Wondering where 2023 went? Us too. As the year winds down, we find ourselves in a predictably reflective mood about UX in 2023.
Lattice’s Design leader Jared Erondu sat down with us back in 2022 to talk about the future of design. One year later, we look back on some of the predictions made and how close (or far off) we were.
To complement Jared’s conversation, Marvin customers and partners shared fascinating insights with us all year long. If you missed any of these conversations, you’re in the right place. We’ve got the best of the best, all in one place (now where have we heard that one before?).
Here’s a summary of what to expect from this UX in 2023 review:
- UX in 2023 Industry Statistics
- Dealing with All the Change of UX in 2023
- Rethinking Design & Research Roles
- The Designer’s Toolkit
Ready to skip the annual recap and jump to 2024? We’ve got that too! Jared came back earlier this month to share UX Predictions: What to Expect in Design and Research for 2024.
UX in 2023: The Stats
Let’s set the scene. In the past few years, we’ve seen seismic shifts in the job market:
Silicon Valley’s tech giants hired aggressively before and during the pandemic. Since 2019, Microsoft, Google, Meta and increased workforces by 875,000 employees. Less people quit their jobs due to the unpredictability of the economy. Work-from-home and zoom meetings in pajamas became the norm.
Over 47 million Americans quit their jobs, in a phenomenon dubbed “the Great Resignation”. Why? They cited poor work-life balance and lack of fulfillment in their current roles.
Harvard Business Review reported that worker attrition figures actually align with past trends. The Great Resignation wasn’t an anomaly. It was inevitable. The five factors that caused workers to voluntarily leave their roles are:
Retirement, Relocation, Reconsideration, Reshuffling and Reluctance.
Mass layoffs followed the Great Resignation. US tech companies cut 140,000 jobs in 2022, with a further 94,000 layoffs occurring by March ’23. This informative tracker breaks down layoffs in the tech industry over time.
Jared acknowledged that the job market was slowing down. At the time, companies were doing away with their entire research practices. None more public than Elon Musk’s surgical removal of the ethical AI team at Twitter/X.
A glance at one job portal reveals the staggering flux state of UX jobs. Job site Indeed charted the changes in UX job postings on their website across three years: Change in UX Job Openings in the U.S.
Indeed used 2021 as a baseline (100%). In 2022, UX research roles increased almost threefold, while UX design roles more than doubled. 2023 paints a more dreary picture. Both UX design and research roles have dropped to around 70% of baseline level.
[We are not sponsored by Indeed. We just love their content.]
This information may be a drop in the ocean, but it’s symptomatic of an industry-wide downward trend. Spot on, Jared!
Dealing with All the Change of UX in 2023
How do companies and professionals navigate through these choppy waters? Economic uncertainty means they can ill afford to gamble with their decision making.
Once considered a luxury, UX is now a necessary means to avoid risk. It’s a strange dichotomy — more and more companies need UX expertise, but there are a diminishing number of roles.
With resources strapped and people’s backs up against the wall, it’s a testing time for anybody. That’s when a designer or product manager’s skills shine through (Jared Erondu, 2022).
Declining jobs in the industry doesn’t mean there’s less demand for UX. It accentuates its importance.
To get you started, check out Marvin’s UX research principles for design teams.
How do UX professionals deal with the doom and gloom?
Twilio’s Vanessa Whatley shed light on building resilient research teams. Over the course of her career, Vanessa has overseen downsizing at many of her past employers. So much so, that she’s built up a tolerance for change.
She spoke to us at Marvin shortly after Twilio underwent a round of layoffs.
The effect it has on existing employees’ morale is massive. At the end of the day, we’re all human beings — saying goodbye to friends and coworkers is never easy. Vanessa outlined the importance of giving people time and space to process change.
After a requisite grieving period, the show must go on at a company’s UX practice. Jump into a project that adds value to functions across the organization (more on this below).
Rethinking Design Roles
Designers faced an uphill battle to communicate their value to other organizational stakeholders. Jared was adamant that designers have established their seat at management’s table. So now what?
He wants to see designers move up the value chain — to get to the root of user problems.
They must focus on building the right thing, instead of building the thing right.
Influence Business Strategy
A designer’s role today is vastly different from 20 years ago. Designers (and researchers) must ingrain themselves in the decision-making DNA of a company.
- Be of value. Simple advice from Ben Little, VP of Design at Fidelity: Help colleagues within your company see through the research lens. What decision do they need to make? What data do they need?
- Communicate your insights. Rosenfeld Media’s founder Lou stressed the importance of sharing insights across teams. His view? The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Involvement from everyone in the organization helps prevent silos. It also enables a deeper, more well rounded understanding of users.
- Speak management’s language. Communicate your research insights in a language that business leaders can understand. Jared and S&P Global’s Pawana Burlakoti both advocated the importance of learning how to speak to business leaders. You need to become “bilingual” in your own discipline’s language and the language of corporate decision-making. Make sure you’re sharing how and why your user insights impact the business’s bottom line.
- Create a research roadmap. Research has to move away from being reactive and become proactive. Product and design teams must have validation from research before a build, not during it. Research must inform projects ahead of time. Learn more about building research into your product roadmap.
Creating a roadmap begins with strategy. Read our tips on how to create a user research strategy.
