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!
The touch points for social media obviously go far beyond a share button these days and it is impossible to separate social from the overall strategic design. I guess many UXers might avoid recommending APIs or might be shy about it since they fall into tech territory.
I might be one of the few UX designers out there who include not just the “what” but the “how” in coming up with a user flow and strategy. In other words, the “how” will involve the tech components that propel the user’s journey. This is not to limit the choices when formulating a UX strategy, rather, it is a method of adding credibility to the design.
Get familiar with social APIs
Research, research, research. Yes, I know, most of the documentation around APIs is written for a developer audience but that’s okay. As long as you understand the intended functionality and how it might be integrated into your UX strategy, you can make a recommendation.
Choosing the right social API for the job
You’ll need to research which APIs do what and how you might get APIs to creatively work together within your overall UX design. Think of it like a subway line. Your design must indicate where the passenger needs to change trains and get to where they need to go with an easy way to make a return trip. There is a lot of opportunity in getting APIs to to work together in ways that may not be intended by the respective developers who made them.
This is a pretty broad and sometimes daunting term – “future proof”. More accurately, make sure that whatever API you recommend can be replaced by something else or closed off without creating a dead-end. Your overall design should not solely depend on a social component to be a success.
As we know from the past five years, APIs get discontinued, disallowed or disappear altogether in the nebulous, fast changing social media world. So it’s important to keep your design modular enough so that it doesn’t fall apart if the API suddenly becomes unavailable.
As users, we are steadily demanding that our tablets be more ‘useful’. Now that designers are looking beyond trivial apps and mildly entertaining time wasters, tablets are becoming increasingly contextual within our daily lives.
We are finally moving into the realm of the helper apps. We are finding better uses for the tablets with such apps as verbally, a sound-board app that helps people with speech disabilities communicate via their iPad, maybe we can move on to modernizing other areas of our lives. Take for example, bookstore kiosks. The idea of kiosks, in general, is getting old fast. What if you just walked into a store with your tablet?
In the not so distant future, stores will offer tablet shopping services where the shopper can go in and look through a few display items and actually place their order online – on the spot. Imagine if retail clothiers only had to stock two or three items of each size, enough for customers to try them on. These items would not be for sale; rather, the customer places the order through the store’s tablet app. No need to lug the shopping bag to the next store. The item is paid for and shipped from a warehouse to arrive at the customer’s house in a day or two. How cool would that be? You get the benefit of online shopping with the satisfaction of a real store experience.
It may become more common for shoppers to carry a tablet instead of shopping bags. They simply walk in, pull out their tablet and access a universal web-based app through a wireless hot spot in the store.
Using the app, the customer can even scan the display item with their built-in camera to find out if it’s in stock. From there, they can try it on and / or purchase the item through the app. They can simultaneously tweet about their shopping experience or share the item they bought with their friends on Facebook or Twitter.
There are so many entry points into this real-world app experience. If Lucy just noticed via Twitter that her friend, Kelly bought a pair of boots on a tablet app, Kelly may be able to instantly buy the same pair of boots for ten-percent off without walking into the store. Real social shopping is yet to take off, but it will.
Tablets are slowly changing our day-to-day experience as we realize how they could make our lives a little easier.