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The high-impact UX design areas of 2022-2030

by Yaron Cohen
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What can we learn from recent years about big emerging UX design problems to solve in the near and the far future?

If you work in UX and like big questions, you probably asked yourself at some point the question of “what will be some high-impact areas for UX in the future?”. It’s a good question to ask, since after all, our field is relatively young, and we all want to use our UX skills in interesting projects.

After reflecting on the events of recent years (2020–2021), I came up with a collection of new interesting problems the UX community will likely tackle in the rest of the 2020s.

What things do they all have in common?

Mainly, these three things:

  1. Focus on backend technology — These are all problems that have emerging solutions, but the focus of these solutions is still on improving the technology that powers them. UX designers will have to work hard to make these solutions usable by everyone.
  2. Low market concentration — these problems occur in areas that have a relatively low market concentration and lots of emerging competitors, so UX can be a differentiating factor. Also, that’s why you won’t see VR and the Metaverse in this article. It’s hard to compete against the giants like Microsoft and Meta that are expected to lead in VR.
  3. Government regulation — the solutions to these problems need regulation to increase consumer trust to use them. Only once trust increases, broader adoption will happen, and good UX can help communicate the legal boundaries and build this trust.

Now it’s your turn to explore

No matter what you do in UX, you are likely to have an opportunity to help improve the usability of these solutions. They all need good interactions, visuals, and content to be fully adopted, and the work can happen in consulting companies, governments, startups, or big corporates.

Feel free to skip to the areas of this article that are the most interesting for you based on your UX specialty, your interests, and where you work (or would like to work). If anything resonated with you in particular, leave a comment and say why. It helps the UX community grow and learn.

Helping to make society environmentally-conscious

“You don’t take a photo. You make it.”

-Ansel Adams, American Photographer and Environmentalist

Photo by Joshua Sukoff on Unsplash

If you are interested in using your UX skills to improve how humans interact not just with technology, but also with the environment, then this one is for you.

The 2021 extreme weather events as well as the COP26 happening at the end of the year (UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow) gave us a good reminder. We need to start doing something about our own impact on the environment.

Yet, by now we all know it’s not enough to keep on saying “we need to do something”. We also need to think of solutions, and here UX designers can make a difference. The path to ambitious CO2 reduction goals starts with understanding the current situation. Many of us UX people know the term “a picture is worth a thousand words”. We can easily leverage the power of visual and interaction design to help everyone understand our impact on the environment. We just have to remember to do it in a way that not only environmental experts understand, but also common people do.

There are some big questions to address to achieve that:

  1. What’s the best way to visualize environmental impacts?
  2. Could people make an environmental decision solely based on available information, or do they need an actual nudge to get them to act?
  3. How could we help non-environmental experts understand environmental impacts and risks so that they can make better business and policy decisions?
  4. If we want to make a change and invest in environmental solutions, how do we know they make an impact?

Here are a few examples of areas where we start seeing solutions and that we as UX people can continue to develop and iterate on in 2022 and beyond.

  1. Visualizing one’s own environmental impact — Some of the companies working in the field include CogoDoconomy, and Tomorrow.
  2. Helping experts understand potential climate risks — Companies in this space include Cervest , Agryo, and GRESB.
  3. Understanding the impact of environmental initiatives — A couple of good examples of interesting companies in this field include Sylvera, and GoParity.

What could the future look like in the environmental niche?

The environmental field is starting to get growing interest from governments, and companies. The improvement of environmental impact assessment techniques in the backend will bring us to a better place to iterate on the UX of some of the existing solutions. If we continue on this path, it could lead to an exciting time for UX people who want to make a positive change in the world.

Facilitating international travel in the post-COVID era

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

-Laozi, ancient Chinese philosopher

Photo by Jeremy Bezanger on Unsplash

If helping governments and the travel industry recover from the impacts of COVID-19 is your cup of tea, then this one is for you.

If you traveled internationally in 2021, you must have experienced going through airports carrying lots of documents needed by authorities. Unfortunately, the first step to most international trips nowadays is figuring out if your vaccination status allows you to go where you want.

With vaccination rates of around 60% and more in most Western countries, having some proof of vaccination is becoming mandatory to enter many countries. Besides, many countries issue local vaccination passports to their citizens so they can go places.

Some of the questions most of us encountered while traveling were:

  1. Could I even go to my destination given the current policies?
  2. What digital proof of vaccination is accessible there?
  3. What precautions are the travel companies I interact with taking?

I’d like to spend more time on digital identities and proofs of vaccination.
The lack of a valid internationally accepted digital identity that could show your vaccination status is currently a barrier to international travel. Yet, it gives us, UX people, a great problem to solve and to think about. After all, we all want to go back on the travel game, but we want to feel that we have a solution in hand that ensures the security of our data.

There’s also the million-dollar question of “who is going to own and govern such a solution”. These days, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has made some progress towards a solution called the “Travel Pass Initiative”. Yet, it’s far from being the final outcome. Since I like to travel, I spent a couple of hours on Figma imagining what such solutions could look like.

It was definitely an interesting experience to go through and think of the complexities involved in such solutions. I’m sure someone somewhere is working on the next iteration of some solution. It’s definitely a big one to tackle in the coming months and years.

