As 2012 draws to a close and a New Year about to begin, I will now cast my top five annual predictions for 2013. This is a long post…
1. Print will disappear sooner than you think
2012 ended with Newsweek going digital-only and abandoning print after 80 years.
What most publishers don’t want to face, especially those who are close to retirement age, is that they no longer control content distribution. The print model is no longer sustainable with print advertising on a steady decline.
Of course by now most publications have digital content in the form of web, mobile and everything in between. Pay-walls or paid-metering now being used on many news publications in Canada and the US became the trend in 2012 as media companies and publishers desperately try to get readers to pay for digital content. The revenue gained from paid-metering doesn’t offset the decline in print revenue however, given that metering just means that they need to also offset the decline in page views and sales in digital advertising.
So they have two choices; stop the printed edition and drastically reduce the size of their staff and learn to survive in this (not so new) digital jungle OR shut down altogether and go out of business.
Twitter is the new newspaper. Newspapers can’t comprehend the shift from a local distribution model to a model that embraces the new digital news reader. That is, people who consume content on social media as their main source – socially aggregated content. People don’t care as much for local content these days, they really just want good content. You can pretty much aggregate the type of content you like by following select users on Twitter .
Oh – and by the way, reading content aggregated through Twitter makes pay-walls more-or-less irrelevant. Publishers will need to find new ways to make revenue in this digital world.
It will all come down to services, bundling content and a more data-driven data model.
My new content application prototype, Beamwire CL solves a lot of these problems, so I’ll be talking to a few potential media partners in 2013.
Related Link: Newsweek abandons print after 80 years, goes online only
2. The shift from social to private will begin
Okay, the trolls who are out there will sling mud at this one saying that if you want more privacy, stop using social media. Thanks in advance for overstating the obvious.
Now the reality is that most users have their lives so entrenched in social media that shutting off may be tough to do. There are so many services attached to core social applications that it might become a bit overwhelming to manage.
The opportunity in 2013 is to help users get some of their privacy back. Social media is still a popularity contest and your “social equity” is quantified by how many followers you have. This trend can backfire when you mix large lists of “friends”, most of whom you don’t really know with highly personal information and details about your life.
Identity theft has been on the rise as a result and I think now more than ever, users need tools to help them organize and separate the popularity contest from information that they really only want to share with a select few.
Part of this is education but some folks may be too lazy to bother with learning fast enough. Services that help automate privacy will become popular and help users get some control over their private lives again. The opportunities are too numerous to mention here but keep an eye out for emerging startups that address this issue in 2013.
3. TV will emerge from a new digital cocoon
TV has already changed so much with users moving away from traditional cable companies and adopting alternative means for getting TV shows, movies and video content. Apple TV has been one of the front-runners with users paying à la carte for content rather than paying big fat subscription fees for channels they never watch.
In Canada, this trend may be moving slower than it has in the US thanks to monopolies by companies like Rogers and Bell – Antitrust anyone?
Regardless, users aren’t waiting, they are already going around the problem and taking control of their programming experience through other means. Take into account new display technologies, better entertainment options on gaming consoles (i.e. Xbox 360) and integrated services through the ever expanding Apple TV (they are rumored to have a TV coming out in 2013), you will see a major shift in 2013 in how users consume programming.
Related Link: Apple TV hinted at by CEO Tim Cook
4. Mobile will be the nucleus of our digital ecosystem
This is already happening but will become more prevalent in 2013.
Where your PC or laptop used to be hub of your digital universe not so long ago, the smartphone has now taken its place putting the PC on the periphery. This makes perfect sense since the smartphone is the one piece of tech that users always have access to 24/7.
Now the smartphone acts as our remote control, home monitoring center, music library, gaming console, they can start our cars and they initiate data synchronization from almost any location.
The eco-system will continue to grow around our smartphones as 2013 unfolds.
