Customers have been primarily interacting with brands digitally for some time now, a phenomenon that will only grow as more and more businesses go digital-first or even digital-only. A casual customer will almost certainly visit a brand’s website before making a purchase, and a committed customer will go as far as downloading the company’s app. In many cases, they will never meet a human employee.
This puts a huge emphasis on a brand’s digital products as the primary points of contact, and UX/UI design has skyrocketed in importance as a result. And, like the technology it appears on, UX must always evolve to keep up with user demands, while towing the fine balance between usability and simplicity.
Janine Kubert is an accomplished senior UX design strategist and leader who has managed and inspired teams to create delightful digital experience design engagements in finance, energy, entertainment, and e-commerce. Her engagements have ranged from software start-ups to banks and large utilities. Over a career spanning more than 20 years, she has garnered a full range of skills focused on creating outstanding customer experiences as well as developing and coaching creative teams.
Ahead of her presentation at the Digital Design & Web Innovation Summit this September 11 - 12 in San Francisco, we sat down with Janine to talk all things UX design.
How did you get started in your career?
My earliest interests as a kid were in fiction and storytelling. I loved analyzing characters, plots, and understanding the psychology of when and why people reacted to various situations. When I embarked on my career as a designer, I brought that same inquisitiveness to my design process. A few of my first jobs as a designer were for games and dot-com e-commerce sites. At the time, 'UX' wasn’t yet well articulated as a formal process, and much of our understanding of what customers wanted came from feedback after the launch of the product. I was excited when the tech industry progressed to include design thinking and an understanding that considering human factors in the design process would result in better products. I became certified in user experience through the Human Factors Institute and the Neilsen Norman Group, and began to integrate the UX approach into my design practice.
Why do you think UX is such a vital part of digital strategy?
UX puts the customer at the center of the design process. By better understanding a customer’s context of need, goals, and feelings, designers have a better chance of creating a product that is intuitive, helpful, and even delightful for the people who will use it. Iterative testing and refinement of our designs also enables us to learn and ensure that we are developing successful products before launch. From a company reputational and risk perspective, it is better to get that feedback on any design problems before you go to market.
Which areas of UX design excite you the most?
I am excited about the emergence of connected devices and the Internet of Things. Through designing for connected devices, we can make it easier to share data and be able to pick up tasks from wherever you are – at home, in the car, or on your mobile device. The challenge there will be the vast integration needed across device platforms, requiring partnership across industries, as well and a need for hacker-proof security so that users will trust this connected network.
I’m also excited about the near future emergence of more Voice User Interaction. Now that voice recognition is improving, I think we will see many more companies enabling VUI in their apps and on their mobile sites. This will save a lot of time and frustration for people who find typing cumbersome or difficult.
How does commerce on mobile differ to that of a desktop?
People often use their mobile device for commerce in situations in which they are on the go and don’t have a lot of time. The information presented has to be bite sized – so that the user is able to consume it in a glance. Similarly, tasks shouldn’t require more than a few taps per screen, and the input required and the number of screens to get through a flow should be minimal.
For commerce on desktop, people are often ready to invest more time into research, exploring and comparing options, or managing the fine details of a transaction. In that context, more information at the right points in the flow can be valuable to them if it helps them make a better decision about how to transact.
What, in your view, are the underserved aspects of UX and UI design?
A customer interacts with a company along many touchpoints, and each of those contributes to the overall user experience. Whether they visit your company in a brick and mortar store, order something through your website or app, or need support from your customer service team, those are all part of the customer experience. For the best digital user experience, digital designers need to understand and collaborate with service designers who can put the digital experience in context of the overall journey. If service and digital UX designers aren’t both engaged, the overall user experience can feel disjointed to customers. This may be experienced as a lapse or inconsistency in the company’s communication with them, a betrayal of the brand promise, or most importantly the fulfillment of their customer needs.
What impact do you think emerging technologies like voice recognition will have on digital design?
I think as digital UX designers, we have a fantastic opportunity to use our skills for this emerging area of design and evolve our offering. By understanding customer needs, we can design scripts that use natural language and logic that provides an efficient and clear way to complete a task. We also have the opportunity to ensure that responses are inflected with the right touch of personality for each company, whether that is expressed through avatars, chatbots, or interactive voice response (IVR) systems. Ultimately, machine learning will provide us with templates for creating VUIs for different types of tasks, which we can then customize.
What can attendees expect from your presentation at the summit?
I am looking forward to serving on a panel and sharing my extensive experience from many years in the design field.
You can hear more from Janine, along with other industry-leading UX design experts, at the Digital Design & Web Innovation Summit this September 11 - 12 in San Francisco. To see the full schedule, click here.
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