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These Are The 5 Big Tech Trends Disrupting UX Design

Joseph Dimaculangan

Whether you’re a budding UX designer or a seasoned expert, you’re no doubt curious about some of the most talked-about tech trends and how they might impact your work as a designer. Well, you’re in luck! In this guide, we’ll explain five of the biggest tech trends and what they mean for designers.

So what’s actually happening in the world of tech? Technology is becoming more accelerated and pervasive. No longer are we limited to interacting and connecting with others through our phones. Smart-home speakers and virtual assistants can turn off a stove or play music, changing the way we live our daily lives. Motion sensing technology can automatically activate the facial recognition system to unlock a device. Augmented reality, or AR, can use your current location to project virtual objects onto a display, or an augmented reality glass or screen. Pokémon GO is a popular mobile game that utilizes this technology. This is a whole new world of interaction, meaning that UX and UI designers have the opportunity and challenge of creating innovative interactions and experiences that previously did not exist.

In this post, we’ll cover the latest trends taking the tech industry by storm—and we’ll show you exactly what these trends mean for designers like you.

We’ll cover:

  1. Motion sensing technology
  2. Expansion of connected devices 
  3. Augmented reality apps for iOS and Android 
  4. Cloud computing and data
  5. Improving AI through Machine Learning
  6. Key takeaways

1. Motion sensing technology

So what exactly is motion-sensing technology? Designers know that UX is all about telling a story. Motion can guide a user through a sequence of actions that are necessary to complete a certain task. Motion can propel the user experience and directly acknowledges user actions by providing visual feedback, such as animation, text, or imagery, to let them know the task has been completed. Over the past few years, we’ve seen a rise in motion-sensing technology. Have you ever seen an animation of a frog thinking while your screen is loading? This reassures the user that a task is pending, giving them peace of mind.

Recently, Google unveiled its newest smartphone, the Pixel 4. The motion-sensing technology is built into the Pixel 4 and will allow for basic controls, such as silencing alarms or skipping to the next song, by holding up or waving hands. Some phones already have this technology, such as retina-recognition to unlock phones. But this is taking motion-sensing to a new level. Sooner rather than later, users could, in theory, answer a call from over 50 feet away by blinking or raising their eyebrows. Ok, that’s improbable and unnecessary, but who knows?

So how does Google accomplish this? The Pixel 4 will be the first device with a technology called Soli, with motion sense features that allow you to skip songs, snooze alarms, and silence phone calls, just by waving your hand. Soli notifies the Pixel 4 to understand when you’re nearby so it can respond to touchless gestures.

So what does this mean for UX designers?

Does this change the UX design process? In a way it does—but the principles of usability stay the same. In fact, motion technology can support usability. Users can now develop an expectation of what they’re perceiving. For example, when a user is looking at animation, they’re analyzing how it behaves. The job of a UX designer is to minimize that gap between the user’s expectation and what they’re perceiving. This will require sophisticated advancements in prototyping, user testing, and user research.

2. Expansion of connected devices

There is a rise in physical devices, or “smart devices” that can be powered on, connected to the internet, and, quite often, connected. For everyday users, these devices can include anything from stoves, coffee makers, headphones, dishwashers, security systems, wearables, self-driving cars, and vacuum cleaners. Users can link many of these devices together to collect data and perform automated actions.

So what does this mean for UX designers?

The “connected home” will impact our views and habits in terms of labor and day-to-day chores. Users will gain more and more trust with these devices. This could add complexity to how UX designers conduct research. Designers will certainly need to have a deeper understanding of how a physical product, like a dishwasher, operates on its own before analyzing its interaction with the user. Previously, with software or digital apps, UX designers could simply create wireframes and send a prototype to a participant, gain prompt feedback and quickly make changes. Now, user testing will require on-site or in-person analysis due to the rise of connected physical products.

3. Augmented reality apps

AR is one of the biggest technology trends right now. It allows you to see the real-life up-close—waves in the ocean, cats chasing leaves, kids playing basketball—with a digital augmentation replacing it. Sounds surreal, right? For example, imagine a cat interacting with a cartoon counterpart, or the kids shooting a basketball through a sci-fi-esque portal. We already have this technology with apps like Snapchat where you can superimpose funny drawings or dog noses on your face. Furthermore, there are a variety of shopping apps that let you try on clothes without even leaving home—pretty practical!

