Technology Trends That Will Shape 2017 and Boost Your Company's UX
Kevin YamazakiFounder and CEO, Sidebench
In its State of UX in 2017 report, the uxdesign.cc team commented that phrases like "intuitive" and "human-centered" are disappearing from developers' and designers' vocabularies.
Related: Tech Moguls Such as Musk and Bezos Declare Era of Artificial Intelligence
But I would argue that those UX traits aren't disappearing; they've become requirements rather than perks. Saying that a product is "intuitive" shouldn't be necessary because that should be a given property of its functionality.
If a user can't intuitively utilize a particular function, it becomes irrelevant.
The merger of UX and functionality poses a tough problem for developers, especially those working on global consumer apps like Uber. Those developers have to cater to the needs of a group of users wildly diverse not only in age and ethnicity, but in terms of the languages they speak, the values they hold and the devices they use. Plus, developers must account for varying levels of connectivity and make design choices accordingly.
All of this means there is no magic bullet when it comes to advancing technology. Change isn't going to appeal to everyone, but it's still inevitable. Here are four technology trends that will define 2017 and how companies can use them to improve their UX:
1. Collective intelligence
As its name implies, collective intelligence encompasses the evolving knowledge base of a group. It's been a hot topic since the inception of the internet, which is in and of itself a CI platform. There are two sides to the CI discussion.
On the one hand, platforms relying on big data, artificial intelligence and automated objective data collection will keep getting smarter. Tools such as Amazon's Alexa aggregate human-generated information in real time to help users navigate potentially changing environments.
On the other hand, we'll see the continued prevalence of human-generated, open-source communities, which often serve as repositories of CI. For years, websites such as Quora, Reddit and StackExchange have allowed users to rely on one another for answers (and entertainment). More recently, my company was asked to build open-source communities to facilitate collaboration and learning among internal teams of developers and designers at large corporations. We have also seen the same principle applied to employee feedback and HR, such as with POPin.
So, if you're pondering how best to take advantage of CI, rethink your company's decision-making processes and its approach to the curation of company knowledge bases. Companies structured the way most companies still are -- with a single key decision-maker at the top -- will inevitably make some suboptimal choices.
That’s because one single person can't have all the knowledge necessary to make the best decision in every circumstance. But by flattening your organizational structure and giving more people the authority to make key decisions that fall under their individual areas of expertise, your entire company will benefit.
2. Everyday AI (Chatbots)
We're in the midst of a chatbot craze, but the importance of including rapidly evolving technology is more than just hype. A chatbot that offers a great UX is a thing of beauty -- and it can work wonders for your organization.
While having a conversation with a chatbot still doesn't feel quite like a mind-altering experience, we are reaching a tipping point where AI-based bots will be be key to forming better, more efficient connections with customers. Everyday AI can give businesses access to customer feedback as fast as their customers can type it.
Chatbots can handle issues that involve basic trouble-shooting, leaving customer-success team members to actually interface with customers. Bots can also drive engagement and growth by continuously creating opportunities for dialogue with customers.
But, remember, not everyone likes talking with bots, so if you're implementing chatbots, be sure to inform customers beforehand. Likewise, make sure to include privacy safeguards, and be clear with customers about what your bot can and can't do. Better yet, add monitoring mechanisms that allow real humans to step in when necessary.
Related: Pretty Soon, Chatbots Will Be Able to Understand How You're Feeling
3. AR, VR and mixed reality
Augmented reality and virtual reality are getting closer to being both affordable and functional enough to have major consumer and business applications -- close but still not quite there yet. Major smartphone manufacturers, including Google, Samsung and Apple, are rushing to improve on VR-compatible devices, though, which means the technology will be mainstream sooner rather than later.
Choosing to explore VR and AR technologies in 2017 can help brands position themselves at the forefront of technology. One of the foremost (yet one of the least-suspected) examples is Snapchat's AR geofilters, which frame, warp or magnify users' photos with different graphics and illustrations.
And for companies that can deliver a branded VR/AR experience to customers in a creative way, the impact could be profound. Snapchat reels in anywhere from $250,000 to $750,000 per branded geofilter, and the brands buying those filters reap benefits, too. Taco Bell's Cinco de Mayo filter, for instance, was viewed 224 million times in just a day.
4. Consumerized designs and digital technology platforms
Technology platforms are the foundation for new value creation. Of course, platform-based companies aren't new. According to Accenture, the global market capitalization of platform companies is around $2.6 trillion. And in 2017, they aren't going away.
Digital platforms and UX go hand in hand. When companies prioritize platforms (which are designed for growth), their business models become more connected, collaborative and scalable, creating plenty of opportunities to put the end user first. One of the most recognizable examples is Apple's iCloud. With iCloud, users have the advantage of accessing photos, notes, contacts and more, no matter which of their Apple devices they're using at that moment -- there's no need to switch back and forth.
So, whether companies are focusing on their competitive edge, potential partners or their own product innovation, they need to look at the emerging and thriving platforms within their industry and figure out how those models can take their own business further.
Related: How Augmented Reality Startups Can Change Our Work Reality
Regardless of how your company chooses to implement new technology in 2017, one thing that won't change is the importance of putting customers first. Research your customers, talk with them, observe what technologies they’re using, and work from there. Don't assume all change is good change, but if a new technology is getting the attention of your customers, it's time for you to pay attention, too.