UX and AI – the harmony between Science and Art


Darin Suthapong
Date: 08/08/2017
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UX and AI – the harmony between Science and Art
Photo source: Štefan Štefančík
 
UX design plays an increasingly important role and is gaining more attention from the world audience. Coupled with the rapid development of AI, the combination of UX and AI becomes a harmony between technology and business.


Today’s technological development waits for no one. Platforms such as websites, mobile applications, and digital products are no longer merely entertainment or a tool for the new generation, rather a way of life. In business terms, the more competition there is in a particular market, the more likely that good-quality goods and services will no longer make the cut. What makes the biggest difference and what truly captivates users and creates brand loyalty, is “user experience”.

User experience (UX) design that is focused on making digital products more user-friendly and providing natural and efficient responses is thus a key factor that many are now interested in. In addition to making the initial use memorable, designers must go beyond and aim to retain those users and establish a good relationship between the user and the brand. This strategy can, in fact, “make or break” a business.

A powerful aspect of user experience design is the development and fusion with Artificial Intelligence (AI), which helps digital products hit the nail on the head when it comes to user needs. This may include automatic responses, recording or submitting opinions, etc. Machine learning is, above all, what gives a system “life” and the “human touch”. It is essentially what makes us feel as though we are communicating with someone of our own kind rather than a dull, emotionless machine. This is one of the most challenging hurdles that innovators and designers in the technology and business industry seek to overcome.

This is why Krungsri Finnovate has invited Ing (Miss Darin Suthapong), owner of a startup company called Indie Dish, former head of UX Design for Global Delivery Experience of Amazon (USA) to give some insights and explain her experiences about the fusion of art and science between UX and AI, so that we can all stay up-to-date.
 
Miss Darin Suthapong (Ing)Miss Darin Suthapong (Ing)
Photo source: TEDxKasetsartU

What are some of the trends in the UX industry and how is the market competition ?
Miss Darin: Let’s backtrack a bit – back to when we had not yet developed digital products. During that time, we had already come up with “experience design”, such as designing the experience of customers who walk into a restaurant for a meal or into a store, whereby we would design what customers would see and what goods or services they would find. Later, we came up with “user experience design (UX design)”. The term “user” was introduced because digital products increasingly have more impact on people. Apple was one of the first companies to have given importance to UX design. They thought that computers should not only serve as the tool for completing different tasks, but it should also be user-friendly and able to understand and respond to its users. Simply put, UX design is like giving computers or digital products “life”.

In the past, the terms “UX” and “UI” always come hand in hand. This is because the majority of the digital products are websites or applications that are not very complex. Therefore, the majority of the UX were more geared towards the user interface (UI). As such, the market trend for user experience design was primarily focused on UI and the attempt to make websites attractive and easy to understand.

The up-and-coming trend, however, places emphasis on UX without UI, due to the oversupply of websites and applications. People are no longer willing to learn new UIs. Therefore, the majority of the digital products are now shifting to “service provision” within the scope of the products that many are already familiar with. For example, we can now call Grab taxis and Uber via Google Maps without having to open the separate mobile applications. We can order food, or even transfer funds via Facebook Messenger, or even play music and listen to newscasts via personal assistances such as Alexa (Amazon echo). Even though each digital product has its own UI, designers often choose design patterns that people are already familiar with rather than come up with an entirely new UI. The importance of UI, overall, is thus in decline, as people no longer want to learn how to use new UIs or pay attention solely to UIs that are “attractive”. Consumers now prefer “good-quality service”. Therefore, the market trend and competition is geared towards a holistic experience rather than a UI that is aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly.
 
Miss Darin Suthapong (Ing)Photo source: TEDxKasetsartU

In your opinion, how does AI affect the design and development of UX ?
Miss Darin: I think that it has a huge impact on UX because it gives life to something that is inanimate. In the past, what we were able to do was write a basic program for digital products. AI is a real game-changer because it is a brain that is much smarter than before. This enables designers to create products that respond to the needs of the users in a way that had never been done before. In terms of design, the most important aspects are user research, UX strategy, and content writing. UIs, on the other hand, are now more simplistic and flexible. This is why chat bots or natural language processing are gaining much attention right now.

