Summer is holiday season for everyone, but for our team, it tends to get considerably busy. We’re working hard to prepare the 4th Mobile UX London conference, taking place on 20 November at One Park Crescent, London. The event which will bring to spotlight examples of designing for emerging technologies.
MUXL 2018 will feature case studies from voice, VR, AR, connected things, AI, multi-modal and blockchain. In preparation for the event, we caught up with Stacey Seronick, Head of UX Design & Research, Catalia Health. Stacey will be joining us to share her experience on researching and designing for multi-modal and chatbots interactions. You can hear from her at MUXL Conference 2018. Secure your ticket now while the Early Bird discount is still available.
Our Interview with Stacey
Can you briefly explain your experience in UX? What made you become interested in the topic?
I’m just fascinated by people. How they interact with each other, how they communicate with each other and how they navigate the world around them. It’s this borderline obsession with understanding the nature and psychology of how people interact with each other which helps guide me in trying to recreate, replace or augment such human-to-human experiences with something that is not-human. Whether that be an app, a site, a smart device, or something else as-yet-to-be-invented.
This is what drove me into this kind of work in the first place, over 20 years ago. But it’s the knowledge that if I can ensure the right thing is built the right way – whether that means in a given situation – then I am helping someone by making their life a tiny bit easier, happier, better. And knowledge that in some way – no matter how “small” – I have helped someone. It’s that knowledge I live for and which keeps me engaged and enthusiastic about work.
If there were a list of ten commandments for good mobile UX, what would be your number 1?
Design for “extreme cases” and failure/termination points first, not last.
In fact lose the term “edge case” from your vocabulary entirely. Edge cases aren’t so “edgy” when you consider that a sighted user on a mobile device outdoors on sunny day is not terribly unlike a low-sight or blind user on a mobile device anywhere at any time of day.
What is the most frequent mistake you’ve seen done in mobile UX? How can people avoid this for the future?
Way-too-tiny targets and Help content that is not easy to access or is just plain inaccessible. Both these issues are really part of a larger set of problems around accessibility and designing inclusively. I think many of the frustrations which folks have, myself included, with mobile designs could be solved by designing for those experiences. Those that we currently think of as edge cases and encompassing them into our “major” user journeys and stories. Not bottom-of-the-barrel and last in the backlog.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to throw any shade here. I am very aware of how difficult it can be to convince the powers that be that accessibility and inclusive design are important. Which is why I really have started encouraging folks to reframe accessibility as part and parcel of designing for humans. Not because it’s “The Right Thing To Do”, but because the people using what you design (“Look – our personas say so!”) are: “blinded” by the sun; “deafened” by ambient noise around them; “missing a limb” which is dedicated to holding a child; and so on.
What should you consider when designing for immersive experiences?
No matter what level of reality you’re designing for – fully virtual, augmented, or mixed – the actual, real environment which a person is physically in while experiencing your immersive experience is still there. This is important and sounds obvious. However, ensure it’s considered before you create something that has folks walking off real cliffs, lost in your created reality.
The other tip I’d offer (courtesy of Alistair Sommerville), is that it’s important to take note of the fact that almost all portals are rectangular in shape. By portals, I mean doors – literal or otherwise – into other realities, again actual other realities or conduits to them. Doors, windows, screens of all types, phones, signage, books – they are nearly all, always rectangular. Just because you’ve created an alternate or augmented reality for someone doesn’t mean that they have thrown out all preconceived notions of “how the world works.” Portals to more/other information and places are quickly read by people for what they are when they’re rectangular in shape. The inverse of this is of course true, too. If you wish to create a puzzling, difficult, or uncomfortable immersive experience, use portals which are circular in shape.
How do you think mobile UX will be transformed in the next years? What trends do you think will become the norm in the following years?
I think we’re going to start getting away from screens more and more. I think the role of mobile designers may necessarily shift more into the worlds of multi-modal or mixed realities.
Designing for these other kinds of realities is vastly different from designing for screens or even for voice UI. The rules are different, there’s new and different things to consider. I think we start to see a dramatic shift in how folks are trained for these jobs. This includes what kinds of knowledge and backgrounds are needed to be successful at these roles.
Another trend which I believe we are just starting to see, and will hopefully see much more of, is a level of transparency around the technology that underlies the experiences we are designing. Transparency not just around what the technology can do and what it “knows” about you, as we are seeing today, but more so about who created the models upon which business decisions are being made. Was the dataset created by a small group of like-minded individuals or by a very large cross-section of humanity? The onus is on us to be transparent about how a model was created and by whom.
What are you looking forward to at Mobile UX London 2018?
The international perspectives I get to hear and learn. As the world grows smaller and more connected by the day, it becomes more and more vital that experiences we design take internationalization into consideration. High and low touch cultures can have such vastly different needs for talking about the same thing. For example, how it’s positioned to the colours used and so much more.
These differences in cultural norms and expectations are fascinating to me. Conferences like MUXL, which for me are “overseas,” are where I get the best opportunities to learn from fellow speakers and attendees. Including subjects or frameworks I may know well, but potentially with a differently weighted set of lenses than mine.
Do you also want to see the UX world through a different set of lenses? Get your ticket to join 250+ UX professionals, including Stacey herself, at Mobile UX London 2018 and see how the future of UX design looks like.
*Answers edited for length and/or clarity.