Ask the Experts Part 1: What’s the biggest UX challenge of the future?

UX Insider: Ask the Experts Part 1

We loved hearing from all of our speakers at our UX Insider conference. Everyone spoke eloquently on topics ranging from the ethics of design and user research for video games, to storytelling through UX design and human behaviour.

Seven of our eight speakers were able to answer a couple of extra questions for us. Before we get into their answers, here’s a quick reminder of who spoke at the conference:

  • Jonny Rae-Evans, Head of Product Innovation at the Big Lottery Fund– Jonny spoke about the ethics of design and the importance of intent and impact.
  • Rob Johnson, Manager of the User Research Team at Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe – Rob offered an insight into user research in the world of video game development and explained how that differs from traditional user research.
  • Damian Rees, Co-founder and Director at Experience UX – Damian covered human behaviour, including the importance of considering mental models when designing.
  • Anna Dahlström, UX Consultant and Founder of UX Fika – Anna showed us how to find the story in UX designs and explained why narrative structure is so important.
  • James Lang, Lead Researcher for Google’s publisher products – James explored how best to get buy-in for UX research and how to balance idealism with pragmatism.
  • David Harding, Research Ops Lead at the Home Office – David talked about large-scale research and how to make sure it gets to the right people at the right time.
  • Paul Boag, leader in digital transformation and UX design thinking at Boagworks – Paul shared his tips for starting a UX revolution and showed how small steps can make a difference.

We asked each of them to answer:

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing UX in the future?

Watch the video to hear their answers or read the transcript below. As you can imagine, all seven are very different and provide food for thought.

Jonny Rae-Evans (Big Lottery Fund) : “I think design ethics are going to be the big challenge for UX designers. Not about how we do the things that we do, but the why. I think consumers and users are going to be pushing to have products that are more responsible and more ethical. I’m not sure it’s something we’re completely comfortable with at the moment.”

Rob Johnson (SIEE) : “Speaking from my perspective working in video games, I think our biggest challenge is to continue to be used. It’s a challenge that’s been there since the day we started doing this work; making people realise that showing us their baby and us telling them it’s ugly is a good thing. They need that feedback and that fresh perspective on whatever they’re developing, be it video games or traditional software. It can only help them. And the sooner they do that in the development stage, the more option they’ve got for making changes and getting things right first time when it goes to the public. It’s always been a challenge and I think it will continue to be a challenge.”

Damian Rees (Experience UX) :“In my talk I shared a diagram where technological change is going up but user ability is pretty much staying the same. I think the biggest challenge is going to be the fact that the gap is going to grow bigger over time and that interface complexity is going to get more and more complex. But actually we still have a limit to our attention, memory and perception. Unless we as an industry try and solve that and make things a bit easier for people, I can see the biggest challenge being that people are going to start rejecting technology; I think we’ve already started to see it to some extent. So I would say for companies out there trying to build new stuff, making it relevant, making it work and getting people to adopt it is going to be the biggest challenge.”

Anna Dahlström (UX Fika): “I reckon the biggest challenge we’re going to face in the future is learning to say no to some extent. There’s going to be so many amazing things we can do with technology and with data, and clients and internal stakeholders are going to try to push us to do more things that are going to benefit the business but not necessarily always the user. That might be anything from how we use data or notifications, to what we actually include and how much we disrupt people. It’s about how to design good experiences while making sure we really do keep the users front of mind, particularly their mental and physical wellbeing.”

James Lang (Google): “I think in UX we have a continued challenge of relevance in the context of the wider businesses and organisations that we work in. One of the things that UX does really well in some organisations, and really badly in other organisations, is speak to the connection between the skills and capabilities that we bring and the end results that the business is interested in. Where we’re able to make those connections, we are massively increasing the value of those businesses and ultimately enabling them to deliver a better outcome to the users. Where we’re not making that connection there’s a risk that we look self indulgent and self obsessed, and ultimately we’re undermining the good work that we could be delivering. So really it’s all about our relevance. We need to speak the language that the organisations that we’re working with are speaking and we need to make it clear how what we do benefits the end goal that they’re interested in.”

David Harding (Home Office): “I’d say it’s what I discussed in my talk – the challenge of operationalizing research. So, how do you make research work at scale? How do you embed it in large organisations? That’s the challenge within government, where you have thousands of people and literally dozens of user researchers. It’s deciding what that looks like and how you can actually make that happen in an efficient and effective way. But it’s also about how you actually get that insight to work and get the right people to hear it, take it onboard and make decisions based on evidence.”

Paul Boag (UX Consultant): “I think the biggest challenge will go back to the subject I was speaking about, which is organisational issues. I think as a UX community we’ve come such an incredibly long way and have a good understanding of research methodologies, approaches to design and development, and other UX techniques, but I think our organisations are going to hold us back if we’re not careful.”

As always we’d love to hear your thoughts on this so connect on social and share your views @experience_ux

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