Predictions. They're invariably wrong, but we still love to make them.
(Remember the Kitchen of Tomorrow?)
Today I'm sharing five trends I'll be watching over the coming year (and beyond) along with some thoughts about how they might change our industry. And even if I'm wrong about some of these, I'll be interested to see where they go.
Services as Software
Remember the old saying "good, fast and cheap... pick two"? For certain kinds of projects tools like usabillla will offer "good enough, fast and cheap" usability results. The results won't be the same as having a UX professional do the testing, but that won't matter to a client (or an agency) who needs feedback tomorrow.
This "services as software" approach could potentially automate several routine UX tasks like user testing, content inventories, and content migration.
User Experience Analytics
Over the last few years the conversation around user experience has focused greatly on design. I think the next few years will be about measurement and analytics, and a more analytical approach to the UX discipline will emerge.
Don't get me wrong--design isn't going away. Like peanut butter and chocolate, design and measurement are better when they work together.
Ideas and techniques from marketing, web analytics, the lean start-up movement and even evidence-based management have started to take root among UX designers who are interested in understanding the measurable impacts of their design choices. Joshua Porter's blog post "What metric are you designing to improve today?" is an early indicator of the coming change.
The one ongoing challenge our clients have faced since we've been in business is management of their content. Kristina Halvorson, the doyenne of content strategy, sums up the issues well in her article "The Discipline of Content Strategy":
Content strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.
Necessarily, the content strategist must work to define not only which content will be published, but why we’re publishing it in the first place.
Otherwise, content strategy isn’t strategy at all: it’s just a glorified production line for content nobody really needs or wants. (See: your company’s CMS.)
Based on my conversations with clients and peers over the past year it's clear that despite all the money companies have spent on content management software many organizations still haven't mastered content. I'm reminded of the hobby musicians who have great gear but can't play. The solution is both simple--stop buying toys and start practicing music--and challenging.
I think 2010 will be the year companies start to put aside their toys to start to make a serious investments in content strategy.
The other company that's doing interesting work in this space is Welchman Peirpoint. They're tackling web operations management and governance--two persistent, pernicious problems for many companies.
Return of the Mobile Web
Everyone's building iPhone apps now, and for good reason: the iPhone is the best mobile computing device by just about every measure.
The iPhone has raised the bar for mobile information access to the point where companies like the New York Times are building apps to distribute their content to the platform.
A few pundits (Jason Calacanis comes to mind) think that these kinds of apps are an anomaly created by the zeitgeist around the iPhone. When the fog of fashion lifts, and the iPhone isn't the only sexy handset on the market, developers and business will get practical. Consider this: The iPhone has just 18% of the global smartphone market, compared to RIM's 21% and Symbian's 46%. Google is also making a play for this market and it has a strong competitor in Android.
For companies that are developing mobile business apps there are three options:
- lock your users into a mobile platform like the iPhone or Blackberry
- build separate apps for each platform
- build apps in platform-neutral way using the mobile web
I'm betting on option three. The growth in the smartphone market, the new expectations people have for mobile information access, and the diversity of platforms--all of these forces will create a perfect storm for mobile web apps. Here's why:
- the web will be on every phone
- nobody has to approve a web application
- HTML5 will make much richer in-browser experiences possible
- the web is a better platform for developing and deploying software
- mobile browsers will start to gain access to handset hardware (like Safari has access to the iPhone's GPS)
Dedicated handset apps will remain, and they'll be better for things like gaming, but they'll exist alongside an ecosystem of mobile web apps.
A Real Experience Economy
An article in the New York Times points to an emerging trend: people trading in conspicuous consumption for life-enriching experiences.
What specific impacts will this trend have on our practice? The first might be decreased consumer spending, and a further lull in the economy. In the short term that's not a good sign.
But another possibility is the emergence of a culture that truly values experience--on the phone, at a kiosk, on the web, in person, at work and at home. That's a culture where user experience designers will flourish.
What did I miss?
The amazing thing about our business is we get think about (and sometimes work with) emerging technologies and trends. Here are some other important trends for the next few years: gestural and multi-touch interfaces, social networks, game design. Apple's tablet, everything to do with geolocation, multi-channel customer experience.
What else did I miss?
Posted in Opinions on January 12, 2010blog comments powered by Disqus