UX and Design

Crafting tomorrow's digital experiences: Gen AI in technology design

24 June 2024 • 7 min read

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User experience design is an innately “human” practice: it’s humans striving to cater to other human behaviours, needs and emotions. So the idea that Artificial Intelligence could not only assist in that process but directly improve it, can feel really contradictory. Rest assured it’s certainly no replacement for a designer or researcher - nor will it ever be, but its role as copilot has quickly become an invaluable one. 

From data-driven decision-making to early design validation, AI is helping get our products to market faster - and most importantly, with the right features. In this blog, Cees de Gooijer shares the opportunities, his vision for the future, and some important words of caution to take into your design process. 

How can AI improve experience design?

Before we dive into the AI opportunities; it’s essential we acknowledge the need for humans in every experience we build for users. Human intervention is essential to catch bias, hallucinations and blind spots in AI outputs, and human relationships are key in validating ideas against user needs and goals. Continuous feedback from real people will help refine and improve AI systems, to ensure they maintain ethical standards and meet real-world needs. But that all being said, in the right environment, AI can make a great co-pilot.


Enhancing accessibility with Generative UI

The industry still has a long way to go on the accessibility front; it’s often an afterthought when it should be at the core of all digital services. With the help of AI, accessibility can be delivered as a priority. AI-powered assistive technologies like text-to-speech and context-aware suggestions can aid users with low-literacy, motor or cognitive impairments, helping people get more from their digital interactions. 

With AI we can even generate a personalised user interface for every user, optimised for that specific person’s unique needs. Not only that, AI can continuously analyse how users are interacting with a product to keep improving accessibility measures. Generated UIs can even ensure that the experience adapts as users become more familiar with the system. For instance, beginners might see a simplified interface, while advanced features can be revealed for expert users. 

Delivering personalised experiences


Expectations have skyrocketed when it comes to personalised experiences, especially given the hyper-personalised devices we carry in our pockets daily. AI and machine learning can accelerate the creation of these experiences, by analysing large volumes of browsing behaviour, purchase history and demographic data. It can also power these experiences on-platform, in real-time, by predicting user preferences and behaviours based on interactions and contextual data. This enables the generation of tailored experiences and personalised content that adapts dynamically to your user's evolving needs and preferences.

Netflix and Amazon are great examples, using browsing and purchase history to make personalised movie recommendations and product suggestions. But personalisation is also growing in other industries, like finance (with personalised investment advice and financial planning), and healthcare (with personalised treatment plans and preventive care recommendations).

The opportunities in AI-driven personalisation are only growing, but don’t let the hype get in the way of your security and ethics: they’re more business-critical than ever. Prioritise customer consent, transparent data collection and robust security measures first, then you can offer those tailored, loyalty-building experiences. 

Testing ideas early with synthetic users


The earlier you can user-test your ideas the better; giving you more time to spend validating the ones that really have legs, and ultimately getting your products to market faster (and cheaper). AI can help power this process, by building simulations of your defined personas to test your ideas on. Synthetic users are surprisingly effective, especially in filtering out bad ideas from a large batch in early iteration.

But as with any practice that involves your users and their experiences, AI is no substitute for the real deal. Filter out the bad ideas early, but then validate, test and refine your product development with real users. Relying solely on AI without real user feedback is like sailing blindly.  


Automating real-time analysis


Custom GPTs are revolutionising market research and competitive analysis. By using well-defined prompts and predefined sources like competitor websites, industry reports, social media, and news articles, you can automate a lot of the analysis process. The GPT sitemap tool can effortlessly scrape data from any website, allowing for regular updates—weekly, monthly, or as needed. And providing examples of the desired output ensures you get what you're looking for. This automation frees up time for strategic tasks and keeps you informed in near real-time about the latest trends and competitor activities.