Conversely, do you think that UX will determine the direction of AI’s growth ?
Miss Darin: This is highly probable. The mission of UX is to (via any means whatsoever) ensure that digital products respond to human users. Therefore, if AI is able to do more, UX designers may be inspired and ask AI developers to come up with technologies that better respond to and are more closely in line with humans and human life.
 
Many people say that AI will be able to seamlessly replace humans. Do you think that this is true ?
Miss Darin: I highly recommend that you read A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. This book talks about the right side of the human brain, which is where creativity and feelings of compassion (both of which are valuable traits) are housed. This book was written before AI even existed. If you ask me whether AI will replace humans in some jobs, the answer is yes, definitely (laughs). Human beings still need to step in to look after the portion that computers are incapable of achieving, namely, creativity and compassion. Moreover, AI’s precision in providing responses is not the same as that of a human being. It is still unable to deal with the customers’ emotions the way that a human being can. Even though it is able to understand and give the correct response, AI has neither appreciation for nor an understanding of feelings as it only understands the logic behind the circumstances. This is precisely where machines cannot replace humans. I do think, however, that this will be improved in the future. As such, the aspects of work that humans should focus on are creativity, strategies, and compassion.

How should UX designers adjust themselves considering that AI will play a more important role ?
Miss Darin: AI actually makes the life of a UX designer much easier because it takes care of the tasks that we do not need to do. This then gives us time to focus on other aspects that are more important to the user’s experience. When it comes to how UX designers should adjust themselves to this new environment, firstly, [I think that] they should study what the technology is capable of doing. Secondly, conduct user research. This may not have been important in the past, but it will become more crucial to the design in the future. Designers must shift their focus from visual designs to human psychology, and try to better understand the user’s feelings, experiences, and really try to put themselves in the user’s shoes in order to have a good overview of how their design should be.
 
Miss Darin Suthapong (Ing)Photo source: rawpixel.com

What areas should UX designers in Finance pay particular attention to ?
Miss Darin: Fintechs are actually one of the most difficult products to design because finances are complex. There is a higher degree of emotional attachment involved. Fintech UX designers must study what AI can contribute and what types of issues it can solve in this particular industry. At the same time, UX designers must also be cautious in making sure that they avoid matters that are too ‘emotionally charged’. If they do not understand the psychology behind this idea, this may put them in a disadvantageous – rather than advantageous – position. UX designers must also be careful about expectations given the high competition in the Fintech startup market. There are many players in the game, and although technology plays a very important role, I believe that the UX is the winning factor. UX designers must have a very good understanding of the emotions of their customers, and know what aspects should be dealt with by AI, and what other aspects should be dealt with by a human service provider. This is a very difficult problem to solve.

How does the fusion between UX and AI help a startup company like Indie Dish ?
Miss Darin: Indie Dish is a platform for selling health or clean foods. At the beginning, we used AI primarily for the process of ordering food. However, we are now introducing AI for compiling and providing customers with information that will help them make nutrition- and health-related decisions. Health-conscious customers have specific needs. Therefore, we aim to give them personalized services. This is our focus. We want to give them an experience that is comparable to that when servers remember a customer’s name and his/her order and giving him/her recommendations on items that they may like based on their preferences when visiting a restaurant or café. This is the ‘charm’ of personalized services. In the past, only human beings were able to achieve this. Today, however, AI can do the same, and can remember the details of between tens to hundreds millions of people.

What should we be on the lookout for in terms of UX and AI ?
Miss Darin: We should study two things – the capability of AI and case studies from around the world. Today, the application of AI is still unnatural and may not be as suitable to our lifestyle as it can potentially be. I think we should refer to different case studies where AI was applied, and use them as inspiration, so that we, as UX designers, are aware of how developed the technology is and how we can apply that to the sectors within our expertise.

It is undeniable that UX and AI have a bright future ahead. As consumers, we also play a part in deciding such future to see how well this fusion will perform. Both UX and AI were developed in order to respond to our specific needs. For more information on AI, head over to “From Coding to Cancer: How AI is Changing Medicine” and you will soon find that the futuristic world we see in the sci-fi movies is not so far ahead of us after all.
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