Particularly in technology, it seems that just when a profession becomes mature and attains popularity, people start proselytizing about its inevitable demise. The famous British poet John Dryden once said, “First we make our habits, and then our habits make us.” This is likely one of the reasons people look at User Experience as a potential victim of change. However, it does not have to be that way. As UX professionals, we must ensure that our current UX habits do not define—or constrain—the future of our profession.
After 17 years in the profession of User Experience—the past 10 in consulting with enterprise customers over a wide range of industries—amidst all these swirling pontifications about the demise of User Experience, I can confidently add my resounding support for the continuation of the profession of User Experience. Organizations will always need people who focus on how other people interact with technology and products. Of course, there is no doubt that we will have to adapt, but to what do we need to adapt?
Get Smart About Future Interaction Styles
We need to get smart about what artificial intelligence and robotics are—and what they are not. We need to be able to look not just at what they are today, but consider what they will be in the future. Today, robotic process automation focuses on taking repetitive, low-data tasks that people perform countless times a day and automating them. The goal of automation is to improve task efficiency and allow people to focus on higher-end tasks, boosting innovation and creativity. To me, this sounds like something that would help demonstrate the value of User Experience even more. For instance, how much more time would we need to spend designing data-entry forms? Most forms now pretty much follow standardized templates. However, if Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can do away with the need for most forms to begin with, we, as UX professionals, can finally shift our focus wholly to the larger design tasks of integrating the disparate systems within an enterprise and providing a more cohesive and efficient user experience.
But the habit of just getting educated on these new technologies, instead of having a proactive impact on their design, needs to stop. Right now, there is a lot of noise about robotics in technology. We need to take the time to understand how robotics will be valuable—from a business aspect, as well as from a user experience perspective. We can take this opportunity to reduce the number of repetitive tasks many users deal with on a daily basis. Incorporating robotics into products in smart ways will allow us to design systems that address complex, underlying business problems that have not been solved before. However, this will take extra effort on our part and the desire to fully engage in creating the future, not be on the sidelines.