Talk to Your Users
Design doesn’t begin when a user becomes immersed in a product. Jared reminded us that design begins when a customer becomes aware of an offering. Experience design involves identifying the many touch points with one’s users.
Companies that create the best products and experiences have a secret sauce. They engage in a constant feedback loop with their customers. User Interview’s Paolo Appleby preached the importance of continuous discovery. It enables a grounded understanding of user pain points. Engage with your customers to help solve real problems.
When it comes to talking with your users, the song remains the same. (Any Led Zeppelin fans in the house?)
The Designer’s Toolkit
How do designer’s get to the root of the problem? How do they ensure they build the right product?
Good designers leverage the ever expanding universe of tools available to them. Jared spoke about reducing “time to learn.” Spend less time learning how to use an application and more time on analysis. It’s important to choose applications that are user friendly and uncomplicated.
UI / UX Tools
User research is becoming more indispensable to companies. Market insights help companies navigate complicated and ambiguous terrain.
Pawana Burlakoti said a product manager’s primary role is to understand the market they operate in. Market research provides real time insights into customer behavior and pain points. Companies can pivot or alter their approach with fresh information.
Unfortunately, coding qualitative data remains a cumbersome task, reliant on humans. (Until now, of course, when you use Marvin to tag data and share insights faster.)
Data must sit somewhere. Whether it’s a mass survey or a collation of findings in a word doc, it must be accessible. That’s where a research repository comes in. Anyone in an organization can learn from insights housed within a research repository. This allows people to build on past research and avoids effort duplication.
Wondering where to get started? We’ve got you covered. We assembled a comprehensive guide to help you choose a research repository. Choose features that suit your team’s needs.
Remember, the right combination of applications isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. It depends on the individual and wider organizational needs. Expedite the drudgery of research by using the design toolkit.
Do your research and choose wisely!
Integrate AI into your Workflow
Over to the elephant in the room. AI has exploded onto the scene, causing company leaders to sit up and take notice. McKinsey recently released a report after conducting interviews with leaders from various companies. Over a third of respondents have incorporated generative AI into one business function.
Designers, researchers and everyone else will need to embrace AI as part of their toolkit. At Marvin, we’re bullish on AI — it’s here to enhance our workflow. This goes beyond our own product — our leadership team shared tips on how to use generative AI tools to supercharge your research.
An area where AI has made giant strides is transcription and note taking. Machines have replaced human transcription. What once cost companies thousands of dollars, is now available at a fraction of the cost. Processing time is at an all time low. Verbatim transcripts are available within minutes rather than hours.
That’s not all they do. AI note takers are capable of summarizing lengthy reports and generating preliminary insights. Operating much faster than humans, AI note takers can find connections that we would miss across massive data sets.
AI is here to stay. A word of caution before diving into using any AI tools:
It’s vital to understand the capabilities and limitations of AI in user research.
A Future of Responsible AI with UX
AI has had its fair share of bad press, too. Big tech is not immune. Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, Microsoft and Twitter’s reputations have suffered from news coverage showing examples of their systems exhibiting inherent bias and misrepresentation of certain demographics.
On the bright side, this high-profile publicity about artificial intelligence can make it a bit easier to convince leadership to that responsible AI is instrumental.
“Do you want to be in an article in The New York Times? … By people seeing news coverage, they realize that this is actually important and that it might cause reputational damage, and it showcases the real harms that could happen to people in society,” said Microsoft’s Mihaela “Mickey” Vorvoreanu.
So how do we build a more inclusive and responsible AI? We were fortunate to host AI thought leaders on the subject throughout the year:
AI Cannot Replace Qualitative Research
Microsoft’s award-winning researcher Mary Gray’s area of interest is simple: “I focus on how technology fails people.”
What is the essential ingredient in building a responsible and ethical environment?
Mary has no doubts:
“Qualitative research is more important than ever,” she said. “AI does not replace it; in fact, it will increasingly need it.”
AI Only Works When It Represents the Real Users
Google’s Rida Qadri studied the representation of South East Asian cultures in text to image generative AI models. She interviewed participants from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Rida wasn’t surprised to see their cultures being poorly represented, if at all.
To remedy misrepresentation and build a more inclusive AI, Rida suggests co-creating technology with the users who will use it. “Qualitative research is incredibly powerful. (It’s) essential to build any technology that wants to engage with users,” she said.
The Future of Technology Depends on Responsible AI
AI legislation lags behind the implementation and distribution of technologies. In this unknown frontier, the onus is on companies to self regulate.
Mickey’s research team, Aether, introduced us to Microsoft’s first ever Responsible AI Maturity Model (RAI MM). The RAI MM is a framework to help companies on their journey towards responsible AI.
Aether reviewed 90+ hours of interview footage with AI professionals. Their qualitative and quantitative coding, analysis and synthesis work took over two years. Aether used Marvin to extract rich insights to create the RAI MM.
Turns out, the future of AI and UX are more intertwined than we thought. We view it as a symbiotic relationship — UX Research will continue to leverage AI and AI will always need UX.
That’s a wrap for UX in 2023!
We created the hero image using Imagine with Meta AI. We typed in the following prompt to get this ethereal image: “pink and purple fireworks against a starry night”