It’s 2019, and UX design has come a long way. Most businesses have cottoned on to the value of good UX, and today’s consumers expect (and accept) nothing less. We’ve even made some progress in clearing up the eternal confusion between UX and UI!
As the field matures, it’s a great time to contemplate where the industry is headed. In this post, we won’t talk about storytelling, AI or the rise of voice. Instead, we’ll explore three major shifts in the way that UX designers are thinking and working in this constantly evolving industry.
So what’s changing the game in UX this year? Let’s take a look.
Calm Technology, Ethical Design & Digital Wellbeing
One truly significant shift we’ll see over the next few years is in how we design for the user. Traditionally, user-centered design has meant identifying and solving a real user problem — designing the most intuitive, enjoyable products imaginable. Ultimately, brands want to create experiences that the customer just can’t get enough of.
Now, this “can’t get enough” mentality is starting to become a huge problem. Surrounded by irresistible apps and digital services that promise to enhance our lives, we’ve lost the ability to switch off. Smartphone addiction is a very real cause for concern in today’s society, and one that brands and designers must actively address.
We are becoming increasingly aware of the dangers of unethical design — from physical inactivity, sleep deprivation and lack of real-world engagement, all the way through to privacy issues, anxiety, and depression.
Up until now, the question has been: “How can we engage our users to the maximum?” In 2019 and beyond, the much more pressing matter for UX designers is: “How can we design user experiences that are healthy?”
How can we design healthy UX?
Google has set out to tackle this very issue with their Digital Wellbeinginitiative, creating “tools and features that help people better understand their tech usage, focus on what matters most, disconnect when needed, and create healthy habits for the whole family.” Users can now schedule breaks on YouTube, set high-priority notifications on Gmail to avoid notification overload, and send their smartphone into Do Not Disturb mode with a single voice command.
While such tools and features are a step in the right direction, they still place the responsibility in the user’s hands. To truly encourage healthy interactions with technology, we need design that is inherently responsible. Simple tweaks, such as Instagram’s “You’re all up to date” message that warns against excessive feed scrolling, can have a huge impact on the user experience. The user shouldn’t need to actively update their settings or activate certain features; in an ideal world, the design will automatically lend itself to healthy, limited consumption.
So, as brands and technology giants face increasing pressure to put the user’s wellbeing first, UX designers will need to redefine the meaning of user-centered design. Calm technology, ethical design, and digital wellbeing will be major industry buzzwords over the next few years as “good UX” becomes synonymous with “healthy UX”.
The Design Sprint Era & Rethinking User Research
Back in 2016, Jake Knapp started something of a revolution when he published Sprint — a bestseller that has now become an industry staple. A “five-day process for solving problems and testing new ideas”, the Design Sprint method has been steadily rising in popularity. These days, everyone’s talking about agile product development and lean UX.
With the focus on building a working, testable prototype as quickly as possible, this raises the question of where and how user research fits into the picture. Jonathan Courtney of Design Sprint agency AJ&Smart goes as far as to say that user research is overrated, claiming that Design Sprints have revealed an “expensive waste of time” in the modern design process.
Does this mean that UX research as we know it is dead?
Not quite. While the Design Sprint methodology is gaining traction, the industry isn’t quite ready to do away with UX research altogether. Rather, what we’ll see over the next few years is a new approach to UX research emerging — an approach that fits in much more neatly with short sprint cycles.
Cue another soon-to-be industry buzzword: Lean UX research. As the name suggests, lean UX research takes the underlying principles of lean product development and applies them to the traditional, more lengthy research process. Just like lean UX, lean user research focuses on quick decision-making.
So what might lean UX research look like in action?
As a concept very much in its infancy, there are no hard-and-fast rules or established guidelines for conducting lean UX research. However, we are gradually seeing more and more literature on this very topic. Early adopters of lean user research recommend pre-scheduling ongoing user testing sessions well in advance — and on an ongoing basis; sharing meaningful data with relevant stakeholders as soon as you’ve got it (doing away with lengthy reports), and allowing developers to sit in on usability tests.
Over the coming years, designers will face the challenge of trimming down their research processes while still procuring those all-important insights. UX research in the traditional sense will still hold a critical place in the design process; the trick will lie in knowing when to conduct extensive user research, and when to go lean for optimal results.
The Product Designer vs. UX Designer Debate
The industry has long been debating the validity of UX designer as a job title, and recent years have seen a shift towards more specialist job titles — such as UX researcher, UX writer, and information architect.