5. UX is going to be huge
I think 2012 is the first year I’ve seen a flurry of job postings from companies trying to hire their very own UX person. UX education is becoming more formalized and it seems companies are realizing that they need this service in-house in order to be successful in a digital world.
That is all well and good, however not all UX folks are cut from the same cloth and hiring a dedicated UX person may or may not be the best decision to make in 2013. When many hiring managers are still trying to figure out the difference between UX and UI (they are the same thing no?) – then maybe it’s better to start with outside help first.
To be clear, a UX expert should have UI (user interface design), user interaction design and information architecture under their belt with a thorough knowledge of how to apply cognitive ergonomics and solve design problems across multiple platforms. In addition, they should have experience in user testing – formal and informal.
It might seem like a lot to ask but then this is no small role in any organization. You can’t become a good UX professional by attending a few 3-day conferences. User experience takes, well…experience. You won’t be good at it really until you’ve been doing it for at least 4-5 years (I’ve been doing it for 14 years).
The option that should not be overlooked in 2013 is hiring these UX folks on contract. Are you sure you really need someone full-time / permanent? Another option is looking for a design company that specializes in UX. That might be the best way for non-UXers in your organization to learn how the process works before you make the decision to invest in more headcount.
If you do decide to go with someone full-time, make sure they can do a few things first:
- Research – they can use metrics and know how to find data on current user trends
- Business Goals – they understand your business goals and know how to cross reference your goals with a successful user experience.
- Prototyping – They need to know how to generate effective prototypes for multiple devices. I can hear the UX trolls coming down the mountain on this one! Many UXers have made their living from producing reams of documentation. This worked well for web pages at one time but it just doesn’t put things into context fast enough when you’re looking at a user experience on multiple devices.
- Less documentation – this goes hand-in-hand with the third point. Strategic documentation is still valid but should be considered in small doses and when it really is needed to clarify certain issues. (i.e. do you really need to produce another eco-system?)
Part of the fun in casting predictions is watching how many of them come true. I will elaborate throughout the year on some of the above as things progress.
Happy New Year everyone and all the best in 2013!
I don’t mean this literally of course. From the time you wake up and look around your bedroom and as you stumble into the kitchen and bathroom, you are surrounded by one thousand or more products that were designed by someone. The mattress you sleep on, the pillows, the bed frame, the clock, nightstand, right down to the drywall and closet doors that make up the container that is your room – everything was designed.
The sum of these objects make up your experience. Some of these objects create an experience and some of them are part of a larger experience. Some parts are designed to be ignored most of the time and some are designed to get your attention for specific tasks.
Your alarm clock and the alarm tone or ‘tune’ you choose to wake up to everyday defines the experience of waking up. The alarm clock was designed to provide multiple experiences, taking into account that there are heavy, medium and light sleepers. The user chooses the sound they want to wake up to thus personalizing the experience. This can be considered a micro-experience in the overall macro-experience that make up a succession of tasks that is getting up in the morning.
So far, I’m talking about the factors that are predictable, there are also factors that are unpredictable. The weather outside will determine how much natural light will get inside the room. Maybe the user has decided to install heavy blinds or curtains that will make this irrelevant. Maybe they went with medium-opacity curtains to allow some natural light to come into the room when they wake up. If it’s winter, this may also be irrelevant.
Our world is made up of a series of micro and macro experiences and even with the experience of getting up in the morning, there are multiple layers of complexity and multiple factors influencing the experience from day to day.
The one thousand designers I’m referring to – all designed within factors that will effect the experience of their respective product. Some products are designed to work within stringent parameters and much of the time, the designer has defined for users – ‘how their product should be used’ – usually in an owners manual or installation guide. This is designing with an ideal in mind and communicating the ideal thus mitigating the risks and leaving it up to the user to use the product as intended.
This is the key differentiator when comparing user experience design to other design disciplines (i.e. industrial design, interior design etc). As UX designers, we must design for how users will use, misuse and abuse a product. We don’t have the luxury of defining the ideal use case and holding users to it. Our design must be adaptive. It’s why we get hired.
