How Artificial Intelligence Will Affect UX Design

December 4th, 2018

Artificial intelligence (AI) is here, but it’s arrival (fortunately) hasn’t been quite as dramatic as decades of science fiction films may have suggested. While no one will confuse a website chatbot with HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey, AI has nevertheless had an important impact on a number of industries over the course of the last decade. Some industries have been hit harder by these innovations and there is increasing concern that AI may soon be coming for more creative professions like UX designers.

Luckily, UX design is uniquely situated to make the most of these developments. There are a number of ways that AI programs will work hand-in-hand with UX designers to enhance user and customer experiences. Here are just a few ways that AI will have an impact on the UX industry over the course of the next few years.

Targeted Customer Products & Services

When it comes to offering products and services to customer online, AI is already greatly affecting UX design practices. Powerful algorithms are constantly analyzing huge amounts of data and using the trends they identify to specifically cater to the individual user at a very specific moment. By tracking behavior and anticipating future wants and needs, AI has the ability to narrowly target users across a wide variety of channels. This can potentially open up a wide range of strategies for UX designers looking to make experiences as seamless and nonintrusive as possible. Algorithm-driven features like Google’s “featured snippet” and Amazon’s “Amazon’s Choice” offer an intriguing glimpse of how well-designed programs can help to drive and direct consumer attention.

Dynamic Customer Experiences

From chatbots to virtual assistants, AI is fast approaching a point at which it will be able to reasonably mimic human conversation and behavior. Even at their current stage of development, these programs can greatly enhance customer experiences by engaging users across multiple touchpoints and making it easier for them to find the information and resources they need quickly and efficiently. Where these tools once merely performed simple, scripted tasks, they are learning to offer a wider suite of services and engage in genuine conversations with customers. As they continue to develop, UX designers must think about how they can be implemented in new contexts to provide a more dynamic customer experience. AI will also change the way UX developers design interfaces. Interactive navigation is already becoming a thing of the past, with “invisible” interactions like voice taking center stage. Developers will need to rethink how users engage with devices to begin and move through their customer journey.

Automated Design

As with many other professions, UX designers are justifiably concerned that AI might eventually replace them. So far, these fears have proven unfounded. One of the more noteworthy examples was The Grid, a website development system that debuted in 2016 promising to build and design websites complete with modules and other interactive elements without the direction of a designer. Like many other AI design systems, The Grid managed to deliver functional sites, but they lacked the unique characteristics and compelling design elements found in good human-designed sites. Machine learning could eventually provide a solution to this problem, but AI researchers still haven’t found ways to make programs truly creative.

When combined with human designers, though, automated AI tools have the potential to perform a wide range of time consuming, low value tasks so the designers can focus on the more critical and innovation intensive work. Far from replacing them, these tools can actually empower UX designers, allowing them to work through iterative ideas faster. Since analytical tools can model user behavior based on data, AI provides a potential method for automating different types of testing. While user testing will always be vital to the design process, using AI tools to gauge potential website performance quickly and easily.

Regardless of how UX designers think about AI, the fact remains that it’s already here and making itself known. Rather than viewing it as a threat, many UX professionals are instead thinking about how to make the technology work for them to help them deliver better customer experiences. As AI tools continue to improve, UX designers will surely identify new strategies that leverage the advantages they offer while still carving out a clear role for themselves in the design process.

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