Recently, our UXD team was interviewed for an inventory and future forecast of UX-based work processes. The interview took place as part of a survey conducted by our parent company Data Respons for the company's own trade magazine Interrupt Inside. Six trends emerged that we would now like to present in a compact series. But what are the basic requirements for successful UXD work? The users should be at the centre of every product development, and so our UXD team also follows a user-centered design process. In plain language, this means understanding the workflow of the users that the desired product should support, as well as establishing a way of working characterised by short, iterative cycles with continuous feedback from all stakeholders. This is a process in which ethical considerations are increasingly being taken into account.
Increasing importance of Minimum Viable Products
We would like to dedicate the first part of our series to the buzzword Minimum Viable Product. An MVP is a product that is minimally usable or viable. It has just enough basic functions for users to be able to use it.
The best way to achieve an MVP is through an iterative design. The goal is to understand the context of use holistically and to reduce the complexity of the product as much as possible. Together with our clients' users, our UXD team develops a workflow that helps meet their user requirements. In addition to minimising market risks and project financing costs, this also helps in avoiding financial failures.
At the beginning of each iterative process is the question of the user context. Based on this, user requirements and descriptions of the workflow are developed, which form the basis for use cases. These must be formulated and then prioritised. The definition of goals, users and user tasks helps to understand what content the desired application must have.
Afterwards, a large user flow is created that concretises the application. In this way, a significantly improved common understanding of the overall process and of the product to be developed is created. With the help of the insights gained, an MVP can be derived together with the customers. After the product has been launched, feedback from the users is collected in order to develop it further. The integration of the feedback is continuous.
In the UXD world, a product is never really finished. It is always in development. This way of thinking makes it possible to adapt the product over time. This allows our customers to react promptly to market developments and user needs and to expand their product with new functions, for example.
Augmented Reality expanding to B2B purposes
The next trend that our UXD team has identified is the use of augmented reality in the B2B world. Today, many still think of AR in terms of the entertainment and gaming industry, but in the future the integration of AR elements in production and service processes will play an increasingly important role. We at IT Sonix are already receiving an increasing number of enquiries in this direction.
For the transport and logistics industry, where we have a significant customer base, such integration can be of considerable relevance. For example, we have developed a fleet management system that supports truck drivers in their daily work. The application provides information on navigation, vehicle data and driving and rest times. It is available as a mobile phone app and on a dedicated handheld device in the vehicle.
Our UXD team has developed a use case that involves integrating AR elements into this product. For example, drivers could wear an AR headset when collecting their cargo at the warehouse. Enriched with the right data, this could show not only the actual environment but also which cargo fits into the truck. It would also be conceivable for the system to provide suggestions for loading, e.g. according to the order of delivery. It could even incorporate rules and regulations and not only warn drivers of impending violations, but also prevent the truck from starting.
At first glance, the possibilities for integrating AR elements into production and service processes seem almost unlimited. The challenge of the future for UX designers, in addition to the innovative strength required for this, will be primarily to develop applications that have an economically sustainable benefit.
Developing smart digital assistants
In the third contribution of our series, we would like to address the development of smart digital assistants.
Chatbots are probably the most frequently used tool in this segment. These are used in customer support and at many other touch points between companies and their customers. UX designers see new challenges mainly in making them smarter and more efficient.
Through the development of smart assistants for large call centres, we have already gained relevant experience in the areas of voice recognition and voice navigation. Based on answers, their wording and intonation, the assistants recognise how the conversation guide, used by the call centre agent service, can be improved in order to influence the course of the conversation in a positive and goal-oriented way.
The key to developing smart digital assistants lies in comprehensive user research. The language habits of the users must be analysed. Only in this way can it be clarified in detail whether the digital assistant should have several language registers (technical terms, simple language, etc.) or when it should fall back on which language register. In addition, the most frequent use cases and most relevant questions for the respective specific context must be determined. In this way, our UX designers can give their digital assistant a "personality" that also corresponds to its area of responsibility. In order to train the algorithms behind digital assistants, there is a close exchange between employees from the areas of UX design and data science at IT Sonix. This interaction will become increasingly important in the future, as the number of digital assistants and their complexity is constantly growing.
Minimizing complexity via UID simplicity
In this article, we would like to draw our attention to a trend that combines two supposedly opposing processes of the UXD world.