We also must be cognizant that a product can be an experience or that a number of products combined can make up an experience. That last point is probably what UXers struggle with the most. The current trend is that UX designers don’t design products, they design the overall experience. This is only partially true.
We should be looking at UX design as a field that is performed in an arena.
That arena will sometimes be a product and other times it will be an environment made up of many products. The touch-points would be the user interface (UI) and the goals or success measurements should be clearly defined. In other words, it doesn’t matter whether we’re designing a product or guiding a user through many products to reach a goal.
Where UX design adds value and works in conjunction with other design disciplines is:
- Our design must strive to be self evident. If we have done this, the intended use should be clear.
- We will also design for known cases of improper use, meaning that we build-in touch-points and opportunities for getting users back on course when they do not use something as intended.
- Finally, we cannot really design the user’s experience 100% – there are so many factors that cannot be predicted and therefore, we provide help when something goes wrong. This is where a user’s manual, help guide or service call is built into the experience.
In all cases, the design is intended to get the user to the goal. We will have more control over the experience when the arena is an end-to-end product versus when we are creating an experience made up of many products that may or may not work well together.
So where should UX designed be used? On any product that needs to be self-evident. Most often and not by accident, we end up designing for software or web applications because of the need for those experiences to be self-evident but UX design can be injected into almost anything virtual or real. Our job is to work with a thousand designers from multiple disciplines and do the thinking for the user so they don’t have to.
I’ll admit the pricing wasn’t always competitive, however, we eased the transition for the consumer by offering a bricks to clicks strategy. This strategy involved incentives for consumers to buy more online and bundling products to make the value-add proposition stronger.
At the time, Amazon was leading the charge. They were spending an exorbitant amount of money on marketing and planting the idea of shopping from the comfort of your own home.
When we look back from where we are today, Amazon is still leading the charge and is stronger than ever. Yesterday, they posted that their earnings exceeded their projections by 10% and their net sales increased 34% this year. They have become the largest online department store with the built-in e-commerce intelligence to understand what the consumer might want next.
Today, we have much more to consider in our online shopping strategies. If you’re building online shopping around a specific brand, you need to make it social and it needs to be targeted on the consumers’ lifestyle.
It’s not just social for the sake of social, rather it’s social in a way that allows the consumer to find the items that suit their lifestyle and share them with their circle of friends. Fab.com does a great job of building communities around things people like. It’s mostly geared towards Urban hipsters, nevertheless, the idea of making the products seems like treasure – treasure you can’t find anywhere else, is what makes the experience appealing to consumers.
Pricing isn’t so much a problem anymore as most retailers have architected their product fulfillment to factor-in the cost of delivery and the absorption of that cost in order to make buying online much more enticing (free shipping for X-number of dollars).
Consumers are more confident now. Even with clothing, which used to be risky to buy online, it seems we’ve almost cleared that hurdle as consumers settle into the brands that they know in terms of sizing and style.
I think we’re now ready to go a step further with mobile devices. Stores don’t really need to keep as much inventory as they used to. They only need to offer enough sizes and styles for a consumer to try it on.
If it’s not the right color, no problem. They can use a branded mobile app to make their purchase from the store and have the right color delivered to their home for the same price. This tactic in combination with mobile payment through smartphones, makes it easier for the customer to get what they want and builds a great deal of confidence in the brand.
There a number of ways to leverage mobile and we’re just now scratching the surface. Starbucks’ mobile app has seen huge growth. Over 45 million transactions have been made over the last 14 months with their app.
While the idea of the mobile wallet is still in it’s infancy, I think consumers will be much more amenable to swapping their store credit cards for an easy app to make in-store purchases, using the same account to also shop online. Oh, and no more lining up at the till!
This system, coupled with a stronger lifestyle brand can make for a powerful combination when it comes to today’s consumers.
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