Reimagining money through digital currencies

“In the universe, there are things that are known, things that are unknown, and in between, there are doors.”

– William Blake, British Poet

Photo by Dmitry Demidko on Unsplash

If banking, fintech, and economics are what make you want to wake up every morning and you want to improve the financial system by building a door to a new world of digital currencies, then this is an area for you to explore.

Many of us heard a lot about digital currencies or cryptocurrencies recently. They cause a high amount of noise in the media, and there’s a growing interest in them. Some countries are banning them completely (e.g. ChinaIndia), while some are more supportive (e.g. El Salvador). As many as 81 countries are even exploring the launch of their own digital currencies, also known as CBDC. Whatever your opinion about digital currencies is, the truth is, they are here to stay in one form or another.

Since we’re talking about a new payment ecosystem that relies on a new technology called the blockchain, a lot of work needs to be done on the UX front to open the door to wider adoption. Even with the existence of websites such as Coinbase and Binance, digital currencies are far from being understood or accessible by many people.

Here are examples of some UX-related challenges in this space:

  1. Lack of basic understanding of the ecosystem — many people do not know how to even categorize digital currencies or how to use them, so that could lead to interesting work on information architecture (IA)
  2. The use of digital wallets — are digital wallets the most intuitive solution? When is an external crypto wallet perceived as something we need? There is definitely a lot to learn here
  3. Security and risk perception — what is the risk perception of using digital currencies?
  4. Taxation — Can the experience of classifying digital currencies for taxation become smoother than what it is now?

As you can see, each question could become a big design project that involves so many different moving pieces. Right now, many companies try to work on different problems in the ecosystem (E.g. Koinly for taxation, MetaMask for wallets, etc.) because each part of the ecosystem needs continuous improvements.

It is for sure not going to be boring on that front, especially once big established financial institutes will jump that bandwagon. Given some recent news from the USA, and Switzerland, it’s already happening and we should stay tuned to see what’s next.

Decentralizing the Web with blockchain

“Our imagination is the only limit to what we can hope to have in the future”.

– Charles F. Kettering, American inventor

Photo by Clint Adair on Unsplash

If you want to reimagine the way we use the Web and you are not afraid of deep collaboration with engineers, then this one is for you.

Web 3.0 brings a big promise — the decentralization of the internet.
That means potentially more competition and fewer tech giants that control our data in the huge space called “the internet”. Definitely, the type of future many of us would like to imagine.

Whether you agree with Web 3.0’s main promise or not (read this great interview with Francesca Bria to get an in-depth point of view), the technology that powers this big change is going to be the blockchain.

As of now, we see many blockchain projects competing against each other (e.g. SolanaPolygonHedera, etc.). In addition, they are all competing with the Ethereum blockchain project that’s currently suffering from a few problems. Digital currencies and NFT markets are only two use cases for the blockchain.

Most of the work on blockchains is happening in the engineering world. The main aim is to increase technical performance and efficiency. Meanwhile, that leaves us, UX people, to think and design use cases on the front-end.

These days, each blockchain project is developing its own ecosystem. These ecosystems often include NFT markets and digital currencies. It’ll be interesting to see which ecosystem(s) will lead the way when it comes to UX as well. This is an ongoing process that is going to be with us for the rest of the 2020s and involves deep collaboration with engineering people.

Final Words — Where do we go from here?

Photo by William Bossen on Unsplash

If you read this article up to here, I hope it was good food for thought for you. These are only four big problems among many other interesting UX challenges to solve in the coming years. I chose to focus on areas where the technologies are still maturing, and the process of making them fully robust is going to take a few good years.

What we need to remember as UX people, is that the earlier we get involved, the better. In an ideal world, we can use our user research tools and ideation techniques to shape solutions in these fields where humans actually need them. This is the key to success, and it’s much better than only focusing on areas where cool features could be developed (read more on featuritis).

Besides, future predictions for UX research speak about potential research areas that are linked to the problems I mentioned. Among them, getting to know Gen Z that is likely to adopt these solutions, and understanding how humans perceive AI and data sharing. These technologies can play a big role in all the areas I discussed.

Seeing these four areas developing makes me believe that it’s only going to get more interesting in the UX world in the coming years. Feel free to share your personal thoughts and predictions about the future in the comments below.

Originally published on Medium

post authorYaron Cohen

Yaron Cohen, Yaron is a multilingual professional in the field of UX research and digital strategy. At work, he enjoys helping companies innovate and improve their overall user experience. Outside work he enjoys music, long walks, and photography. Take a look at his portfolio at www.yaroncohen.com.

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Ideas In Brief
  • Even though the UX field is relatively young, it already has a high impact on various aspects of our life.
  • Yaron Cohen, the Senior UX Researcher at RBC, shares a collection of new interesting problems the UX community will likely tackle in the rest of the 2020s including. What these areas have in common is:
    • Solutions with focus on back-end technology
    • Low market concentration
    • The need for government regulation to boost trust
  • The author lays out four UX challenges to solve in the coming years:
    • Helping to make society environmentally-conscious
    • Facilitating international travel in the post-COVID era
    • Reimagining money through digital currencies
    • Decentralizing the Web with blockchain

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