UX designers are currently struggling on two fronts. While the complexity of the functions is constantly increasing, the desire for minimalism in design remains constant. As interfaces integrate more and more data sources, it is more important than ever to design user interfaces that are intuitive and easy to understand.
Contemporary and efficient UX products must ensure solutions for interlocking complex process flows across all modules in order to meet the continuously increasing requirements. At IT Sonix, we have gained valuable experience in implementing such a solution in the field of vehicle logistics.
If a delivery vehicle breaks down, both the drivers and the employees in fleet management have to act quickly. The further transport has to be organised and the damaged vehicle has to be taken to the nearest workshop for repair. This requires additional human resources (drivers, towing services, etc.). All persons involved in the process need fast, correct and clearly visualised information such as the location of the truck or the progress of the delivery, tailored to their specific role.
For this task management solution, our UXD team has developed a design system that can be integrated into a dashboard to visualise complex issues. The dashboard provides all essential information on critical events requiring action at a glance. Drivers can thus react quickly to changes without lengthy queries. The basic version is minimalist and contains all the basic functions. Depending on the degree of interaction, the users' demands on this basic version increase, as does the desire for a wider range of functions. The product allows customers to activate extensions via in-app purchase.
The challenge for the future will continue to be translating complex interrelationships and large amounts of data into a minimally designed user interface.
Brand Interaction Design
In the penultimate part of our series, we would like to examine the interaction between brands and UX.
As the number of digital products continues to grow, brands need to ensure that they provide a consistent, unified and identifiable customer experience. Brands are "alive" and currently more than ever subject to continuous change. But it is not just products that are changing, the touchpoints between companies and their customers are also increasingly digital. The sum of these interactions is decisive for the perception of a brand. Meanwhile, digital touchpoints are of elementary importance for successful brand design and communication. Emerging virtual environments (such as metaverses) require an increasing range of brand-specific design and thus create a growing need for consistency across all products, services and touchpoints. The goal is to make the brand tangible in a digital world.
This is exactly where UX designers can come in and make a valuable contribution to the design and perception of a brand. In this context, our UXD team identifies two things that are particularly worth focusing on: brand tonality and brand image. To realise both in the best possible way, our UX designers rely on design systems. These are collections of reusable building blocks that both ensure consistency and reduce complexity in the design and development processes. Design systems have been around for some time, but with the fast-paced demands of digital brands, they are becoming increasingly important.
However, the need for consistency does not only apply to the visual part of a brand. Language is an equally important factor. A consistent tone of voice must be found that covers even the smallest parts, such as the labels on the buttons of an application. For this, the young discipline of UX writing offers a systematic approach with guidelines such as corporate language sheets that ensure brand tonality across different applications. The choice of the right language can contribute significantly to making the brand tangible and credible.
Ethical awareness and sustainability
Increasingly, our UXD team is also confronted with ethical issues in their work. The consideration of sustainable aspects as well as interests of society as a whole is becoming increasingly important in digital product design – a trend that creates a tension between companies, customers and social responsibility. It is therefore worth taking a closer look at this development in the last part of our series.
At IT Sonix, we not only see it as our responsibility to find sustainable solutions to the challenges of our time, but also to go beyond the minimum legal requirements to meet them. For example, we have firmly anchored the implementation of the United Nations sustainability goals in our corporate philosophy. These include a focus on inclusive design and gender equality. We are also careful not to be involved in ethically questionable projects.
Sometimes, however, even our UXD team finds itself in complicated situations. For example, the data analysis may suggest that car sharing providers should not park their vehicles in certain areas because of higher vandalism and crime rates. As a result, not all parts of the population benefit from the car sharing service to the same extent. This raises ethical difficulties and considerations. Instead of spreading the sharing economy for all for reasons of efficiency and sustainability, this latently reinforces prejudices and isolation towards socially deprived areas. A purely user-centred UX process runs the risk of neglecting overall social interests.
In order to deal with issues like these in the best possible way, some of our employees have founded a sustainability guild. This promotes awareness of sustainability in all areas of the company and constantly pushes the practical implementation of our sustainability and climate goals. For UX designers, the challenge of the future will be to develop ethical product design in the area of conflict between corporate, customer-oriented and overall social interests.