Now there’s another job title entering the fray: that of the product designer. In a trend which the experts at UX Collective call “the death and rebirth of UX”, the evolution of UX designers into product designers reflects an integral shift in responsibilities. Indeed, it’s no secret that, as the field matures, UX professionals are expected to understand, and be actively involved in, the overall product strategy and wider business goals. Does this mean, then, that every UX designer is also a product designer?
Are UX designers and product designers interchangeable?
This is where we start wading into murky waters. The reality is, the term “product designer” is as open to interpretation as the term “UX designer”, and tends to vary from company to company. In 2019 and beyond, designers and businesses alike will seek to define the product designer role and understand exactly how it differs from that of the UX designer.
A quick Google search will bring up several attempts at outlining the differences between product designers and UX designers. Read any of these articles and you’ll soon see that it’s not so clear-cut.
John Carter, a self-proclaimed product designer, sums it up nicely when he says: “There is not one MAJOR outstanding difference between the two! There are a few [small] things that make these two disciplines different. The skills are very similar, but it’s the questions that each person asks along the way that make the distinction.”
Both product designers and UX designers rely heavily on Design Thinking. Both are concerned with creating a user-friendly product, but the product designer takes a more brand-oriented view. While the UX designer might consider how the product feels in the hands of the user, the product designer will be looking at how the product fits into the wider business strategy.
When one stops being a UX designer and crosses over into product design is largely a matter of context. Some companies will look for UX designers with business know-how. Others — such as Google and Facebook — will hire product designers and UX designers entirely separately.
Through 2019 and beyond, the landscape of UX job titles will continue to be complex, controversial, and often contradictory. Those bearing the classic UX designer title will ultimately face a fork in the road: To specialize (UX researcher, information architect, interaction designer…) or to strategize (product designer, product manager…)?
72% OF GLOBAL 5G SMARTPHONE REVENUE COMES FROM CHINA
Counterpoint Research reported that in the second quarter of 2020, 5G smartphone shipments increased, accounting for 10% of global smartphone shipments.
REVENUE AND ASP OF 5G SMARTPHONE
In the second quarter of this year, 5G smartphone revenue accounted for 20% of global smartphone revenue. Among them, China is the largest contributor to 5G smartphone sales. It is reported that 72% of global 5G smartphone revenue comes from China. Most of them comes from 5G smartphones released by Huawei. In addition, the average selling price of the Chinese smartphone market also increased by 12% year-on-year.
According to the report, the Asia-Pacific region, China, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, North America and other regions contributed 10% of the overall growth rate in the average sales price in the second quarter of 2020. However, Latin America is the only country where average sales prices have fallen 5% year-on-year. Although the new coronavirus has had an impact on the entire market, the high-end segment has not fallen sharply. Compared with the overall market decline, it only faces a year-on-year decline of 8%.
The report also shows that in the second quarter of 2020, the average selling price (ASP) of the global smartphone market increased by 10% year-on-year. With the exception of Latin America, average selling prices increased in all regions. This is because many 5G phones sold well in the second quarter. The increasing demand for education, work, games, and entertainment is also a factor in users’ preference for high-end smartphones.
Overall, due to the economic impact and the closure of offline retail stores, the market’s demand for low-priced devices has decreased. Coupled with the resilience of the high-end market and the growth of 5G smartphone sales (especially in China), this quarter’s increase in the average selling price of smartphones.
THE BOTTOM LINE
At the same time, smartphone shipments fell 23% year-on-year, reaching a record high. Although most OEM’s smartphone shipments declined in the second quarter of 2020, Apple’s shipments increased by 3% year-on-year, while iPhone revenue increased by 2% year-on-year. But we should also point out that Apple still has no 5G iPhone. The first models will come to the market only this year. Once this happens, and 5G appears on lower models, it will be quite interesting to see how the proportion changes.
Former Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime announces new game company
Two years after stepping down as CEO at Blizzard, the game company he co-founded in 1991, Mike Morhaime is back with his next venture. It’s called Dreamhaven, and it’s a combination of a publisher and developer, with “a common goal to empower creators, help bring their ideas to life, and create original gaming experiences that foster meaningful connections between players.”
As part of the announcement, Dreamhaven also revealed its first two internal studios: Moonshot Games and Secret Door. Moonshot is headed by a trio of Blizzard veterans, including former Hearthstone lead Jason Chayes, StarCraft II director Dustin Browder, and Hearthstone creative director Ben Thompson. “Though it’s very early days, when we think about Moonshot, we imagine a studio that celebrates curiosity and courage,” Chayes said in a statement. “We aspire to be bold in our approach, and we think the best way to do that is to create a culture centered around trust.”
