UI/UX design has come a long way since Don Norman, the current Director of the Design Lab at the University of California, first coined the term “user experience design” more than 25 years ago.
Today, the demand for UI/UX designers is at its all-time high, and companies that invest in great design are known to outperform the S&P 500 by 228 percent.
The 2017 Design Salary Survey by O’Reilly showed that UI/UX designers command the highest median salary ($89,000), and there is a number of factors indicating that this number will only increase as time goes on.
In this article, we explore the future of UI/UX design and describe some of the trends that will likely shape the industry and drive the demand for UI/UX designers.
According to Ray Kurzweil, Director of Engineering at Google, computers are likely to be more intelligent than humans by 2029. Considering that artificial intelligence (AI) is already transforming everything from financial technology to the automobile industry to the way we discover new shows on Netflix, Kurzweil’s statement seems to be accurate.
Already, AI-driven UI generators such as The Grid, a website development and design system powered by an artificial intelligence algorithm called Molly, is changing the way websites are designed. With The Grid, users can simply upload their content, and the rest will be taken care of for them.
Molly can decide how many columns to use, which type of menu work best, or choose which elements should be emphasized. Users can quickly and easily fine-tune the end product, and the result is a website that’s virtually indistinguishable from websites created by professional UI/UX designers.
This approach is called generative design, and it’s expected to change not only how websites are being made but also how products are designed and manufactured, enabling engineers to create thousands of design options by simply defining their design problem.
The way we interact with technology and the world around is changing rapidly. In 2016, the global mixed reality market generated $72 million, and the same market is expected to reach $5.362 million by 2024, growing at a CAGR of 71.6 percent, according to a global opportunity analysis and industry forecast by Allied Market Research.
“As AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) become more prevalent, there will be a blurring of the online and offline experience of the user (that is, if, the ‘online’ and ‘offline’ even continues to exist). As a result, there will be far more emphasis on the need to be able to create deeply empathetic holistic experiences,” believes Kylie Timpani, Senior Designer at Humaan.
UI/UX designers with limited experience with mixed reality can take solace in the fact that the basic building blocks of human behavior—habit, attention, trust—are the same in the real world and in virtual worlds. What will be different are the ways UI/UX designers exploit them.
Voice user interfaces (VUIs)
The vision of early sci-fi writers, the ability to naturally converse with computers and devices, is finally becoming a reality. Voice User Interfaces, or VUIs for short, are expected to power 50 percent of all searches by 2020, driven by virtual assistants such as Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Microsoft’s Cortana, as well as the plethora of connected devices that use them as their main method of control.
“Today’s VUIs are quickly growing smarter, learning the user’s speech patterns over time and even building their own vocabulary. With VUIs fast-evolving, voice is poised to be the next major disruption in computing,” states Amazon on its website.
To design engaging VUIs, UI/UX designers will need to upgrade their skill set and learn how to solve yet another set of frictions and frustrations that users encounter during their customer journey. Those who embrace the opportunity and boldly venture into the uncharted territory have a chance to become industry pioneers and trendsetters.
Specialized UI/UX design roles
Not too long ago, “webmasters” were responsible for everything from back-end development to front-end development to design and testing. Now, each of these responsibilities is handled by a different person specialized in their craft.
As UI/UX design matures and new kinds of interactions emerge, the broad UI/UX designer title will start to dissolve and morph into a number of specializations. Some UI/UX designers will become experts on mixed reality, others will master voice interfaces, and many more will broaden their scope beyond traditional interaction design, focusing more on product strategy and business.
“2018 will be the year where designers will, not without struggle, learn to be more strategic about the features, screens, and experiences they design. It’s about time we accept the fact we are not artists and embrace being part of a business,” write the editors of The State of UX in 2018.
Modern technology is changing the field of UI/UX design at a rapid pace, and UI/UX designers will soon heave to deal with the fact that only those who managed to adapt and learn new skills in a short amount of time won’t become replaceable or redundant. Of course, with all that change also comes opportunity, and those who capture it will lead the way into the future.