February 22, 2017
Traditionally when we envision a user interface, an interaction that involves some sort of screen comes to mind — whether it’s a computer, mobile device or wearables. But as we move into a new world of contextual technology, everything has the potential to facilitate user interactions.
Users interact with brands across a number of mediums — whether they are asking Amazon’s Alexa to order more toilet paper or connecting grocery lists to smart refrigerators that automatically replenish food items.
These types of technologies are still a means by which a user interacts with the brand, even if they don’t necessarily consist of the screens that we’ve historically thought of when we hear the term user interface. And as these types of artificial intelligence technologies gain more momentum, businesses will need to rethink what defines a quality UI.
So instead of focusing solely on a website layout or app design, businesses need to consider other factors that contribute to this new era affectionately (and maybe incompletely) referred to as Zero UI. Zero Screen UI might more accurately reflect this additional set of user interface possibilities. While traditional factors like search functionality, website layout, design and load times have always influenced the screen-based journey, elements like voice capability and the Internet of Things now also play a crucial role.
Whether or not there is a screen involved, there is still an interaction point between the user and the technology; that interaction just looks and feels different than your traditional website or mobile app touchpoint. To provide a streamlined UI beyond the traditional sense, businesses must follow a similar process as they always have and invest resources to understand the journey users take as they interact and convert across all channels, designing according on each unique medium.
Importantly, the strategy and design processes are really no different than they always have been. During the process of journey mapping, it’s important to take the point of view of the user, identify a persona, and walk organically and empathetically through the steps they take to accomplish their goals. Along the way identify moments where you can either influence or insert an interaction.
For example, most online retailers focus on website navigation, search functionality and advanced cart features. In the age of Amazon Alexa, Google Home and other AI devices, businesses need to also consider factors like voice capabilities, channel integration and connected devices. The end goal is still the same: ensure a streamlined customer journey to conversion – whether that is a purchase of products for retail, or conversion of a quote to policy in insurance. Every industry and every company has their own goals for interactions with their brand.
While each channel needs to be considered for its unique properties, there are a lot of economies to be created by examining the journey holistically and sharing content and principles across channels. Businesses should design content that can be repurposed and reused depending on the different manifestations each channel requires. For example, some of the same copy created for a screen interface could be used for a chatbot interaction or a voice interface script.
So, how can brands start interacting beyond screens? Start with what you already have, because you probably have a lot more than you realize. Take the data you have collected on your demographics and analytics, and put it to use as you map out your strategy across these new channels. Understand your users’ expectations as they are increasingly living in a world where they can issue commands and requests through voice interactions and chatbots. Use your existing design process to overlay your user journeys with new interaction channels, and take an inventory of the content you could be repurposing. Examine the architecture and technology you’ve likely been exploring for single-purpose micro-services because they will set you up for smarter models towards multi-channel interactions.
Learn more about the PointSource approach to journey mapping and UI design here, and let us help you map your next user interactions!