The future of UI design

I’ve read quite a few alarming articles on the doomed future of user interface design – one more troubling than the other. Many suggested UI designers will become obsolete and will need to develop new skills like illustration or web development in order to stay relevant. Let me put in my rational 2.53 cents (hehe – maths joke) on this and give you some perspective.

 

The reason why UI designers worry for their jobs is the continuous, fast development of technology and the increasing ease of use of UI design tools. You could practically sit down and learn how to draw in interface in a day. It’s all some text and some basic shapes after all, right?

Well…

 

What won’t happen

First of all, let’s be clear: UI designers will not become obsolete, in the foreseeable future. We’re here to stay. Deal with it.

Humans and machines have very different natures and thus, very different methods of communication. UI designers are translators / mediums between the two. As long as humans are humans and machines are machines, there will always be the need for someone to mediate and optimize communication.

The second reason is that UI design is so much more than a bunch of shapes and text, organized to present content. We solve real business and technology problems and we try to do this in elegant and meaningful ways. For this, we study parts of psychology, technology, copywriting, color theory, motion and more. Even tough the final result looks simple, there’s a lot of work that goes into it. Actually, the simpler an interface seems, the more effort it took to accomplish.

Third reason: with technology developing each day, and devices becoming more varied, there will be an even grater need for specialists to create interfaces that are coherent and consistent across devices. Think 10 years ago – we wad only had PCs and phones with small displays. Now we have PCs of all sizes, smartphones, tablets, wearables and the upcoming VR. This requires dedicated professionals to constantly study how humans use new tech and optimize their use.

 

What will happen

Design tools will undoubtedly become easier to use, will facilitate quick iterations \and will help even inexperienced designers draw a decent piece of UI. And this is all good. Why? On one hand, it will promote the practice of UI design and will open up discussions on the it’s importance and best practices. This can only be a good thing. Second and most important, it will allow us – designers – to focus on things that matter – solving real problems, and things that only humans are able to do – understanding other humans.

As technologies such as virtual reality, speech recognition or even brain wave recognition develop, human-computer interaction will change and become more natural. This will transform the interfaces to focus more on content rather than interaction. Instead of learning and memorizing menu items and what each one does, you will use natural gestures or voice commands to control your interface. This will require UI designers to get into new fields such as human anatomy or landscaping.

There are exciting times ahead. The demand for interface designers and software product designers will grow, not diminish. Our job will become more complex, more difficult but also more rewarding. Today, the practice of UI design is still in it’s infancy. Proper tools are still being developed. Best practices are still being debated. Creative processes are still being optimized.

In the end, if you’re a UI designer, you should be optimistic. We are, and will be, living trough exciting times ahead.

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