I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how the web, in its present, chaotic form is not sustainable.
And how there are also signs that things are beginning to change for the better. I’ve also talked about empathy in design a lot.
But of course, many online businesses still tend towards wanting to push and cajole people into buying products or subscribing to their services. Whether by manipulating search or spamming social media.
This still common approach feels like a dead end that we have already reached. People can’t be fooled anymore and are even switching off.
Human Centered Design
So we find ourselves in a chaotic marketplace, controlled by a handful of elite tech giants. Both businesses and consumers have become equally addicted to the system of likes, followers and analytics.
However, many more digital brands are beginning to wisely invest in the emotional and humane aspect of design. Sales teams are beginning to see the benefits to their bottom lines when they design great experiences for their customers. At last, human beings matter online.
Empathy and human-centered design is not hard to understand. There is no right answer to a design problem. There are many alternative solutions that all work but just need consistent revision and renewal.
Emotion Is Not Software
Consider your favourite local shop. It’s a small business and there is warmth in how you are greeted by the shopkeeper. You know where all the products are and I would guess leave feeling a sense of calm. As opposed to a sense of relief after a visit to a large, automated supermarket.
All websites should have that local shop feel to them, however big or small the actual business. Often websites can feel cold because the owners are understandably thinking like systems engineers, pouring over data, without any observational evidence.
I kind of still view computers as counting machines, because they essentially still are. Though with bigger and faster processing power to give the illusion of intelligence, which we now call AI. I don’t believe machines will ever really capture human emotion. They will, at best, mimic our behaviour.
Automation Has It’s Place
Design thinking is as old as modern industry, which is a hundred years or so. Design thinking considers the human experience of products and more commonly these days, services.
Websites and apps need to be designed with real people in mind, more than they have ever been. Technologies have to be tested constantly and improved through iteration. The design process is messy and less rigid than the algorithmic systems computers now demand.
Though it often feels like we are slaves to the machines, when it should in fact be the other way around. The cost of development and programming has reduced significantly, through automation. So there’s an opportunity to pour more resources into designing great experiences.
Product Design For Everyone
We need to be cautious though. User experience design often requires a lot of research and analysing of data, through customer journey maps or personas. There is a danger we can get too wrapped up with internal processes and the age old presentation of sales targets to stakeholders.
Experience design is something everyone can participate in too, irrespective of whether you prefer facts and figures or designing layouts. In my case it is the latter, though my OCD is perfectly suited to structuring complex code.
The point is that, just like life, designing great products is not an exact science. Nothing is orderly or set in stone. It’s hard work understanding people’s behaviour but it’s rewarding when your business succeeds, because you considered customer needs first.