UX Trends to look out for in 2018
By Chris Dawson, practice lead: Digital Enablement at DVT
Customers and users of mobile apps and digital products today demand a positive user experience (UX). In this article, I'll look at some of the trends in UX to keep customers loyal to your brand.
User Experience (UX) is based on a design thinking process - recognising needs and looking at the problems users are facing. There are typically five stages to the design thinking process: empathise, define, ideate, prototype, and test.
The first trend we’ll look at is design systems. This is typically a more modular approach to developing products or systems, providing product teams with a reusable, component-based framework for product design. (Effective in large corporates with multiple products, such as banks.)
They might have a team of designers within the bank, whose sole purpose is to serve the other designers in the organisation. They are there to make rolling out product design a lot easier for everyone else. This results in getting products to market more quickly and wasting fewer resources. A component-based framework that is accessible in one location makes for a faster, more agile process, without sacrificing quality.
Getting your organisation set up to use design systems requires more of a long-term view. It's an upfront investment that could take three or four months of dedicated effort from the design team. It's not going into a particular project budget, and there are no immediately tangible results from an external perspective, but a system is being set up that will have huge benefits for the design organisation's productivity moving forward.
Reusable components will ensure a more consistent look and feel across the company's products and services, and consistency translates into user efficiency. Other benefits include better control and collaboration, increased reuse of design assets, and cost savings as the design process is optimised.
In South Africa generally, I believe we haven’t reached this level of maturity with our thinking yet. We're behind the curve concerning design systems – as with other trends in technology – but as design is more emphasised, it's something we will start to see come up.
A trend which has already taken hold however is human-centred design, which in my experience is now being adopted by many companies. It forms the basis for the training we provide when it comes to UX. Human-centred design is about putting the end user at the focus of every decision that's made during the design process. The designer acknowledges they're not the target audience, so the importance here is getting user research into how the actual users experience the product.
There are several ways of doing this. Businesses can do studies that are data-driven, where they install monitoring in their applications, such as Google Analytics, and other products that focus on where a user touches the screen on the device, or even more advanced techniques such as tracking eye movement.
There are other very practical ways to observe the user using the product. A number of our customers have created a dedicated lab setup for user testing. One client in the entertainment industry has created an observation space complete with a sofa, TV and a satellite decoder. They invite customers to use pre-release versions of their software and they can watch how the person interacts, using the remote control for example.
Human-centred design is only going to grow. Companies that don't do this will feel it, as they won't have the same user experience as companies that do. Successful companies aren't designing products by guess work, with a 'they'll probably figure out how to use it' attitude. There's a lot more emphasis placed on the user and on testing.
Although people usually think of UX in terms of product design, there's also a strong movement towards service design these days. Service design looks at the entire customer journey, which spans much wider than the user journey for a certain product.
Service design is about mapping the journey from end to end, starting from where the potential customer (lead) picks up the phone and where they interact by e-mail, to the website and the app experience, to physical interactions with the customer through stores and branches. It ends up being far more strategic.
In service design we use the analogy of the front stage and the back stage. Much like a theatrical production, some parts of the service are apparent to the customer - these could be described as the front stage. The supporting processes that are invisible to the customer would be the back stage that often features a lot more complexity.
With service design, the result is an orchestration of all the different players, and of everything working together. It will centre around the customer's needs, but it's also about the business objectives; it even takes into account employee experience.
Service blueprinting is one of the key activities in service design. Traditional customer journey mapping typically centres around the 'front stage' of the customer's experience, while blueprinting goes all the way to the core of the service, taking into account elements such as how it delivers and operates, and links that to the customer experience.
All in all, the aim of service design is to base design on a genuine and deep understanding of the purpose of the service in the eye of the customer, and the provider's ability to deliver it. Ultimately service design cannot happen without a lot of input from the users of the service, and other stakeholders. And of course, it will always keep a clear business case in mind.
To find out more about how DVT is helping companies with UX/UI design, service design and the other trends identified, visit our UX/UI webpage or connect with me: