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UEGroup 2020 Predictions: What's next for Apple, UX and VR, and the Rise of XAI and Research

VMblog Predictions 2020 

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2020.  Read them in this 12th annual series exclusive.

By Tony Fernandes, founder, UEGroup

2020 Unconventional UX Predictions on what's next for Apple, UX and VR, and the Rise of XAI and Research

The enablement and integration of technology continues to impact the User Experience (UX), but the question we need to ask is; how are we advancing the UX? We should stop depending on the industry standards of legacy brands, like Apple, and its promise of the best experience. We should challenge the latest tech trends across AR and AI and really define what are our best interactions.

Below are my thoughts and predictions on the role of brands, technologies and processes will have on the UX in 2020.


It has been a long time coming but in terms of design and usability, Apple is moving backward not forward. In terms of design, who can point at the new Mac Pro and say that it doesn't look like a Soviet cheese grater? The rest of the products have been static. For the iPhone, Apple has been asking us to be excited about the fact that the back of comes in different colors and the icons are flat. What has really improved? For usability, who loves all the dongles that you need to buy now? Where are the LEDs that told you how much charge you had on your laptop without opening it, where are the MagSafe plugs that prevented damage when the cord is yanked? Who inherits the mantle as the gold standard? Google! In the last 12 months, we have heard clients asking for their products to be like Google's where in the past it was Apple's. Shining examples of the Nest device experience and the Pixel products are setting the new standard.


There is a lot of hype about AI and machine learning. In many instances, that technology has been in use for over a decade. This type of tech can be used behind the scenes but it has now burst in the forefront in the form of deep fakes and other potentially negative uses. As it becomes more visible and prominent, it will also become scarier to people and the hype will begin to turn into concern and rejection. To prevent adoption issues, user experiences that leverage AI and machine learning will need to create a new level of transparency. This will be achieved through a new field called Explainable Artificial Intelligence which will introduce a new layer of UX design to digital experiences by the end of 2020.


Remember two years ago when there was a lot of noise about how the new generation of mobile phones were introducing dual cameras that would take AR mainstream? Hmm. What happened? Many people talk about the problem being that there are no killer apps yet. It isn't killer apps that are the problem, it is killer pain. When using AR on a mobile phone, you have to hold the phone in an unnatural position: up in front of your face so you can see the graphics through the video camera. It kills the arms and you most people can't do it for any more than a few minutes. AR often gets confused with computer vision which provides pattern recognition. That aspect will live on but having to hold your arms up just to see a large arrow graphic superimposed over an image you can see with your own eyes if you got the phone out of the way, will fade into serious obscurity in 2020. However, AR will make a comeback by the end of 2020 in relation to a new generation of AR glasses.


User testing has become more mainstream over the last few years but some still hold out with the philosophy that it is better to "get an MVP out there" and then refine based on what is learned. That's a reasonable approach but not the best choice economically. For an organization to write code and produce production designs that they admit will likely have no chance means that the most expensive part of the product development process (production of code, documentation, online support material, marketing material, etc.) is put in a position of all being thrown out. By doing user testing before putting it "out there" allows product-improving changes to be made while it is still relatively inexpensive. Yes, it still makes sense to put out new products and learn from the market but it is bad business to do it without making refinements that are easy to find and that can be done early when it is still inexpensive.


The UX field has become mainstream over the last few years but it has followed a very superficial trajectory. Rather than being the field where complex usability problems are solved, it has increasingly become a field focused on superficial, and often purely visual, designs. Because so many people have come into the field being taught skills at the superficial level, products are getting prettier but harder to use. As a result, the organizations that invested in in-house UX teams will be asking questions as we head into a 2020 recession. Smaller organizations who hired lone wolf designers will realize that it takes a cross-functional team to effectively achieve usability. The field as a whole will start to experience a negative backlash by the end of 2020 that will create the need to reinvent the field overall.  The term UX will begin to go out of fashion. As a result, organizations will increasingly start looking outwardly for seasoned teams that can deliver the goods.

We're all working towards the same goal, delivering the best UX. With the use of technology we can continue to humanize design and driving the best UX.


About the Author

Tony Fernandes 

Tony Fernandes is the founder of UEGroup and a usability expert with more than 25 years of UX strategy, research and design experience. Prior to founding UEGroup, Tony founded Netscape's User Experience Group, the Apple/Claris Human Interface Group and organizations at Lotus/IBM and Xerox PARC. He also launched various web and software ventures. Tony speaks regularly and is the author of the book "Global Interface Design". 

Published Thursday, January 23, 2020 7:15 AM by David Marshall
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