In what’s becoming an annual event, Lattice’s senior VP of Design Jared Erondu sat down with Marvin to reflect on the year gone by and share his UX predictions for the upcoming year.
Beginning with a macro view of the industry, he zoomed in on the current state of play for design and research. Jared cast his eye on the future, revealing his thoughts on how technology will continue to shape the UX landscape in 2024.
Here’s a tl;dr summary of what to expect:
- Trends from 2023
- Market Fluctuations Caused a Mindset Shift
- Emergence of AI
- Pursuit of Profit and Cyclical Markets
- Design Tips for 2024
- Learn & Adopt AI
- Create Efficiency
- Develop Taste & Gut
- Upskill: Storytelling & Critique
Watch the full the conversation about 2024 Predictions in UX Design and Research with Jared.
2023: A Year Review
Market Fluctuations Caused a Mindset Shift
“2023 was a culmination of changes in the macro environment that started last year,” said Jared.
In early 2022, market optimism had people talk of doubling revenue and headcounts. Designers and researchers were in high demand. Noone prepared themselves for the massive dropoff that followed a couple quarters later.
Rising interest rates caused B2C companies to frantically cut costs. With less money available to them, they struggled to pay vendors (B2B businesses, such as Lattice).
“2023 was the year that companies had to batten down the hatches and (be) sensible in their spend and efficiency,” he said.
How do we do more with less?
Economic unpredictability has shrouded the job market. Tech companies laid off over a quarter of a million employees during 2023 (and counting). Company leadership must ensure employees feel valued during these tumultuous times. Some choose to mollycoddle their teams, telling them that good times are round the corner. Jared chooses a different approach:
He urges his team to use the experience to learn something new — about themselves.
“I’ve been using this as a period of time for people to be resilient,” he said.
The low, dark periods of his career are where Jared grew most as a leader and a person. This rings true for everyone. Low moments teach you how to become headstrong and resilient in the face of uncertainty.
Twilio’s Vanessa Whatley has seen layoffs at several of her former employers. She shared her wisdom on how to build resilient UX teams.
Emergence of AI
This shift towards efficiency in companies’ mindset coincided with the rise of AI. AI has infiltrated into our lives — both personal and professional. According to a McKinsey report, over a third of companies interviewed already used generative AI in their businesses. The universe of AI applications is ever expanding, each tailored to a different use case.
When we spoke to Jared last year, ChatGPT emerged as a revolutionary piece of technology. Everyone was trying to wrap their head around the impact it might have.
What differentiated ChatGPT from other hyped tech such as Web 3.0 or cryptocurrency?
“It was not theoretical,” Jared said. ChatGPT actually gave everyone something tangible to interact with. Companies began seeing potential ways to use AI to improve their efficiency.
It created a monumental shift in market perception about AI:
“For the first time, people saw a challenger to Google (more google.com as an interface). It was still a familiar search bar, but instead of taking you into a page (from) where you go into the vastness of the web, it (went) to the web and came back with something for you. It completely inverted the way you experience the web,” he said.
“It’s search versus answer — that’s the modality where it shifted,” he added.
Profit Pursuit and the Market’s Cyclical Nature
With companies chasing efficiency, does that mean they become more profit-driven versus user-driven? Do they lose sight of the user?
Today, customers have a multitude of near identical options available to them. This necessitates a sharper focus on the user:
“If you want to increase profits, you need to deliver some value-add to the customer. The customer is looking at their range of options and their ability to tell them apart is diminishing,” Jared said.
During the course of his career, Jared has been privy to a couple market cycles. He’s seen an era where companies rushed to create specialized tools for different tasks. An aggressive phase of consolidation followed — users wanted everything in one place. Indeed, Lattice is a great example of a one-stop shop HR solution. Today, specialization is back — a way to separate yourself from the pack. Everything comes full circle.
“The way to differentiate is — who delivers more value to the customer,” he said.
