Upcoming Trends in Dynamic UX: An Interview with Designer Crystal Ehrlich

Jan 13, 2015   

Posted by Ashley Osgood

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Crystal Ehrlich is an award-winning designer and expert in the field of user experience (UX). As a UX product designer, Ehrlich specializes in creating minimally intrusive, helpful and innovative experiences for enterprise software, point of sale (POS) systems, mobile apps, websites and beyond. During her 12+ years in UX design, she has built a roster of clients that include AT&T, Coca Cola, Guinness, Honda, Lee Jeans, Levi’s, and Lucky Brand to name a few. She has garnered design awards for her work on projects for Heineken and Viacom.

We sat down to speak with her to dissect how she thinks about user experience design, what she’s excited about, top trends she can’t wait to implement and the most challenging problems that she’s looking to solve.

1) What are the emerging trends and methodologies that have you most excited? How are you leading the charge?

I have always researched upcoming trends, methodologies and challenges that UX designers are likely to be encountering five years from now. However, over the past few years, I've noticed it’s not very useful to try to guess what the UX landscape will be like in five years. Instead, I look to see what is on the horizon two years from now.

In order to stay on top of user experience developments, I organize some salon-like UX community gatherings. This provides an opportunity for UX professionals to exchange views on a particular topic. Those discussions influence the selection of thought leaders invited to speak at events organized by The Los Angeles User Experience Meetup. This is one way I lead the charge. 

More recently I have focused on enterprise UX design, transportation digital product and service design and some customer experience (CX). I expect to see user experience design, urban design, civic design, service design and customer experience practitioners working together and sharing resources. I hope to see cross-pollinated, innovative approaches as a result. 

Many of us have seen that great ideas can come from anyone and anywhere. It is likely that new, Agile-friendly approaches, with a hyper focus on team dynamics, communication and collaboration will emerge. The Balanced Team approach is one example of this. Additionally, UX designers will need to know enough code to communicate with developers with greater fluency and have empathy for what is being asked of them. And, vice versa for all team members. 

But that is not all. Here are some other changes I’m anticipating:

  1. Over time, the term UX Designer will be replaced with UX Product Designer or Digital Product Designer. The UX vocabulary will continue to expand and adapt in order to keep up with changes in the marketplace.

  2. Business, design thinking, psychology, accessibility, ethnography and anthropology will strongly inform the user experience discipline.

  3. Possibly seeing Agile Manifesto values and processes being leveraged in unlikely places, like churches.

  4. Debate about artificial intelligence (A.I.)

  5. Invisible analytics, sensors and big data

  6. Working on creating cross-culturally sensitive gestures, voice commands and touch-driven experiences, virtual reality experiences (Oculus Rift) and augmented reality experiences

  7. Maintaining cohesive experiences across a spectrum of devices like wearables, tablets, laptops, connected devices (IoT), TVs, virtual reality glasses, interactive dashboards in autonomous vehicles (video),

2) What are your thoughts on First Time User Experience (FTUX) and how do you see it evolving?

In the past I would have said the UX team didn’t do their job if a tutorial was needed. I don’t think that is true any longer. In fact, I see First Time User Experience becoming increasingly important. We are moving away from keyboard and click-driven experiences, and shifting towards using a mixture of touch, voice-driven and gesture-driven experiences. We will need to know the gestures to operate the device. I think we will encounter the issues of cognitive load and remembering gestures. Also, going forward, products similar to the DAQRI Smart Helmet may be required by our employer. We will need to have FTUX onboarding solutions in these cases too.

I see FTUX broken up into many parts that can be mixed and matched and depending upon the digital product.

  1. Step-by-step walkthrough
  2. Learning while using the product (tips showing up that don’t disrupt the workflow)
  3. Videos
  4. Appointment with specialists

3) We define a dynamic app user experience as one that adapts to the user based on the context of where and who they are. What do you think the roadblocks are that apps will have to overcome to make a difference in delivering dynamic user experiences?

There are over 1 million products in Apple's App Store. So, having a great app isn’t enough if no one knows about it. Discoverability and findability within the App Store are real hurdles to success. And, Apps need awareness campaigns. I think most people rely upon product reviews from trusted sources and their friends to learn about apps. And, the challenges don’t stop there. Even if the app gets downloaded, it may not get used. These points of friction are real barriers to success. According to data from Nielsen’s, the average person uses a little less than 30 different apps a month. I think this number won’t change much in the near future, as it’s probably correlated to cognitive limits that are biological in nature. And, the average number of mobile app downloads a month? It’s zero.

App UX Skyhook location context

For now, an app will need to add tremendous value to someone’s life to get downloaded and used on a regular basis. Also, people need to feel safe when using the product. When it comes to feeling safe on the internet, I see time divided into the pre-Target’s and post-Target’s security breach. Trust is a critical part of any product. The products used are the ones that people think are safe. There has even been a movement to make the Terms of Use more understandable. Legalese scares people because they don’t know what is being said and what the implications are. Facebook’s updated Terms of Use, are easy to understand and address the growing fears about Facebook’s use of personal data.

Once an app is well-known, findable and addresses any security concerns, the next challenge will providing trustworthy content. I think geolocation is the next feature we can leverage when creating dynamic user experiences that are context sensitive. So, how can we use location information and ensure privacy and safety? I think that’s the challenge we need to work on. variety_shot-5apps_header

Dynamic UX for your app with context