In conversation with Tom Adams and Tom Bradley

Sorrel Ashton, Marketing Manager at Code gets the guys take on key UX trends for 2016.

What do you see as the role for data in design?

Tom Adams: Designing with data has been a trend for quite some time now. Tools and methods are maturing and my expectation for the team is that their work blends both insights and metrics to prove a measurable outcome. My advice for teams seeking to push their work to a higher standard is to learn to blend insight gained through the analysis of data collected through human-centred research methods such as observation, interviews and task-based usability testing. If you can strike a balance between this and rich data and champion the need for both, then you will find yourself at a strategic advantage in an increasingly competitive field.

Are there any technology trends, the rise of voice software being an example, that will impact the way we think about UX?

Tom Bradley: With Siri, Google Now and Cortana becoming increasingly sophisticated and popular, as well as the introduction of Facebook’s ‘M’ service, user experiences that do not have a traditional user interface will of course, become more prominent. I see that digital products that act as assistants for our busy lifestyles will become more common and more valuable as they make our lives more straightforward. The question that this raises for design teams about finding simpler ways to communicate with these services, and how we can find the balance between useful notifications and those that encourage us to do something against our will.

How do you design where user experiences are much more fragmented?

TA: As consumers we have learned to drop in and out of customer experiences as our time and connectivity varies. The challenges this poses to measure effective design is significant. For instance, visiting a site numerous times without buying anything is expected in the research phase of a purchase. Amazon are beginning to explore physical through their store and the ‘Dash’ button. Whilst blended online/offline experience from larger retailers are beginning to respond to the needs from the savvy and discerning digital shopper.

The Internet of things is a topic on everyone’s list this year- what impact do you think this will have?

TA: Yes, I definitely think 2016 will be the year of home connectivity. The new Hive and Nest services are already becoming part of our everyday lives, and further afield the Premier Inn Hub Hotels, we see that consumers are starting to take more and more control of their environments, via the devices in their pockets or on their wrists. Our big challenge will be, how do we meet the expectations in a responsive and fast manner across a multitude of touchpoints often via legacy systems and technology.

TB: The range and diversity of devices we are using is changing, and are beginning to be able to pick up where we left off between devices. IDEO’s work with IKEA on the kitchen of the future and recent experiments with smart bathroom mirrors show that all surfaces can be user interfaces. Resolution and affordance will of course present challenges, but the question remains about how we deliver useful experiences into these moments that complement our real-world interactions.

Personalisation is another trending word- what effect do you think it has on user experience?

TA: Mainstream audiences expectations have been raised, previous ‘power features’ are now the norm and are even falling into the minimum expectations category. The best experience will need to shine through adaption, to moment to moment personalisation. Simple features like iOS Night Shift (the screen changes colour at night to reduce blue light) or more sophisticated algorithmic features such as Spotify’s Now, will begin to unlock new experiences that fit around our changing energy levels and mood.

What do you think of virtual reality?

TB: Well, if Facebook is interested we should all take note. VR technology has become affordable for consumers and so we, as user experience professionals, need to start thinking of interface elements in virtual space. I see the real effort being in the consideration of storytelling in this virtual perspective, as these experiences will have a lot to live up to.

So, do you see all sense being used to communicate design intent?

TB: There are some really positive implications of interfaces that you can ‘feel’ for accessibility purposes. But mainstream applications such as the new trackpad on the MacBook, replaces the physical press action with a sensory experience allowing you to ‘feel’ what you clicked. Although a small example we can see the emergence of future experiences that can play to all our senses.

TA: Combining this with real-world experiences, such as those that let people ‘feel’ ancient objects in museums, it’s clear to see how user experiences could become much richer when this type of feedback is provided.