The last few years were marked by the maturation of several enabling technologies. The Internet of Things (IoT) seems poised to become an everyday reality. Big Data is a useful fuel for rapidly improving artificial intelligence (AI) systems. And the mobile web is evolving from a lesser rendition of the desktop into its own meaningful form. Cutting-edge technologies become commodified tools ready for everyday applications. 

This is where design comes in. Whenever a technology crosses this key threshold--from concept to practical reality--it takes some form of design to make it useful in people's lives. Here are three key design trends to watch for in 2016: 

Design for the Mobile Web

2016 will mark the year that having a beautiful and easy-to-navigate mobile web presence becomes a basic requirement for business. For years an organization's mobile website and tools were "lesser than" their desktop versions. Amazon, Salesforce, even Facebook--all were desktop-first experiences that only recently developed mobile forms. 

But in many cases people now spend a far greater amount of time on the mobile web. Mobile experiences can no longer be an afterthought for businesses. Consumers are demanding mobile web experiences that are as sophisticated as native applications and as accessible as their desktop web versions. More importantly, the mobile web is evolving with more sophisticated techniques for representing content and functionality. 

My own company, argodesign, spent the last two years helping to design and build exactly this kind of platform for a company called Wrap Media. A Wrap is an easy-to-create multimedia experience that works within and across many platforms, allowing anyone to create compelling online content without turning to costly native app or web development. Platform abstraction is the future. In 2016 your new customers will expect your tools to be not only native, but on these new platforms, they will expect you to be everywhere.

Designing for the Analog-Digital Convergence

The big question today is: how will IoT, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), voice technology, and the explosion of social networking affect your business? These are all symptoms of a larger trend--one that is inescapable for businesses. Today the computing experience has been migrating from it's own universe, one with its own rules, to one where consumers demand that it work within their offline lives. This is big. It signals end of the time when users will be willing to suffer any amount of pain just because the technology is hot off the shelf. 

2016 is looking to be a watershed year. In its wake consumers will expect your digital experiences to integrate gracefully into their analog lives. They will expect voice-based services or "chatboxes" to just work. They will expect that the sensors around them, their wearables, their smart homes, and smart offices, collect relevant data and that this information is put to good use. They will expect their devices to talk to each other and to share awareness of their greater context- not merely digital, but the important when, where, and why's of their analog context. And lastly, they will expect applications to be smart enough to put all of this new data to use and not flood their lives will extraneous information and too many choices. 

Designing Smarter Experiences

We generate more tweets, emails, photographs, links, records, and catalogs than we can deal with. We're becoming reluctant "expert clerks," when our wish was to use this content to master our chosen tasks.  There is hope that 2016 is the year when smarter computing systems begin to turn back the flood of information. AI, Deep Learning, Cognitive Computing, and Decision Support Systems are all versions of the same goal--to make software smarter. Cognitive Systems are being designed to support industries such as law, manufacturing, and healthcare. And they are improving the performance of basic consumer applications such as way-finding, social networking, shopping, and content recommendations. Computing has become not only an integral part of business, but an inescapable part of everyday life. 

 

This year is not just about new technology. It's about all of these existing technologies rising to the surface, coming together, and becoming the new normal.

Published on: Mar 7, 2016