Anticipating needs. On the user interface design of the future
What is the business importance of user experience when it comes to designing interfaces – e.g. in relation to servicing customers of financial institutions?
A high level of user experience will not only solve customer problems, or help people buy new services, but will also do so at the lowest cost. Which is why the points of contact with any company should be designed in such a way that customers are able to find a solution to their problems as swiftly as possible. This happens when a customer connects to a hotline or reviews the help section on a website and must specify at once what they come forward with: by walking them through a sequence of questions, the system can quickly remedy the issue.
This saves a lot of time and nerves, because even in case of not bringing effect in this phase, it lets a customer move on to the next one – they connect to a living person, and can then be catered to much more effectively. This is because they have already defined the difficulty they are facing, which makes it easier for a consultant to find a solution. Moreover, the first phase can also serve as a kind of a waiting room: the caller does not have to passively listen to a merry melody; they are enqueued as soon as they start answering questions. It is a mechanism similar to the one used by airlines prior to returning luggage to passengers - before collecting their stuff, they must walk at least 10 minutes from point A to B, so the wait is less of a drag for them.
So, user experience helps to realize business goals, such as reducing the cost of customer service – when the customer, properly defining a problem with a given service is able to help themselves, or, when wanting to purchase another one, can quickly obtain direct contact with a consultant.
What different phases can be singled out in the process of building an interface?
The process is defined within the UCD - User Centered Design - methodology where first we hypothesize and analyze, then we bring our hypothesis to life by sketching and mockuping - just to verify it through user-based studies afterwards, and then, once the verification phase concludes, we make some corrections to the hypothesis or come up with a new one. We do this until a certain number of bugs is eliminated and satisfactory results are achieved.
At each of these phases we use a number of tools, adapting them to the context of a project. At the beginning, we may both review reports on a particular subject, say, mobile payments, and do some benchmarking to see how a given problem was coped with by the competition. We can also create personas to design for and assign statistical data to them. Later, beginning the designing itself, we often turn to the so-called paper prototyping to quickly convey our concept. The aforementioned user-based studies are, incidentally, a great verification of our work – it may suffice to study five persons to catch 80 percent of interface bugs.
How will the user interface design change in the future, what kind of solutions can we expect?
Interfaces will become more and more intelligent and natural. Currently, the "Zero UI" concept is one of the most interesting ones, speaking of an "invisible interface" which "guesses" its user's needs. Such an interface may focus on the recognition of human speech. However, this requires very complex algorithms dealing with natural language processing, or NLP.
This is what we are working on at the moment in the R&D department- and we see great potential in this area, because the more perfect the mechanisms of speech recognition will be, the less necessary a visible interface with menu navigation shall become. This is the assumption we made building our mobile app for wealth management that is enriched with another, third dimension. Thanks to it, placing a phone in 3D goggles, investors can build their financial portfolios in the virtual space and display the desired information using only short voice commands.
In the near future we will also focus on other channels of natural speech recognition. We are in the very early stages of work on the interface to carry out financial operations, which will be displayed on the dashboard of a car.
Car banking, incidentally, is a very popular topic today: we spend so much time in our cars - how to better use this time? Perhaps by talking to them: ‘What were the inflows to my account today?’ and hearing in response: ‘There’s an incoming fixed payment for such and such amount’. Car is a mobile device, just like smartphone, but giving the user much more privacy.
Finally, we’re thinking of combining voice, gesture and eye control as part of augmented reality that connects the real and computer-generated worlds. Devices like Hololens from Microsoft bring plenty of room for action here.