What is UX? How did it become this relevant? Was it always a part of the system even before the age of IT? What does the future hold? Being a UX designer, I always thought about these questions. So, to get the answers to these questions, I researched its history and what does future hold for it.
I have tried to get all the questions answered in this blog, so stay with me to unravel your thoughts on the same.
To start with, I would say, look around, wherever you are at this moment, every product that surrounds you was designed by a human at some point of time in history. There were many iterations done by other humans over the years to get what we have now. Whether it’s a fan, a window, a chair, or the device on which you are reading this blog.
If we take any product and try to understand the history of UX design behind the innovations that have happened around the product, then we will come to an understanding that the end goal behind every design decision was to solve a problem faced directly or indirectly by the end-user; and ultimately to enhance the User Experience(UX).
A Chair, for example, thinks about it. We all needed to sit and relax since the time we were in caves. As we moved forward in time, the need stayed constant but we kept on iterating and improving the user experience. Today we have advanced ergonomic chairs that support long hours of sitting and give a great user experience.
Whether it’s a bottle, a cup, a knife, a musical instrument, or any product that is designed for humans has evolved with the same process of iterations to enhance User Experience.
Historical Examples of UX Design Practices Over the Years
- Feng Shui: The practice of Feng Shui which dates almost 4000 BC, is a Chinese philosophy to seek balance and harmony between elements and space. It uses the basic elements and forces of nature and then transforms that idea into human experiences in the form of the interior of a home. Feng Shui was used to arrange the objects of a house. If we compare it with our existing design principle we are going to find that principles like layout, alignment, contrast, and hierarchy were still used then.
- Greek Tools: The Greeks have been creating ergonomic tools since the 3rd century BC to create a better user experience and ultimately have better efficiency. If we think about its history of UX design, they conducted design research to understand the need and behaviour, and based on that they created tools that will enhance the User Experience.
As we move ahead in time we will see an exponential rise in science and technology and the impact it has on the lifestyle and the products used by humans. It will also impact the methods to create those products. For example, the first handwritten letter was written by the Persian queen Atossa in around 500 BC and since then everything about letter writing, sending and communication have been evolved. over the years the type of paper has evolved in which the letter is written, the ink and the language itself have evolved, and the method of transportation and the form of communication, in general, has evolved. But the purpose is still the same, the purpose is still having communication between two humans.
Over the years we have achieved communication to be better and better not just functionally but also in terms of the user experience. In the future still, the fundamental need to communicate is going to be the same unless we evolve as a species to have a different set of needs. With the advancement in technology, we may have telepathic communication or we might be living in an alternate reality to communicate with other humans.
There are a few technologies that I would like to mention that are going to revolutionize the human experience of the future:
- Artificial Intelligence(AI): Artificial Intelligence in the future is going to revolutionize research and design. The way we conduct user research is a very tedious and long process with lots of inaccuracies. Even the AI that exists today is a weak AI that can only do the task it is programmed to do, in the future when we are close to building artificial general intelligence, the AI will be performing the tasks that are actually needed in all instances. If we think about it, AI, machine learning and UX researchers have a lot in common, they both gather data and analyze users' behaviour patterns and interactions. Self-driving cars, Google Translator and Alexa are good examples of AI gathering data to create enhanced experiences.
The design process that we follow today won’t be the same in the future and the reason is automation. Automation will be a big part that is going to help UX designers to manifest faster and easier along with more accurate design research conductions.
- Brain-Computer Interface: The form of communication of the future is going to be magical. It is highly unlikely that 30 to 50 years from today you will be reading a post like this on a screen. You might not have to type on your screens to get results for yesterday's news. Basically, there will be no middle man as with a Brain-computer interface there will be a direct connection from brains to the network and that means we could be connecting to other brains without a middle interface which is a screen.
In the world of brain-computer interfaces, our interactions will be completely different but one thing we can say that is going to be constant is the need to stay connected and communicate. The need to design better experiences will remain the same, just the form of experience will be different.
- Extended Reality(XR): Extended reality is a conglomerate between Virtual Reality(VR), Augmented Reality(AR), and Mixed Reality(MR). Through VR we can step into a different world and experience a different reality. Currently, we use a VR headset to experience this. In the future, with brain-computer interfaces this form of experiencing VR would be completely different. Similarly, AR augments an extrapolation of our existing realities and MR is where the digital and physical worlds merge. In the future, the experience of games, movies, and other forms of entertainment and connections would be revolutionized with extended reality technology.
UX of the future
Technologies like AI, brain-computer interfaces, big data, and XR are like plain canvases. Through the ever-evolving UX practices, we can paint beautiful experiences for humans. The form of experiences created by these technologies would be different. At this point, it can’t be accurately predicted how different the experiences would be. But, one thing that we can predict for sure is that human needs are going to be the same and designers will be creating better experiences for the users. And I would like to say that the term UX designer might evolve to experience maker. Below are a few practices that will be relevant in the future as a UX designer:-
- User Research: As an experienced maker of the future two things is going to be constant. One is the human need to consume experiences and another is the need to understand humans as a designer or makers. With the advancement in technologies like data AI, Machine Learning, and Big Data it will be easier to predict and understand user behaviour. The tools to conduct user research are also going to enhance but the need to study humans and conduct user research is going to be constant.
- Emotional Design: The need to empathize with the end-users and understand their emotions and feelings is also going to stay the same and we will be seeing more products from an emotional standpoint. It will be easier to achieve a task functionally considering the technology but bringing personality and human emotions are going to be the same. Creating reflective design is also going to stay very relevant in the future.
- Experience Makers: As the medium in which we are going to design or the medium in which the user is going to experience communication is going to evolve. We will be moving towards extended reality or a true brain-computer interface but in any scenario, the need to create a good user experience is going to stay constant in the future. There will be several things that are going to be automated. For example, we see how we have website builders and logo makers, and the UI and development aspects are becoming easier day by day. In the future, what will truly be required is to design and conceptualize an experience for the user.
- Problem Solving: Humans are creative beings and they always come up with creative and innovative solutions to problems that the user faces. In the future, this skill will be as relevant as it is today to be a creative thinker until and unless there is an inception of artificial general intelligence or artificial superintelligence. Not just in design but in every other field also, this skill is going to be the most relevant in the future.
- UX Maturity Model: In the future, we will be seeing more companies that will be at the highest level of UX maturity, and achieving a good user experience is going to be the most important thing for UX designers or companies. The form of a company is also going to be different in the future, there will be more independent designers collaborating with companies and other designers. With technologies like XR and brain-computer interface, collaborations will become easier to manifest better user experiences.
We might be a multi-planetary species or have discovered telepathy through a brain-computer interface or we might have artificial superintelligence with AI being smarter than human beings. However, one thing will be constant,i.e., the need to create human-centric design and solve human problems.