The Soda Academy
"You should always have a "use case” for everything you design."
"While technology may evolve constantly, the core principles of experience design change very little."

Andrew Shorten, Adobe

Putting the ‘Use’ in User Experience

Putting the ‘Use’ in User Experience

Adobe gathers a prestigious line-up of UX/UI professionals to talk about ‘what’s next'.

Experience Design (XD) is about much more than whether your product achieves a desired goal: it’s about the user’s journey getting there. Companies that create smooth, intuitive and enjoyable processes can bank on success. Companies that don’t are almost guaranteed to fail. Recently, Adobe gathered experts in the field to talk about the future of XD and what it means for the future of tech. Here’s what they had to say:

Being ‘Usable’ is Sexier Than Being ‘Cool’ “It’s really easy to design for ourselves,” said IDEO designer Burton Rast. While designers get impressed by “things that cause surprise and delight,” Rast says they often lose track of whether users can easily access the service on their terms.

Google’s UX Researcher Nancy Douyon echoed this point. “Users can look at something say ‘oh wow, that’s super cool,’ and still not use it.” She says you should always have a “use case” for everything you design.

Adobe’s Talin Wadsworth sums it up this way: “It is important to focus on the real situation on the ground, how people are actually using software and engaging with experiences,” he said. “Then, build on that.”

The Future is Multi-Modal, and Propelled by ‘Invisible UI’ As personal technology continues to proliferate, accessibility will also continue to grow. Touch, mouse, keyboard, voice and gestures are all being used on the same devices and, according to the panel, that’s a good thing.

Pinterest’s Product Designer James De Angelis says ‘invisible UI’ (i.e., voice interaction with your device) is now on the horizon in a big way. “If you think of product design broadly as crafting an experience rather than merely creating an interface, I would argue that we’re already doing so much in the invisible UI realm.”

Voice is also top of mind for Marissa Gallagher, Amazon Music’s Head of Design and UX. In fact, it’s a major part of Amazon’s future. “Designing for voice is getting back to the user and really thinking about the logic of conversation,” says Gallagher. “We’re getting to a point where the potential for meaningful voice-based experiences will be pervasive.” In essence, we’re reaching a place where technology will allow us to have a would-be personal assistant at all times, adding value as we go about our everyday tasks and making our lives easier in demonstrable ways.

More UX, in More Places A major theme discussed in the panel was the larger role UX and UIs are playing in our lives outside of our smartphones, computers and tablets. IDEO’s Burton Rast offered one such example.

“We can do things that are really unique and interesting, like integrating touch interfaces into tractors and large combines, and designing experiences that make agricultural work easier, quicker and more efficient,” he said. “At the end of the day, it feels good when you’ve developed great designs, enabled by technology, which everyday people are going to be able to use.”

That same spirit is captured in the work of Daniel Nacamuli, Interaction Design Lead for the experience design firm Method. “We’ve moved from designing the experience to designing for the experience. In everything we do, we’re focused on understanding how things connect and understanding what the user’s needs are.”

Research Powers the Future of XD Google’s Douyon says research will be the key to succeeding in a global marketplace in the next five years. She reminded the audience that “the things we do in North America may not fit when we’re thinking about other global markets and the next billion users.”

ICS’ Senior UX Designer Don Goetz says that while more and more companies outside of the tech sector can benefit from good UX, the costs associated are still a barrier. “Many clients want to skip testing and just have us do wireframe design. In other words, just getting them to understand that testing with users is what really gets you the information you need to create good designs [is still a major challenge].”

While technology may evolve constantly, the core principles of XD change very little. As moderator and Adobe Director of Engineering Vincent Hardy put it “the definition of experience design will stay the same.”

For Pinterest’s James De Angelis, the key to the future of XD is the spirit of good design. “Technology will come and go, but you’ll carry the process and the design methodology with you. What’s good about that is you can be objective about technology, adopting what is useful and discarding what is not.”

About the author:

Andrew Shorten serves as Director of Product Management at Adobe.