September 19, 2019 - Strategy

The end of the user interface

As of now, it is crystal clear that brands are no longer just being built by advertising - but by the interaction at every touchpoint with their customers. We know that more and more of these touchpoints are digital. UX design is strongly embedded into the mindset of every business leader. 

But what comes next?

It is crucial to keep in mind that, although technology keeps evolving at a breakneck speed, human behaviour does not change that quickly. It is way more interesting to follow (tech-induced) behavioural change, than to keep running after every new technological hype that pops up.

Us humans have always used technology in the broader sense to manipulate, control and implement our wishes onto the world. Technology is in that sense a layer of abstraction between our inner wishes and the outside world.

Take for instance locks and doors. We want to close off our private property, and grant access to the right people at the right time. A door with a lock is our 'technological' way of imposing this wish onto the world. It used to be a low-tech solution (ropes, chains, mechanical locks); in a digital era it is being replaced by digital tools, apps and software.

The digital revolution of the past years has had its own layer of abstraction - it has been mainly controlled by one, rather oldschool, piece of tech: keyboard and mouse.

We think of an action - we translate it to text on the keyboard and mouse movements - and let the computer execute it. Even on more modern devices like smartphones, the user interface is nothing more but an upgraded version of text and mouse.

But technology is now on the verge of making a next leap in the way we steer and control it.

Driven by machine learning - and everything that has revolved around computer vision and face recognition - , our tech interfaces are about to change dramatically.

We notice the first changes already. Chatbots and voice assistants like Alexa and Google Home are taking the first steps into our lives and homes. They introduce a completely new way of interacting with computers. 

I'm looking with lots of anticipation towards the introduction of the first real usable AR device (I'm eyeing you here, Apple!).

Our next interfaces with computers and technology will remove the level of abstraction that is keyboard/mouse. We will be interacting with physical actions and presences, with visual and audio cues - no longer with text and pointing devices.

This will rely heavily on machine learning, preditive algorithms and computer vision.

It is clearly visible in all new kinds of experiments that are coming out (not coincidentally from China, and not coincidentally on TikTok):

This will change the expectations of all interfaces drastically.

We will no longer tolerate having to fill out long forms online, or provide information that we already provided or that is clearly available, accessible or obvious.

As a brand, you will have to be very well aware of the users' needs and goals, and align every interaction with those goals (as opposed to the business goals).

Think clearly:

  • How can we make interactions invisible?
  • How can we align interactions with user goals?
  • How can we make interactions hooked into human behaviour?

So, stop trying to 'delight' customers with 'experience'. The best user experience will be an invisible, and thus an almost magical interface. 

Because "People don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole".

I personally can't wait for the end of the user interface and this next level of interactions.

Bart De Waele

Bart De Waele

Founder & Executive Board Member

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