Secret Door, meanwhile, is similarly led by a team of former Blizzard developers, including Chris Sigaty (executive producer on Hearthstone), Alan Dabiri (technical director on Warcraft III and StarCraft II), and Eric Dodds (designer on World of Warcraft and Starcraft). No projects have been announced for either studio.
Morhaime stepped down as CEO of Blizzard in 2018, though he stayed on in a consultancy role until last year. In an interview with The Washington Post, he said that one of the goals of the new company was to build an environment focused on creators — something that was likely a challenge under Activision, which became Blizzard’s parent company in 2008.
“We’ve learned a ton about what goes into creating an environment that allows creators to do their best work, and we were very successful doing that for many years at Blizzard,” Morhaime told the Post. “We reached a crossroads where we reassessed what we want to do with the rest of our lives.”
Apple Loop: Shock iPhone 12 Details, Massive iOS 14 Problems, Macbook Pro Delay
Taking a look back at another week of news and headlines from Cupertino, this week’s Apple Loop includes surprising iPhone 12 benchmarks, big problems with iOS 14, two new iPads, Apple ignores MacOS, the “good/better/best” of the Apple Watch, the controversy around Apple One, and the Macs’ never changing system System Preferences.
Apple Loop is here to remind you of a few of the very many discussions that have happened around Apple over the last seven days (and you can read my weekly digest of Android news here on Forbes).
Just How Fast Is Your Next iPhone?
We might not have seen the iPhone 12 family as part of Apple’s virtual September launch event this week, but we have seen the benchmarks pop up on the AnTuTu website. That gives us a raw comparison of the numbers from last year’s iPhone to this year’s. Philip Michaels reports some pretty shocking numbers:
“Leaked benchmarks from Antutu, purportedly showing off an iPhone 12 Pro Max’s performance, may help fill in some of the blanks. MySmartPrice spotted the leaked numbers, which claim to show off a device with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage running iOS 14.1.
“According to the leaks, the iPhone 12 Pro Max tallied a score of 572,333 on Antutu’s test, which is a 9% gain over the iPhone 11 Pro Max’s 524,436 result on the same test. MySmartPrice says the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s reported tally would be the highest score ever posted by an iPhone, which you’d hope given that it’s a new model.
The Big Problem With iOS 14
Apple may not have announced a release date for the iPhone, but it did announce the release date of iOS 14. And that has caused problems. Normally Apple will provide a week’s worth of ‘heads up’ time to Developers so they can ensure their apps are ready for the jump up to the next major version of iOS. Not this year… developers had less than a days notice, and they are not happy. Matt Binder reports:
““Gone are the hopes of being on the store by the time users install the new iOS 14 and are looking for new apps. Gone is the chance to get some last-minute fixes into your existing apps to make sure they don’t stop working outright by the time users get to upgrade their OS,” explained Steve [Troughton-Smith from High Caffeine Content.”
““There are some developers who have spent all summer working on something new, using the latest technologies, hoping to be there on day one and participate in the excitement (and press coverage) of the new iOS,” he continued. “For many of them, they’ll be incredibly upset to have it end like this instead of a triumphant launch, and it can dramatically decrease the amount of coverage or sales they receive.””
Take Two Tablets And Call Your iPhone In The Morning
Taking the flagship spot away from the ‘missing presumed having a good time’ iPhone 12 was Apple’s new iPad Air. Beating the smartphone as the first device with Apple’s new A14 ARM-based processor. Samuel Axon and Jim Salter report for Ars Technica:
“The iPad Air gets the new A14 Bionic CPU, built on 5nm process technology. It’s a six-core CPU with two high-performance cores and four lower-power, more efficient cores for simpler background tasks. The A14 Bionic offers a 30 percent GPU performance boost compared to previous generations, and Apple says it puts up double the graphics performance of typical laptops.”
As well as the increased power, 2020’s iPad Air has a new design; USB-C has been added, the bezels have been trimmed away, the home button has been removed, and TouchID has been integrated into the power button. It;s not the only new iPad, as the entry-level iPad moves up rom the A10 to the A12 Bionic processor. Benjamin Mayo reports:
“The jump from A10 to A12 means Apple’s cheapest iPad will feature the Neural Engine for the first time. Apple says the A12 chip offers more than twice the performance of the top selling Windows laptop, 6x faster than the top-selling Android tablet and 6x faster than the best-selling Chromebook.
