After unwinding over the holidays, it's time to depart from your usual routine and think about what’s going to make 2016 different. There's no better time to reflect on your career development as a designer and set new short-term and long-term goals. The new year brings a host of fascinating developments for product design—here are some key goals to focus on in your professional development this year.
Use Voice in a Verbal UI
The film “Her” came out back in 2013, and it’s kept designers and devs thinking about verbal interfaces on a daily basis. We’re getting closer and closer to having verbal UI technology that brings us a realistic conversational experience, and that’s exciting. Most importantly, verbal UI technology is becoming almost commonplace, as new hardware integrates tech capable of receiving and responding to commands with impressive fluidity.
Everyone’s familiar with Apple’s Siri already. More recently, Amazon’s Echo offers an integrated system that enables you to seek answers, play music and audiobooks, and control automated devices around your house using voice control. The highly anticipated Apple TV features a similar verbal UI as part of its smart TV app interface.
The market’s never been more exciting for verbal UI. The tech capability is growing, and so is the demand. This year, focus your design energy on crafting a verbal UI that solves new problems in an innovative way.
Tell a Story in Virtual Reality
Virtual reality’s time is now, and the next year is going to see advances in VR that make it possible to tell compelling stories for audiences to experience firsthand. In 2016, we’re seeing VR come to a console environment with highly anticipated releases such as Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR. Even smartphones will be capable of telling VR stories through compatible apps and games with the help of an affordable external viewer such as Google Cardboard.
Storytelling in VR is still relatively new, so there’s no consensus on what makes the perfect experience. It’s time to experiment. Tell your own story in a way that your viewers can experience fully with multiple senses. Use an engine such as VRComponent for design purposes, although you’ll need the help of a full 3D engine once you’re done with designing the initial panoramic environment portion of your story.
Design an Apple Watch Interface
Apple Watch 2 has a speculated release date during the third quarter of 2016, although nothing’s yet confirmed. Apple’s watchOS 2 is going to be the first Watch release featuring native apps, rather than having cross-compatibility with App Store apps that were designed to run on an iPhone instead.
That gives you the first half of the year to come up with a native app in time for the new release. Think up a problem, and come up with an app design that solves that problem impeccably. Remember that it’s better to have an app that performs one function perfectly than an app that performs many functions inadequately or without cohesion.
The compact display on the Apple Watch 2 means that you have a challenge ahead of you when it comes to designing an app interface that clearly and concisely displays everything that it needs to. What better time for a challenge than during New Year’s resolutions?
Start User Testing
If you aren’t user testing already, now’s the time to start. 2016 is the year for understanding your app audience inside and out, and painstakingly tailoring your product design to meet their needs.
There’s not a single more important figure to the design and development process than your end user. Understand who your end user is, what their pain points are, and how you can solve their problems effectively by providing a tailored user experience.
Enhance your UX testing by utilizing helpful and practical tools such as Cage for team collaboration, Slack for real-time communication, and Proto.io for app design and development prototyping. The right suite of tools ensures that you’re conducting and implementing your research as effectively as possible from the start to the finish of each project.
Take User Experience Beyond the Screen
This year, design an expansive end-to-end experience that captivates your user on-screen and continues to create and cultivate relationships between the user and products or services off-screen. User experiences don’t end on the screen anymore. Designing for the screen alone limits how well you can solve your users’ problems, so think beyond the screen and into the real world.
Connected devices are the future, thanks to the Internet of Things becoming a widespread solution to device-to-cloud communication. Implement this connectivity into your user experience and use it to problem-solve more effectively. How can connectivity and interactivity benefit your user? How can you use interaction design to maximize the impact of your product?
This year, many once theoretical technology developments are moving into day-to-day use. It’s up to product designers to understand these technologies and learn how to incorporate them into the development process effortlessly—moving towards the end goal of technology so integrated into our daily lives that it appears invisible.