If you feel confused by user experience design, you’re not alone: as well as being a hugely multi- and interdisciplinary field, it’s surged into prominence from relative obscurity in just a few years. However, after our webinar “The Transformation of UX in the New Digital Frontier,” we feel like we have a much better grasp.

We were lucky to host Jean-Marcel Nicolai and Jackson Young, Chief Product Officer and Vice President of User Experience from Centric Digital, respectively, who shared their insights on the past, present and future of user experience as well as their expertise in designing a perfect-fit solution for their clients.

Creating Digital Leaders

Jean Marcel kicked off with an overview of Centric Digital’s vision, structure, and operations. Describing the organization as a “digital transformation partner.” He explained that by partnering with traditional businesses and getting to know their needs and goals, the Centric Digital team can then identify the “missing links” which they address with a diverse range of digital solutions. Ultimately, their goal is to “transform traditional businesses into digital leaders.”

A glance at their client roster shows that this approach is both highly scalable and adaptable to many different sectors.

Clients

Leaner, Faster, Smarter

Jean Marcel handed off to Jackson Young, who continued the talk with a brief history of UX design and predictions for the future. Jackson explained how, thirty years ago, interacting with analog technology was naturally intuitive, three-dimensional and tactile — you don’t need training to know how to operate a newspaper.

By contrast, in the early days of the digital revolution, UX design wasn’t a priority (remember programming your VCR?), which is why counterintuitive, difficult to operate products were accompanied by (often difficult to understand, ironically) user manuals. We’ve come a long way, but overcoming the “glass barrier” (literally, the glass screen separating the user from the tactile processes) imposed by digital devices is a perennial design challenge.

Mirror

With the introduction, popularization and normalization of home computers through the 90s, the field of user design underwent a rapid evolution. UX design went from being a relatively simple field to drawing from several different fields, building on principles from cognitive psychology, graphic design, and computer science. User design has radically changed in a short span of time in how it’s perceived, taught, and performed and continues to evolve. UX professionals need to be alert and keep abreast of developments in their field.

To reflect this, the core team structure at Centric Digital facilitates communication between colleagues focusing on strategy, product, UX and development. Their workflow prioritizes early prototyping and an iterative process, which helps to refine products according to the client’s needs. Concentrating on finding a good fit early saves money: design changes cost exponentially more as the product approaches its launch date.

UX

What does Jackson predict for the future of UX? He forecasts that emotion will be the new frontier, with designers striving to deliver “experiences that resonate and engage people emotionally.” AI will also be increasingly important to “drive meaningful personalization,” which will allow products to create even more personalized and meaningful connections.

With increased emotional sensitivity and added dimensions revealed by AR and VR, the glass barrier will become less impenetrable. Jackson predicts that UX will go “back to the future” with design once more being intuitive, three dimensional, and tactile.

Centric Digital In Action

Jean Marcel rounded off the session with some case studies, demonstrating how early prototyping, collaborating closely with users, and aiming to engage with users on an emotional, experiential level can yield impressive results: revolutionizing patient care, bringing teams and stakeholders together, and rapidly effecting positive change in corporate culture.

What We Learned

With a better understanding of UX’s history and where it’s heading, we are left with a few things to think about:

Stay Agile To Stay Ahead

The speed with which this field has changed shows how important it is to keep a flexible frame of mind, keep abreast of developments, and always be prepared to skill up. In particular, the rise of AI means we could be in for rapid technological and cultural changes: nobody can assume their job will look the same in ten years.

In particular, it seems like a safe bet that AI will feature prominently in how we interact with devices, businesses and each other. It’s an area to keep an eye on.

Reaching Past The Glass Barrier

Making a connection with users via digital devices means finding ways to overcome this hurdle. Good UX and engaging storytelling is essential to reach past the glass barrier and form meaningful connections with customers.

Achieve More With A Smart System

We were especially impressed by the case studies, which showed how powerful the Centric Digital approach can be. Getting a clear picture of users’ wants and needs, and keeping them involved throughout the process with iterative prototyping gets results — and fast. Their 36-hour codeathon has a lot in common with the Sprint technique, which inspired our “Creating a Breakthrough” event back in March. Great minds really do think alike.

As well as describing their field and work in an accessible and thought provoking way, Jean Marcel and Jackson shared ideas that are relevant to every discipline — it’s definitely worth a watch.