more complex or require more commitment will be softened by the use of conversational interfaces. You’ll see more forms that ask you questions with binary answers, and you’ll probably experience your very first chatbot (if you haven’t already).
No apologies here, folks. Design is now a conversation.
2. Continued convergence of UX & CX
This barely seems like a “trend,” but it’s still worth mentioning in a world with huge digital divides in demographics like age and income. Everyone needs to be reminded that User Experience (traditionally believed to be online) and Customer Experience (traditionally believed to be offline) is converging. We’re seeing an industrial-revolution-like move towards digital, even in some of the world’s oldest and slowest-moving industries. Every company is becoming a software company.
How can you experience this firsthand? Chances are, you already have. One great example is a seismic move by physical stores (like grocers and big box stores) to offer “order online, pick it up” services. And let’s be real. Who wants to shop for printer toner?
3. Tool glut
Since the decade-long advances in internet speeds, there have been some amazing online tools introduced that have become standard in our industry. While, in the past, Adobe products typically ruled the dyed-in-the-wool landscape of tool sets, they are now scratching to keep hold of their market share. Cloud-based tools now own the crown. They’re agile, they rapidly improve, and they’re cheap. In fact, most employers in 2017 require knowledge of Sketch and InVision, and are rapidly excluding traditional UX desktop tools like Adobe CC Photoshop and Omnigraffle from the mix.
Still, the fight isn’t over. Like a pack of rabid dogs, startups all over the world are clawing for Adobe’s scraps. Tools like UXPin and Wireframe.cc are constantly improving and they’re doing a pretty good job holding their own. In fact, they’re multiplying like rabbits. Is that a mix of metaphors? Yes! But it’s accurate. There are tools for every step in the UX process.What could probably be characterized as curiosity and excitement will soon turn to confusion and frustration. Giant ugh. This just can’t last.
In my opinion, the end of Pixate was just the beginning. (And not because they failed, but because they succeeded. Global juggernauts like Google eat amazing teams like this for breakfast — talent acquisition is real.) There will be a lot more startups shuttering their services this year, and we’re going to see existing services adding to their tools to aim at centralization (just put it all in one place!). There’s just not enough UX market share to go around. A lot of us are aiming at true tool agnosticism, but we’re still human. We get used to the tools our teams decide on and we like continuity.
4. Passive purchases
Armed with the success of monthly box subscriptions (like StitchFix and KiwiCrate) as well as scheduled deliveries (like Amazon and Walmart), customers will continue to demand, “Just send it to me, already!” and push Passive Purchases into the forefront of sales strategies. With just a small nudge, customers are agreeing to have clothes, jewelry, makeup, toys and tools straight to their home every month with the escape hatch of free shipping returns with zero commitment.
Companies like LeTote (shown in the video above) will continue to find new (and amazing!) ways to get us to buy stuff in a way we never even knew we wanted.
5. UX in the boardroom
By now, you probably know that UX is a big deal. It’s made its way mainstream. And just like when it happened to me during the mainstream popularity of Radiohead, hearing someone else talk about it without the deep knowledge you have is both a little tough and also a little justifying. Well, call me justified. I (along with my UX brothers and sisters in arms) have been singing this tune from the farthest reaches of our minimalist offices. And it’s time someone holding the purse strings knows the tune.
This year, the C-suite is humming. At its best, the proper execution of UX design is amazing. UX design is both artful and scientific. UX design is full of ideas and rationale. UX design is quick to see problems and resolve them. The days of the board room filled with egos sparring with “new ideas for the app” are ending, and leadership knows it. In a way, the boardroom is happier. They always knew Johnson’s idea to “make the logo bigger” was terrible. Now, as UX-led improvements are spawning profits, leaders of major corporations are becoming advocates of UX design.
The process is unfolding right now, say industry experts. “The UX Tipping Point is the moment when an organization no longer compromises on well-designed user experiences,” says Jared Spool.
“Once this organizational tipping point is reached, UX and design aren’t separate from the organization – they’re what the organization is about. People work together to create great experiences for users, customers, suppliers, and employees alike. You can’t measure the cost of UX work anymore. It’s a constant part of everything they do.”
6. Backlash to Material Design
Without getting into the middle of a fight here, I want you to know something. This isn’t where I live right this moment.
Software teams who are trying to align design elements across 8 global offices need Material Design. And, at least in my experience, they want it (mostly). Trying to move teams of people in the same direction is a huge feat for any human. Ask any coach. Some companies need a huge, standard tool box for its development team to move forward. Before Material Design, there were other things that filled this hole. It wasn’t the first design standard, and it won’t be the last.
But, a backlash is bound to happen. Imagine Walmart showing up to your boutique, high-end bespoke clothing shop and telling you what styles of clothing should be “standard” among your designers and producers. Yeah, it’s not a great idea, particularly in forward-thinking design/build teams. There’s some hate brewing out there. Google has already infiltrated our personal lives in amazingly intimate ways. Now, it’s going to take over our work lives, too? Expect the hate to get public this year, and by at least one very popular designer.
7. New base for assumptions
This year, we’re feeling pretty confident about the direction we’re headed. We’re occasionally surprised by a different kind of technology or a new tool, but there’s a new base for assumptions.
For example, future clients can be confident that websites will be built with a responsive approach. (Responsive design allows your website to intentionally and gracefully adapt to the device with which your users are viewing it.) What does this mean for clients? You don’t have to walk through the door having to ask the question, “Will this look good on mobile?”
Another new base assumption is that content can come from anywhere. In 2017, clients are no longer expected to generate all the content. Agencies like Webolutions have people who specialize in content creation, and do so with wonderful skill and deliberate alignment to strategy.
My favorite new base assumption: Quality Assurance (QA). The QA process has often lacked the functionality it needed to integrate seamlessly into the client-producer relationship. Not anymore. We now deploy some amazing tools like GatherContent and Insite that allow us to collaborate in real time with clients and incorporate workflow and review features that eliminate the confusion of managing multiple overlapping .doc files during content and deployment phases. Yay, future!