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How UX Design and Tech Tag-Team Progress Barriers

Mobile App Development
Technology, Information and Media
You want to solve a problem in a new, different way. You encounter an obstacle, blocking you from something you want. So you come up with a solution to move it. Technology happens. But as simple as that sounds, you have to consider the ever-gnarly obstacles of time, space, and information. The user trifecta. That’s where UX design bursts on the scene, cape flapping in the wind.

We wanted to move heavy objects, so…wheels. We wanted communication across distances, so…telegraph and telephone. And we still iterate on these basic needs, products, and capabilities today–which means these successive designs focused on improving the user experience (UX) from the beginning. Sustainability is based on classic design principles. Technology continues to remove the barriers to what people want to do. UX design informs how it’s done to give it more permanence and potential.

Going back to high school chemistry, tech and UX need to act as a compound–not a mixture. You shouldn’t have to, or even be able to, separate one from the other. Chemically combined tech and UX yields a product that breaks through barriers.

Satisfaction is Progress, Added Value is Success

Using More Knowledge & Feedback

Good UX design follows and anticipates the user flow to address questions like:

“When does my flight leave?”

“How much is in my checking account?”

Apps and digital experiences work to not only answer these questions but also to continuously add value through functionality and feature evolution.

Your flight leaves at 5, and you need to get to the airport by 3.

Your checking account has a balance of $4,000, and here’s how much you should put in savings every month.

For B2B, the Q&A looks quite different. So applications, enterprise software, and UX best practices solutions have to adjust accordingly:

“Where is the shipment right now?”

“How many items are in inventory?”

Digital solutions, especially IoT, work to remove barriers between users and the information they desire. When it comes to business solutions, there’s an added layer of complexity because user value and business goals have to go hand-in-hand.

The shipment is in Tulsa. To stay on track, you need to schedule your next shipment for Monday.

There are 300 items available. Estimated restock is in 5 days, based on average demand.

Better Integrating Digital and Physical Worlds

Bits and atoms–bridging the gap, or blurring the boundaries, between the physical and digital worlds–comes to life through through tech application and UX delivery. Virtual and augmented realities most tangibly live in this space from a user experience perspective, but connectedness and machine learning also offer green field opportunities.

Machines, buildings, vehicles, and even our bodies are data vessels. Artificial intelligence evaluates behavior and predicts what happens next. These predictions have the end goal of enhanced experience. Online retailers apply this concept, for example, by giving shoppers the opportunity to “try on” or “try out” virtual purchases. Brick and mortar outlets layer digital content over the real world environment with AR labels, leverage smart fitting rooms, employ digital signage, feature way-finding apps, and the list goes on.

Closing Geographic Distance

We need to be able to work together remotely in every industry, managing, internally and externally, the operation of tools and materials from a distance. UX demands in healthcare, for example, take high stakes problem solving even higher. If you need medical attention and can’t physically access a clinic, telemedicine (teledoc) becomes a resource for which you would pay any amount in that moment. If the end result is sending someone out to grab a prescription, it’s a win.

Unbanked customers need to make and receive payments has driven fintech innovations that don’t rely on traditional banks. And even traditional banks recognize growing digital demand for payments, account management, and customer service.

Practicing Inclusivity

Through haptic sensors, visual and keyboard adaptations, voice interfaces and simultaneous translation technology, inclusive design seeks to globalize–literally and figuratively. People who can’t travel or interact easily in the physical world require more virtual access. Similarly, situations/professions that require specific training require a way to decrease time, resources, and risk. The user experience dictates the success of the tech used to offer a solution.

Through VR training, for example, it is possible to offer more access with minimal external efforts. When VR training is successful, users feel more comfortable, engaged, and confident in their ability to perform, teach, and succeed. Digital technology seeks to expand its reach, and this only will happen by overcoming the obstacles that shut us out.

Optimizing Processes

Something as simple as inputting PINs, passwords, and preferences more than once can kill a product. Meanwhile, the pressure for better cybersecurity continues to grow, multiplying the layers of authentication. Through usability research, UX designers work to solve this stop-gap by turning to biometrics. A solid user experience is one that allows for secure device recognition, with no extra steps.

All digital-human conversations are moving in the direction of simplicity, automatically personalizing interactions. Gestural swiping and voice commands replace keyboard tapping. The barriers of having to link up, connect, activate or plug in are rapidly disappearing, as always-on listening devices and voice assistants become an ambient part of the environment.

Best Practices in Action: User & Usability Testing

Customer experience is no longer measured indirectly by after-the-fact sales numbers. For example, retailers can use emotive mapping to visualize the customer journey and locate the snarls. Instead of high-level sales data, it’s possible to identify the one phase of the process that interrupts the happy path.

“User experience” is all about real-world systems and applications. Digital intelligence depends on it. City planners in Reykjavík, Iceland used an emotional mapping platform to optimize their bicycle path infrastructure. Pulse surveys and other HR platforms measure levels of employee engagement and proactively identify individuals who are at higher risk of quitting.

Google Glass was Weird–There was a Reason

University of Michigan put out a study of the relationship between UX, technology, and market success. Unlike design and technology innovations that originate from user demand, Google Glass was thrown into the general market inferno.

It reproduced functions, such as sending voice texts or providing navigation directions, that smartphones were already doing — with fewer steps. It was also expensive (and, to be fair, looked silly). Emotional reactions ranged from privacy concerns to a blanket “uncool.”

As it turns out, 2019 is proving that Google Glass was off-target because it didn’t have the right target. Instead of pointing out the problems it could solve for drivers, physicians, engineers and mechanics, Google marketed Glass to celebrities and stylish consumers. This audience didn’t need a solution (do they really ever?), so the marketing fell flat.

Four years after the failure, Google has announced an Enterprise Edition of Google Glass that will come out in 2019. Being marketed as aiding hands-free training, assembly and quality control, its prospects appear bright. To stay grounded in real-world needs, Google is also partnering with other companies to adapt Glass for specific applications. That’s more like it!

Design Innovation Creates New Immunities

Dissolving the barriers that interrupt information flow is the basis for tech advancement, but these new open channels make it harder to protect that information. With networks operating at 100G speeds, attempting complete traffic visibility puts a huge strain on company resources.

An alternative design approach is emerging, based on the way the human immune system functions. Instead of racing to patch firewalls based on known malware footprints (you will lose), newer security systems identify threats based on behavior inside the system. Unsupervised machine learning is deployed, eliminating the reliance on a specific set of algorithms to diagnose.

Enterprise Immune Systems like Darktrace scan the network for behavior anomalies and then neutralize them in the same way that white blood cells protect human bodies from disease.

Visualize to Realize

Everyone wants to see something that looks great and makes sense. The best way to optimize digital products is to take the tech and bring it to life through the UX.

For businesses, the equation is simple: if customers find their problems are being solved in a meaningful way that adds value, they will stay loyal to your brand.

Effective design leads to better financial outcomes for all stakeholders. And, going back to high school science, your product offers more than a mixture of things. With the right tech and UX, users won’t be able to separate your brand from the amazing experience it gave them.

Molly Gardner

Molly Gardner worked at Mutual Mobile as the Director of Marketing.

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