So what does this mean for UX designers?

UX designers will have to dig deeper into what makes these experiences not only delightful and fun, but also trustworthy. With the rise of gaming and educational apps involving AR, UX designers will conduct more user studies involving children—analyzing how they think, learn, and view the world. Froggipedia is an educational app which lets you dissect a digital frog from your device. For UX designers, creating wireframes and high-fidelity mockups for these apps will require deeper animation skills utilizing prototyping tools with motion technology. From a user perspective, AR and VR will add more advancements to make life more convenient, easier, and possibly more cost-effective.

4. Cloud computing and data

The evolution in cloud computing has seen the rise of serverless computing. Using the serverless model, companies can use a “pay-as-you-go” structure. These plans are more flexible and allow companies to have more control over their expenses on cloud hosting. In a nutshell, it enables both users and enterprises to run software without installing it, providing stability and security. Cloud computing gets rid of the problem of buying and maintaining hardware. The cloud also gives us the opportunity to access content from basically anywhere. Employees can now work from home! It makes running businesses more affordable and doesn’t require much technical expertise, and, what’s more, Cloud products are designed for businesses of any size. This is a benefit for UX designers who choose to work from home and work with a cross-functional team of developers.

So what does this mean for UX designers?

Previously, with traditional desktop applications, all of the computing power and data reside in the box on your desk. With cloud computing, your friends and colleagues can share mockups, wireframes, ideas, and talk to each other whenever they want. Examples of cloud-based tools relevant to UX designers and developers include Dropbox, InVision, Sketch Cloud, Google Suite, and Figma. Cloud-based tools like Figma and Sketch allow designers, engineers, and other stakeholders on a team to communicate and collaborate efficiently.

UX designers will continue to have the luxury of sharing their work through most platforms with cloud-based tools. The cloud encourages and facilitates our need to break out of the shackles of a single workstation, or the traditional office workspace.

5. Improving AI through Machine Learning

Designers are starting to ask this question: “What can artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) do to improve the user experience?” These technologies have already been integrated into our online shopping experience—at least the beginning stages of it. You can order a product through Amazon’s Echo with voice-only interaction. In essence, Machine Learning is the field of study that gives computers the capability to learn without being explicitly and directly programmed. Can we eventually shop for a car using the Amazon Echo with limited data…?

So what does this mean for UX designers?

For UX designers and other tech professionals, gathering user data can be complex and ethically questionable. You can gain consent from customers to use their data, but the legal and ethical implications are still obvious. Personalization or customization of preferences before using a service with AI will require complex user feedback and participation. For example, if you want to purchase a home through an integrated device utilizing AI, providing information regarding your credit history, work history, and other relevant documentation to a digital realtor can be a daunting task. But with the rise of this technology, this arduous process will become less strenuous in time. The rise of AI learning may decrease the need for on-screen interaction and give way to voice-first interaction, paving the way for voice interaction designers to take up the mantle.

6. Key takeaways

In short, it’s an exciting time to be a UX designer! Human behavior is evolving, and with the rise of AI and ML impacting the way we use devices, there is an increasing demand for fun, educational, interactive, and engaging user experiences. In this fast-moving technological landscape, some aspects of UX design will remain unchanged, while others will require some adaptation. Whatever happens, the user’s needs will always be paramount! UX designers will continue to design for specific target audiences, and the focus on designing the most relevant user experience possible is not going anywhere.

However, designers will have to evolve in terms of how they view the user. So how can UX designers expand their skill set with these complex new technologies? Continuing to read about the latest trends is a good start. You can also start to expand your skillset by learning animation and motion design. All the above technologies mentioned are related; the rise of cloud computing and data will allow designers to share complex motion design work that they previously couldn’t. Imagine sending a link to an engineer of a screen of a complex UI animation within seconds. The possibilities for innovation and creativity for UX designers will be immense! If you’d like to learn more about the exciting world of design, check out the following:

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Joseph Dimaculangan

Joseph Dimaculangan

UX Designer & Tutor

Joseph Dimaculangan is a UX & UI Tutor for CareerFoundry and freelance UX Designer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. When he’s not designing or writing, you can find him at a local coffee shop or traveling abroad.