This is the last blog of a series of articles that examine different topics of UX design. All this week we have been publishing blogs regarding the role of UX design in software development, UX methods, how to build an omnichannel experience and the role of psychology in visual perception. We close our UX design week with this article that discusses some of the most important UX trends for 2018.
The job of creating meaningful experiences is just evolving and the business landscape is nowadays more complex and competitive. Users expect speed, personalization and efficiency, and companies need to embrace the new possibilities to establish high quality interactions. That is why, in this this article we want to discuss three key trends for the state of UX design in 2018: what it means for companies to design in an era of immediacy, the rise of voice-based systems, and the emerging role of the UX writer. Also, we talk about neural marketing which promises to change the way we understand customers and has garnered plenty of attention, although there remains plenty of scepticism about it.
We are living in the age of immediacy and connectivity. Sharing our experiences through social media in real time has become a habit. We have access to other people “stories” and we can look at what they do on a daily basis. Customers are not willing to wait more than 5 seconds for a video or a webpage to respond and they expect to find what they are looking for in an instant. Also, they are constantly exposed to tones of images and information which make it challenging for companies to grab their attention. What does this mean for product design? How can companies provide valuable and fast experiences while responding to users exactly when they need it?
Firstly, designers need to establish strategies to catch the attention of the user. It is crucial to provide value from the first moment of the customer interaction to be able to keep guiding them through the product. Attractive images or concise and compelling headlines play a role in preventing users from leaving the site within the first moments of interaction. However, it’s important not to overwhelm them; measure how much content you offer in the first encounter and how you will provide value progressively. Once you have their attention, it’s important to maintain their interest through their journey. That is why designers must be careful when choosing features and content to avoid unnecessary information. Users value interfaces that provide interesting but brief content.
Omnichannel experiences also play a crucial role in designing for the age of immediacy. Users want to find rapid responses in every channel, and this requires the understanding of the capabilities of every touchpoint and the expectations and needs of users at a given time. Value, variety and personalization at a rapid delivery speed is what customers demand. For instance, if users can find the location of a restaurant in less than 5 seconds, they will expect to find the same level of immediacy and connectivity from the web site of the restaurant to the the physical place. Also, as cellphones are building high quality cameras that allow non photographers to take great pictures, people are acquiring a sense of aesthetic that wasn’t as popular several years ago. This means visually attractive images are invading social media such as instagram and snapchat. That is why creating an esthetically attractive place is not a competitive advantage anymore but a fundamental requirement for your brand.
Also, millennials are changing the levels of personalization that companies are offering. Decades ago, baby boomers were not willing to share much of their personal information with a brand. Nowadays, millenials feel comfortable about giving personal data as long as it is useful to provide an experience that matches their interests and needs. Companies need to take advantage of this fact, transforming data into personalized and consistent experiences.
The popularity of conversational interactions is rising each day. Virtual assistants such as Cortana or Alexa are gaining popularity and traditional graphic interfaces are being disrupted by Voice User Interfaces (VUIs). For instance, many interfaces have eliminated the need to type thanks to digital assistants that answer questions and execute tasks. The rapid growth of voice interactions is making UX designers rethink customer experiences to offer enjoyable and screenless interactions. According to research by 2018, 30% of our interactions with technology will happen through voice-based systems and by 2020, 30% of all web browsing sessions will be carried out without a screen.
What does this mean for the people behind the development of VUIs and for UX designers? What are the tools and the mechanisms to look at for an effective conversational interaction? Firstly, designers and developers should be aware of the importance of copywriting for voice-based systems. This brings to the table the crucial role of machine learning to create digital assistants that can understand the flow of human conversations to address users in an appropriate way. Disambiguation of words and follow up questions need to be used to offer accurate solutions when the user provides more than one piece of information. For example, when asking for medical assistance in applications, users may naturally mention two symptoms, but the app was created to handle only one symptom at a time. The voice assistance needs to disambiguate information without making the user uncomfortable. If the assistant says “mention your symptom, but only one” the conversation might seem less natural. A better question to disambiguate would be “what is the symptom that is bothering you the most?” VUIs must lead the user to clarify what she or he needs through a natural and comfortable conversation.
Copywriting is becoming one of the most important elements for a great user experience. Narrative engages the customer with a brand because it makes the user feel like the protagonist of the story. UX designers can’t build experiences without taking into consideration the power of narrative. That is why UX writer is the new job title that recruiters are looking for, not only to choose the right words for graphic and voice interfaces, but also to build a coherent message through all the channels.
For thousands of years, humans have responded to stories. Today, films capture people’s attention for more than an hour because the audience feels identified with the film’s characters and situations. Sometimes, when films are too complex or boring, people leave the theater or simply the movie will be left in the oblivion. The same strategies apply for user experiences. UX writers need to catch the attention of the user, and transform complex ideas in enjoyable and digestible content. When information is simple but interesting, it will be more powerful when evoking emotional responses and its more effective to remain in the long term memory.
UX designers have a vast knowledge and experience in learning about users, in creating information architecture and in running tests to refine and improve user experiences. But what if this knowledge was combined with the ability to find the right words to create a compelling story for the user? What if, besides the creation of wireframes, designers created a story using text? Although visual structures are important, designers must ask themselves if their interfaces are still providing valuable and interesting stories if columns, grids, colors and typography were deleted. Navigational structures and visually attractive interfaces reinforce information; however, is your content by itself still powerful enough? These are the questions that are making the role of the UX writer gain popularity.
An effective narrative structure for interfaces would look like this: Firstly, it establishes sympathy with the user. Then it provides differentiation, which means the reasons why the company is the best option to fix the customer’s problem. Next, it mentions examples of what the company has done and finally, it encourages the customer to engage with the company.
The field of neuroscience promises to establish a new era for the creation of user experiences. Although traditional UX methodologies provide valuable information to anticipate users’ needs, neural marketing might change the way designers conduct UX research. There is a lot of skepticism about it and companies have still a long way to go to officially implement it on their processes; however, we would like to examine how neural marketing is carried out and the benefits it can provide for designers.
Neural marketing harnesses the possibilities of science to examine the subconscious mind to get accurate data about users reactions and preferences. That is the case of the functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIR) which consist of a plastic band with sensors that measures brain activity through blood oxygenation levels. Other techniques such a STT measure brain activity through the speed of the brain’s electrical impulses, detecting responses right in the instant when the brain receives a stimulus and the subconscious react. This tool provides information about psychological parameters such as the level of engagement with the brand, visual attention and emotional intensity, which are crucial for UX designers.
However, neuromarketing is not only developing tools to refine tests and get accurate data about the elements that provide pleasure to customers. Scientists and marketers are expanding the possibilities in the interaction itself, offering multi-sensory experiences with synesthetic feedback. Synesthesia is the ability of certain people to detect stimulus in a sensory modality (like hearing) and react in a different modality (like taste). This means people can see words or taste sounds. Scientists are making possible for everyone to experience this multi-sensory interactions. For example,” Building 8” Facebook’s research lab aims to create an experience where users can type by thinking and communicate through vibrations.
To conclude, UX design practices are evolving along with the rapid change of technology. Companies need to stay abreast of the latest trends on UX design to have a better understanding of the design landscape and to come up with strategies to adjust their practices to new methodologies and technology advancements.
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