“The 8th-generation iPad keeps the same price as the 7th-gen: that’s $329 for general sale and $299 for education.”
Will Mac Owners Be Satisfied With Safari After macOS Delay?
If you were waiting for MmcOS Big Sur to drop for your Mac or MacBook, then you are out of luck. Apple’s event saw updates to iOS, iPadOS, tvOS, and watchOS… but macOS has been delayed. The ‘Big Sur’ release is still in the future, but a small crumb (perhaps from a cookie) has been handed to Mac fans in the form of Safari 14, presumably to offer cross-OS support with other devices. Juli Clover reports:
“Safari 14 brings improved performance, customizable start pages, a Privacy Report to see which cross-site trackers are being blocked, and a new tab bar design that provides tab previews so you can see what you have open at a glance. Today’s update also removes Adobe Flash.”
The Apple Watch Strikes Three
Two new Apple Watch models were launched, and as the Apple Watch Series 3 remains, there is now a low-, a mid-, and a high-level smartwatch in the classic triplet that Apple was once famous for. Todd Haselton looks over the Series 6 Apple Watch for CNBC, including the headline ‘wellness’ features:
“The Series 6 also has Apple’s most advanced sensors. You can run the ECG app for an electrocardiogram, for example, a feature that’s not on the Apple Watch SE or Series 3. It’s also the only model with the new blood-oxygen app. I tried that and it told me my blood oxygen was 96%, which seems good.
“…Apple is careful to explain that this isn’t a medical device. You can use it if you’re curious about your blood oxygen when you’re hiking at high altitudes, but Apple isn’t making any promises about detecting low oxygen should you fall ill with coronavirus.”
Meanwhile, Apple has brought the ‘SE’ brand to the Apple Watch, again with the promise of a cheaper ‘mid-range’ slice of hardware that still delivers the core Apple experience. Chris Velazco has spent some time with the wearable to try and work out where it fits into the portfolio:
“For one, the SE uses the same S5 system-in-package (or SIP) that we got in last year’s Series 5, which in turn contains the same dual-core processor as the Series 4. Meanwhile, Apple has confirmed that the SE has the same compass and always-on altimeter as the Series 6, along with a very similar screen.
“From what I can tell, it’s the same bigger display we got in the Series 5, just without the always-on functionality enabled. And while the Series 4 was the first Apple Watch to come with heart-sensing ECG support, you simply don’t get that here. Ditto for the Series 6’s new blood oxygen measurement features.”
Bouquets and Brickbats For Apple One
Also announced alongside Apple’s hardware, and perhaps an indication of where Apple wishes to focus on the future, were new options for the various subscription services offered by Cupertino. Apple One takes the popular options and bundles them together while offering a discount. Brian Heater reports:
“It’s not quite mix and match yet, but there are three pricing tiers. Individual offers Apple Music, TV+, Arcade and iCloud for $15 a month. The Family version will get you those four services for $20 a month. For the hardcore, there’s the $30 a month Premier tier, which bundles iCloud, Music, TV+, Arcade, News+ and [the new service] Fitness+.“
“For those who have been putting off a given Apple subscription, such a bundle could certainly sweeten the pot — and make it even harder for users to escape the pull of the Apple software ecosystem.”
More at TechCrunch. Given Apple’s market position, using one service to pptentiallybolster another through a bundle has drawn the eye of the competition. Spotify – which has already filed an anti-trust complaint with the European Commission against Apple – drew attention to the issue shortly ager the end of the event.
“Once again, Apple is using its dominant position and unfair practices to disadvantage competitors and deprive consumers by favoring its own services. We call on competition authorities to act urgently to restrict Apple’s anti-competitive behavior, which if left unchecked, will cause irreparable harm to the developer community and threaten our collective freedoms to listen, learn, create, and connect.”
The look of the MacOS user interface has evolved since OSX was announced in 2000. One area has stayed relatively contestant, but the small changes highlight the thinking behind the OS over the years.
“The interface started glassy and skeuomorphic, mimicking the materials used on Macs. Over the decades, it went through significant revisions. One thing that seems to have remained relatively unchanged over the years is the System Preferences screen.
“But, at a closer glance, we’ll see that this mundane part of the operating system has changed quite a bit and hides some fun easter eggs and surprises.”
Apple Loop brings you seven days worth of highlights every weekend here on Forbes. Don’t forget to follow me so you don’t miss any coverage in the future. Last week’s Apple Loop can be read here, or this week’s edition of Loop’s sister column, Android Circuit, is also available on Forbes.
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