Automating tedious tasks


There’s lots of opportunity to use AI to enrich processes behind the scenes, but we’re also delivering AI-powered solutions to improve our clients’ experiences (and their clients’ experiences). A recent example was at ARAG, a Dutch legal aid company. We developed an AI case handling interface that can assess large volumes of documents; from contracts and emails to telephone transcripts and WhatsApp conversations, to extract relevant facts and summarise key information. That interface means time freed up for lawyers to spend on the strategic, tactical aspects of their cases; and less time on tedious tasks. There’s understandable reluctance around AI and its role, but opportunities like this are doing real ‘good’ in our world; ultimately making quality legal aid more accessible and affordable to those in need.


What does the future look like for AI in Experience Design?


While we’ve come a long way very quickly, there are still significant opportunities for improvement in the UX space. These opportunities are likely to come not from newer models, but from multi-AI agent setups. We know that the value of UX comes from understanding a user’s entire journey and holistically supporting them along the way. Yet, AI is currently being added to journeys to address small needs individually rather than creating comprehensive, end-to-end experiences. By employing multiple AI agents for various tasks and enabling them to interact with each other and users, we can create more dynamic, 'human-like' experiences. This approach is going to be game-changing over the next few years. 

More broadly, while there will probably always be resistance and ‘purists’ in any discipline, there’s no getting away from the fact that the future will be AI-powered. That doesn’t mean we’re looking at ‘robotising’ our world; authentic human experiences will always be more important. But if your business isn’t adapting to AI, other companies will; and they’ll be more efficient and more effective by doing so. The opportunity will be there for the taking, to better connect with consumers through AI-powered personalisation, to optimise customer support with predictive, adaptive user interfaces. And those who take that opportunity will thrive.  

Grab AI opportunities, but with caution


Don’t accidentally validate bias with AI

While the opportunities for AI are undeniable, it would be naive (and potentially harmful) to turn a blind eye to its shortcomings. With experience design being a “human” practice, it’s easy to fall into the trap of asking GenAI questions like you would your colleague, and forgetting that it’s not a free-thinking being. It can’t challenge your unconscious bias or your assumptions; if anything, it’s more likely to validate them. AI is often guilty of telling you what you want to hear and not what you need to, so human intervention is essential at every step of the decision-making process.

AI is great for productivity, but harness your own talent for creativity

There’s also the undeniable fact that GenAI is effectively ‘the sum of the internet’. That can be a great resource for tasks like trend analysis and early user research, but it’s not the answer to innovation and creativity. It’s never going to provide a novel idea when its responses are based on the average of what’s already been said and done, and we all risk merging into the ‘sea of sameness’ without human creativity leading the process. 

You can’t just ‘slap on’ an AI solution

Our 2024 research into CEO decision-making found that 64% of leaders are willing to implement new technology to keep pace with competitors, without ever considering how they’ll achieve ROI. AI is a big culprit for this in 2024, because it seems like magic and in many ways it is, but it’s not going to automatically solve your problems for you. Regardless of budgets or ambitions, teams who take the time to do their research and validate user needs will have a significant competitive advantage.  


The opportunities are there for the taking 


Whether we like it or not, AI is changing the way we deliver experiences for our customers. Whether that’s enhancing accessibility, validating user needs early or delivering hyper-personalised interfaces, the opportunities are there for the taking. If you don’t take them, someone else will. 

That’s not to say that AI is the silver bullet and the fastest implementation wins; it needs careful implementation, governance and (most importantly) human oversight to be truly effective. The brands that strike the right balance - harnessing AI's power while preserving human creativity and empathy at the core - will be the ones that thrive. They'll foster more meaningful connections with customers, they’ll be able to deliver the right features faster, and they'll optimise operations to spend more time on the details that matter.

So embrace AI's role in experience design, but do so thoughtfully and responsibly. Let it be the co-pilot that accelerates your human-centric innovation, not the unsupervised driver. The future is AI-powered, but it must remain human-led.



UX and Design

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