This year at RMA Consulting, we’ve bashed our heads together over many a lunch break to bring you the top UX predictions we think are on the technology horizon in 2016. If none of these come true by the end of the year, we’ll eat our collective hats.
1. Responsive 2.0: Websites and apps will automatically redesign themselves in response to usage patterns
A fully blown sentient machine will not take over the world this year, but the digital industry will certainly experience some disruption from Applied AI.
Applied AI is an intelligence simulation designed to carry out one task, for example stock trading or medical diagnosis. It is also claimed to be in use by website building tool Thegrid.io to process images, text, URLs and more — and automatically shape them into a unique website. Thegrid.io was due to launch in the summer of 2015, but has experienced months of delays most likely because potty training their newborn AI is taking longer than expected. Once the company does launch successfully, expect to see a few competitors pop up in their slipstream.
It will be interesting to see whether Thegrid.io has the ability to think up unique design patterns like Google’s Material Design for each of its users. Unlikely, but if it’s that smart, half the design industry will be out of a job.
2. Battle of the Web Design Tools: Adobe Comet will beat the competition to establish itself as the industry standard
Over the last few years, the pool of digital tools designed specifically for web design has grown significantly. However, despite the excellent functionality offered by tools such as Proto.io, InVision, UXPin and Just in Mind, none have broken through the adoption barriers to oust the incumbent and frankly obsolete Adobe Photoshop from the market leader position. This suggests it takes a lot for people to move away from an inappropriate tool and make the effort of learning a new one.
2016 will see a long awaited change here — Adobe will release project Comet; a tool built specifically for UX design. Comet will see mass adoption across the industry thanks to its easy availability in Adobe’s Creative Cloud, seamless integration with the existing design tool suite and minimal re-learning effort.
3. Rise of the Fat T Designer: User experience designers will be expected to be skilled in a second major discipline
This year we’ll start to see an increase in demand for dual-skilled digital design professionals such as UX / UI designer, or visual designer / HTML developer.
Many businesses now understand that great design is about more than just aesthetics; it involves interaction design, information architecture, a good narrative, well written code and more. The problem is that building a team of specialists with these disciplines is expensive. With this in mind, many businesses have started to hunt for the elusive “unicorn”; a single candidate who possesses all these skills. Unfortunately, personality conflicts mean it’s very rare that somebody can successfully fill a role like this, but candidates with a couple of these skills can be much easier to come by.
4. Banking Shake-up: New digital-only, UX focussed banks will finally launch. Traditional banks will struggle to keep up
Some European countries are already enjoying a new era of branchless digital banks that put the user’s needs front and centre. These banks, such as Mondo, Atom, Number26 and Starling look set to launch throughout the rest of Europe and the USA this year and cause massive disruption to the consumer banking industry. 27% of US banking customers would consider a branchless bank if they were to switch from their current bank — this rises to 39% amongst 18–34 year olds. As you can imagine, established banks that operate on decades of legacy infrastructure are struggling to offer something competitive.
Another one to watch this year is the effect that the EU’s Payment Services Directive 2 (PSD2) has on the banking industry. PSD2 hopes to make payments faster, safer and more transparent across all 27 EU member states. Part of this directive, known as Access to Accounts (XS2A) forces banks to release account APIs to any third party, if permitted by the customer. This opens doors to new independent personal banking services, better online product recommendations and quicker merchant payments. Retailers will be able to receive payments instantly from the bank rather than through the credit card transaction chain, which should result in simpler online checkout experiences.
5. New Interfaces: If Microsoft’s HoloLens succeeds, it will activate markets for complementary interface technologies such as ultrasonic haptics
Augmented reality is nothing new. In fact, the idea was first floated by the Wonderful Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum in 1901. Sadly to date we’ve not seen the technology hit the mainstream because the headsets have always been so hideously impractical. However, the latest attempt by Microsoft, Hololens, might just be what we’ve all been waiting for; sleek, lightweight headsets that don’t make you look utterly ridiculous.
The problem with augmented reality is that on its own it only stimulates one sense — eyesight. To really make an augmented reality experience immersive, other senses need stimulation, such as touch. This is where companies like Ultrahaptics look set to benefit. If Microsoft wins on Hololens, demand for sensory stimulation technologies will grow with it.
6. Alternative Web Business Models: Ad blockers and new EU laws will force many businesses to re-think the way they generate revenue online
Ad blockers are big news at the moment. Ad revenue consultancy PageFair describes them as an existential threat to publishers and believes that they cost their industry $21.8 billion in 2015. Apple also recently announced that they would allow ad blocking software on the latest version of its operating system.
To make matters worse, the EU may be introducing tough new data protection laws that mean advertisers will need consent from European users before they use their data to target advertising at them. This could cause a catastrophic disruption of revenue streams for publishers.
With this in mind, expect to see some interesting approaches to revenue generation in 2016. Forbes and The Guardian have already adopted some interesting approaches, with polite requests for users to switch off their ad blocker. Maybe we’ll also see a bounce back in popularity for the subscription model.
Happy new year!