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The future of UX

Arya Alatsas
Account Director

As the landscape of user experience (UX) evolves, understanding its future trajectory is crucial for businesses looking to stay ahead. Recent shifts in the industry, particularly the integration of UX practices within organisations, the role of UX research, and the impact of emerging technologies like AI, are reshaping how we approach user experience.

 

The evolution of UX

User experience has come a long way from being a niche, consultative discipline to becoming a core function of modern businesses. I recently sat down with our Director and UX Consultant, Sarah Edwards, for her thoughts: “Over time, we’ve developed techniques and processes that can be followed, like Design Sprints, which are proven methodologies. This evolution has made UX more accessible and systematic, moving away from relying solely on the expertise of a few individuals. Companies now have a ‘playbook’ of sorts, enabling them to implement effective UX strategies consistently.

 

The shift to in-house UX

One significant trend in the UX industry is the move towards in-house UX teams. Sarah explained “UX used to be a very specialist, consultative initiative, but now it’s really seen, and it should be seen, as a core function of any business.” This shift is particularly relevant for businesses with digital products, where user experience directly impacts customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, and business outcomes. By bringing UX activities in-house, companies aim to deliver a more integrated and cohesive approach to the realisation of their digital strategy.

 

Challenges in UX research

Despite the advancements in UX practices, challenges remain, particularly in UX research. Critics often view UX research as a bottleneck, slowing down the development process. However, Sarah emphasised the critical role of direct user interaction, stating, “We’ve got a lot of different ways now to harness user sentiment, whether that be through analytics or social listening, but there is still a real role for talking directly to users.” Direct engagement with users helps uncover deeper insights and understand changing behaviour patterns that automated tools might miss. The perception of research as a bottleneck can also be mitigated by integrating lean and agile research methodologies that provide timely and actionable insights without slowing down development.

 

The role of AI in UX

Artificial intelligence is transforming many aspects of UX research and design. AI can expedite the analysis of user research findings, a process that previously took weeks can now be completed in hours. However, it is crucial to ensure that AI tools are used to augment rather than replace the human element of UX research: “It’s essential to maintain critical thinking and human oversight. We need to ensure that when we’re training new UX professionals, they’re not just taking AI responses verbatim. They need to understand and critique the output.” Maintaining empathy in design requires a human touch that understands the nuances of user emotions and contexts. Therefore, UX professionals should focus on leveraging AI to handle repetitive tasks while dedicating their efforts to interpreting insights and fostering empathetic connections with users.

 

The importance of broad UX skills

Practitioners must possess a broad skill set. Sarah cautioned against over-reliance on tools like Figma, stating, “being able to use Figma really well is important, but that’s just using a tool. Being able to sketch a wireframe on a piece of paper that’s going to meet a client’s need—that’s UX design.” A broader skill set enables UX practitioners to adapt to various challenges and deliver more comprehensive solutions, ensuring they can address the multifaceted nature of user experience.

 

Integration and collaboration

Looking forward, the seamless integration of UX with other business functions and technologies will be crucial. The challenge lies in creating a uniform user experience across different platforms and tools, integrating them where required so that separate touchpoints create a uniform user experience. This integration is essential for providing a cohesive experience to users, who perceive their interactions as part of a single journey, regardless of the underlying complexities.

 

Engaging Stakeholders in the UX Journey

Effective stakeholder engagement is vital for the success of UX initiatives. Involving stakeholders directly with user feedback and research findings to demonstrate the tangible benefits of UX. “When we present research back, they’re interested in direct, first-hand customer feedback. That’s when stakeholders sit up and pay attention”. This approach aligns business goals with user needs, showcasing the ROI of UX and ensuring that decision-makers understand the value of user-centric design.

 

Conclusion

The future of UX is shaped by its continuous evolution and deeper integration within organisations. Techniques and technologies enhance UX practice, but the human element remains irreplaceable. Direct user interaction and critical thinking are pivotal in creating meaningful and effective user experiences. As organisations increasingly recognise the value of UX, the field will continue to grow, adapting to new challenges and opportunities in the digital landscape. By staying informed and flexible, organisations can leverage UX to drive innovation and achieve long-term success.

 

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