More than ever, companies understand the importance of having design or research capabilities. Despite UX roles being scarce, the cyclical nature of markets means that there is light at the end of the tunnel. If we’re currently undergoing the trough of the wave, the silver lining is that a crest(peak) will soon follow. Jared thinks jobs will return soon, although they won’t scale the heights of pre-COVID levels.
Tips for UX Designers in 2024
The AI tech landscape is transformative. So will designers and researchers struggle to constantly prove their worth to leadership?
This speaks to the newness of the design function within tech companies. Jared is confident that in time, it’ll fade away.
So how do design professionals prepare themselves for an unknown frontier?
Jared shared advice for companies in ramping up their design capabilities. He also gave designers tips on how to future proof their skill set. These will make you more in indispensable to employers and clients.
AI Literacy & Adoption
The truth is AI isn’t new — it’s been around a long time. Everyday apps such as Siri, Google Assistant and predictive text have used AI for years. With all the hype and hullabaloo surrounding AI, it can be easy to fall prey and overreact to short term trends. Individuals and companies must understand their journey to AI adoption.
AI Adoption for Companies
“You’d rather be early on a wrong thing than late on the right thing,” said Jared. It’s vital for firms to identify where they are on the tech adoption curve:
- Learning. Immersing yourself in the tech in its infancy, understanding its inner workings.
- Experimenting. Falls somewhere in the middle of the path to AI adoption. Companies start testing their own application prototypes to see what sticks. This is where most companies find themselves today.
- Hiring. Companies must catch up with competitors; they’re too far behind in learning the tech. As a result, they must hire external expertise.
“You need to go from testing in a vacuum to actually testing with customers to see what sticks. Next year, (in) 2024, customers are going to expect this (AI). By 2025, if you don’t have it, you have to hire the skill set because it’s too late,” he said.
Individual Designers and Researchers Need to Get AI-Ready
Innovation causes rapid movement. AI is already aiding companies in their design and research. It’s performing the heavy lifting usually done by junior researchers.
Jared shared two future outlooks, both very different from one another:
Glass half empty. A bleak view of the situation; AI has created a moat around current incumbents of the design industry. It’s making it difficult for the next generation of designers to jump aboard.
Half full. An optimist will recognize an opportunity to rethink the education process. Rida Qadri suggested this, too. New professionals must learn the right way to approach a problem, not the right way to use a tool (more on this below). A shift in focus from tool mastery to mastery of thinking.
AI aptitude is necessary for individuals in the future – it’s a matter of when, not if. So how long do they have to gain new AI skills? Jared had his say:
In 2024, candidates will set themselves apart with aptitude or deep interest in AI. In 2025, AI literacy will be mandatory.
Learn how to get the most out of AI in research from Marvin’s exec team.
Improve your Efficiency
Companies want to do more with less. It boils down to their choice and use of the right AI tech in pursuit of efficiency.
“What tools are leveraging this technology that we can tap into? How does this augment the way we work such that our output next year is more, despite the number of people on our team being roughly the same?” Jared asked.
Mechanical tasks previously performed by a human are easily automated. Human transcription has been almost entirely replaced by AI. AI Note Takers save companies thousands of dollars and hours in data processing.
“The less creative the role, the faster those efficiency gains will come,” he said.
AI can perform heavy lifting during the initial stages of qualitative research. Jared recently tested Marvin’s AI auto-summarize feature. It generates a smart summary from a block (or page) of text.
AI implementation will be less widespread in creative roles. Expect much slower adoption rates in the research and design fields. Qualitative research exposes AI’s limitations. Jared doesn’t see any practical use during the latter stages of research — he sees current output as “first mile”. It can provide a foundation from which to begin your research. But human judgment is still integral to create coherent reports with the right context.
AI will never replace human innovation. It can, however, remove the drudgery of research and supercharge your UX workflow.
Develop Taste and Gut
Design is a mix of science and creativity.
The scientific process is set in stone — once a researcher does it long enough, it becomes a case of rinse and repeat. A continuous feedback loop refines the final deliverable. Creativity is your own distinct taste.
