What is exciting you about the industry at the moment?
One of the most exciting breakthroughs in the tech industry is the shift from continuous delivery to continuous learning. For a long time there was this expectation that, as a designer, you had the answer or solution to every design challenge. This created what Jeff Gothel in his book Lean UX calls Design Heroes. Now the industry is more focused on taking a more humble approach and allowing teams to learn in a continuous fashion. As designers, we are now in a position where we can set up a hypothesis which can be validated through experiments in order to learn from our actual users, given that we could sympathise with them (as much as our personal experiences allow us to). However, that may not be enough in many occasions, so setting up experiments in order to learn more about our users is absolutely crucial. In a way, this has turned digital product design into more of a science than an art.
What key trends do you see emerging in UX? What changes will we see in UX in the next 5 or 10 years?
We are getting better at breaking down the barriers between machines and humans. The fact that I can have a silly conversation with some of the devices in my home is just mind-blowing. To give you an example, my five-year-old son asked Alexa (on Amazon’s Echo device) if she wanted to be his girlfriend and instead of getting an error message, Echo handled the situation very gracefully. We are at a point where we are blurring the lines between very rigid interactions and more human experiences with our devices. The main change I think we will see in the discipline of UX is a deeper understanding of who we really are as humans. Up until now, creating an experience that was clear for the user to navigate in order to complete a task was considered good UX. In the next 5 to 10 years, creating an experience where the user may forget that they are interacting with a device at all is what will be expected.
Where do you look for inspiration?
I find inspiration listening to stories about how people solve incredible challenges. I try to not only listen to design talks but any talk about solving a challenge. I find TED one of the most inspiring places in the internet and that is where I usually go for inspiration.
What other brands do you think are doing great UX work?
I have been quite impressed with Google’s wearables. Given my line of work, I am on the iOS platform for two weeks and I then switch to the Android platform for another two weeks and so on and so forth. This way I get to experience the two main platforms that my team designs for and it enables me to have a user-focused opinion when designing for either. Having used the Apple Watch alongside Android Wear, I have been quite impressed with how Android handles the user experience contextually. To give you an example, my Android wearable knows how to stack my apps in order of importance, reflecting what matters to me at any given moment, without me ever having to program or manually prioritize it. If I am listening to Spotify, regardless of what I was doing prior to that or if I have an incoming email, my music controls are always at the top of the stack. However, if my Uber is arriving then information on the car and driver takes over the experience as I look into my watch, without the need to even touch the watch. I know this is going to sound funny but the first time I used an Apple Watch I literally ran into a pole because I needed to look up the Uber’s information late at night, and the Apple Watch will not easily surface this information; as I’m trying to dig it out of the watch and continue walking, I went head-first into a lamppost. It got even more awkward when I got into the Uber and the driver couldn't stop laughing. We ended up talking about UX all the way home.