Let’s begin by drawing a line between personalized and customized experience. Everything you (or anyone else) can do with an interface to “change it in order to better match workflows and needs” would fall under the customization category. This approach not only requires a lot more effort to be designed and developed before it goes live, but it’s also less agile and adaptable to changes through time.
Interface personalization, on the other hand, is more about quality of a system — quality that allows it to learn while operating and become more intelligent with time.
You can see this approach implemented in the super successful Nest thermostat, which operates by gathering data both from inside and outside of a building, checking weather forecasts for the area you live in, learning habits and behavioral patterns to handle all climate control scenarios without requiring manual adjustment. It “senses” when you enter or leave the building and adjusts air conditioning, fan and air humidity accordingly to save energy. It “knows” when you are going to come back home and makes it comfortable before your arrival, based on previously learned information.
A lot of other fixtures in our life are rapidly changing the way they operate as well. For example, cars are getting smarter and can be shared by different people. However, unlike interaction with Nest, interaction with a shared car is temporary and there’s no time for the car to gather all the information about our preferences, habits and needs. That requires cars to recognize us instantly, find a way to receive our presets, information about what we like and what we don’t like, and adapt to our needs.
The bottom line is that there should be some kind of a digital ID that would gather all required data day after day. We`d carry it wherever we go to communicate with the rest of the ecosystem and share the required information. For now, the most reliable things to serve as digital IDs are smartphones and wearable devices, just because we usually have them on us and they can learn about us through larger periods of time.
The Internet of Things will only boost this tendency. This way, we approach the point when there are a lot of channels through which we interact with the system; and this interaction now needs to be managed.
Connected multichannel experience
The increased presence of software and hardware in our life augments our reality, and since people are used to experiencing life as a flow rather than a set of touchpoints (with all channels being part of one ecosystem but at the same time remaining as different manifestations of the same system), both software and hardware should serve one purpose: becoming flawlessly connected and confidently adapting their own niche to make that interaction experience feel like one flow for a user. They have to look and feel like one system.
The brightest example of such an ecosystem today is Apple, with its wide range of different devices, from the 27″ iMac to the Apple Watch. But the most incredible thing that Apple did was introduce new iOS and MacOS, which, apart from all the other game-changing features, are able to extend each other. Each ecosystem “senses” the user, who is able to receive calls while working on a MacBook or message someone right from the iMac, or even start writing an email on a Mac and proceed from where they left off on the iPhone. That’s what will make users perceive ecosystem as a single organism and build strong emotional ties to the devices offering that flawless connectedness.
This way, mobile and wearable devices are now the miners and carriers of that informational essence about the user, and the tendency will continue to grow in the future. This digital ID connected to the global net can bring different value for different users or even societies.
It can be:
- A secure key to any service or object
- Easily accessible net for informing and alerting people when in danger
- One of the means to building different social interactions, possibly changing cultural aspects of our societies.
One more important thing to mention is healthcare. Even today, ecosystems are able not only to track and visualize information about how you are doing health-wise, but also to store lifesaving information like disease and treatment history, allergies and reactions, medications you take, etc. so that all this information is easily accessible in case of an emergency.
Apart from growing and connecting ecosystems, making hardware more secure, efficient and attractive, the main focus of the next few years will most likely be crafting intelligence and empowering ecosystems to handle information related to habits, interests, and intentions; to better analyze consumption, social interactions and data from sensors.
All this information, merged with prescriptive analytics and carefully visualized, will make ecosystems natural to our perception. And when they will be able to interact with each other, the world we live in will become a different, better place, with a more friendly and responsive environment that surrounds us.
Andrii Glushko is a UX designer at SoftServe, Inc., and a regular blogger on the SoftServe United blog. He has created high-quality user interfaces to ensure optimal user experience for numerous desktop, tablet and mobile applications by defining effective information architecture, conducting usability assessments and heuristic evaluations and applying best practices/guidelines for different platforms. His experience includes a high percentage of healthcare projects.