Jared expressed one of his biggest frustrations — tooling. Research and design hires spend between six months and a year learning the tools. The industry is at a stage where professionals fixate on the tools and processes. As a result, they end up serving tools, as opposed to the other way round.
“We’ve trained people in the tools and processes so much that they’ve lost sight of taste and gut,” he said. Professionals today can’t answer basic questions asked of them like “is this any good?” because they aren’t programmed to.
So what is taste and gut? How do you acquire or develop them?
How to Refine Your Sense of Taste.
A case of I know it when I see it. Individual taste may vary widely, but there’s a consensus on what appears or feels good, premium or delightful. Apple products, for instance.
How do you develop better taste?
Surround yourself with examples of ‘good’ or people who have good taste.
“When I felt creatively stumped, there was no substitute for opening up a book or going to a museum. When you surround yourself with examples of good, over time, it begins to influence your ability to produce good itself,” Jared said.
How to Refine Your Sense of Gut.
This is the ability to make a decision comes from the compressed number of experiences you’ve had over time. With repetition, you’ve done it enough times that you have a high degree of confidence in performing a task. You’ve seen a semblance of it before and it becomes second nature to you. Gut may also involve making a decision despite certain odds. You go against the grain because you have the feeling, intuition or instinct. Without fear of failing.
Jared used an example of designing a survey – he’s done it so many times that he doesn’t need a directive. He intuitively knows that it will need elements such as email, password, and links for forgotten passwords and the enterprise SSO.
How do you develop gut?
You must repeat a task so much so that it becomes ingrained in your muscle memory.
Jared’s adamant that winning teams of the future will have both taste and gut in spades.
Upskill with Storytelling and Critique
Finally, Jared identified potential focus areas for design and research professionals. He shared two challenges he’s worked through to become a better designer:
#1: Stand out among the noise with memorable stories.
“Companies are now at the highest point of data they have access to; it’s very hard to find a signal from the noise,” Jared said.
The importance of storytelling is not lost on Jared. He acknowledges what an invaluable skill it is in a researcher’s repertoire. Contrary to popular belief, storytelling isn’t always about identifying actionable items (doesn’t everyone love to say that?). It’s about being memorable.
“I’ve learned a lot around storytelling through Pixar and Disney,” he said.
He shared his tactic for improving your ability to weave a story:
Tell people your version of the story and ask them to repeat it back to you. After a few instances, your story arc will begin to emerge. The person may repeat 5 or 6 points back to you. Refine your story to hammer home the points you desire. A surefire way to make sure it sticks.
#2: Don’t personalize adverse feedback about your work, even though it stings.
“The goal of critique is not to critique the person. It’s to arrive at the best solution over time,” said Jared. As humans, we forget this. We take it to heart. All the time. Part of developing “gut” means developing a tolerance for and fearlessness of failure.
What happens when you don’t have an internal critique before rolling a product out to customers?
“There’s a lot more risk in your customer being the one to expose all the gaps,” he said.
Jared calls critique a “cheat code” that continues to serve designers well. It involves putting your best guess in front of people, who then tell you how to make it better.
Learning how to leverage critique is a superpower of the creative field. It improves products and makes for better designers. Develop an understanding of critique. And don’t take it personally.
UX Researchers and Designers Must Coexist with AI
Jared left us with some food for thought about navigating a future with AI:
“Embrace the new technology, but don’t lose sense of your humanity, which in the context of design and research, comes in the form of our expression, our taste, our gut. If we do that, it means we don’t get left behind. We’re able to leverage this new technology, drive greater efficiencies for ourselves and, by extension, our customers. Over time, we’re still able to build more innovative, creative experiences that deliver real value for our customers and make us happy in the process.”
Don’t forget what makes us inherently human. Stay creative.
Storytelling is a skill that will always set researchers and designers apart in driving their business forward.
In the spirit of AI tools and technology, we created the hero image using Imagine with Meta AI. We typed in the following prompt to get this ethereal image: “crystal ball as imagined by Pixar artists”