Why Usability is the Key Skill to Develop in 2024

November 22, 2023

Design jobs will always exist. Some are going away and others will be in demand.

In 2024, usability will be the key skill to develop for anyone who wants to be successful in the tech industry. As generative AI becomes more sophisticated, it will be essential for designers to understand how to create user experiences that are both easy to use and aesthetically pleasing. The coming year will bring substantial investments in both AI startups and established tech firms. While a lion’s share of this funding will naturally gravitate towards research, engineering, and marketing, there is an urgent need to allocate resources towards enhancing user experience (UX) and usability. Over the past decade, industry giants like Apple, Google, and Airbnb have underscored the significance of design, echoing its impact on ROI and user satisfaction. This shift in perspective has made UX a cornerstone in the development of new technologies.

Generative AI is still in its early stages, but it has already made significant progress. In recent years, we have seen the development of AI-powered tools that can generate text, translate languages, and even write code. These tools have the potential to revolutionize the way we work, but they also pose a challenge for designers. The problem is that generative AI tools are often difficult to use. They can be complex and confusing, and they can produce results that are not always accurate or helpful. Additionally, there are not a lot of established patterns or mental models about how to interact with an LLM.

In this context, designers with even a basic understanding of interaction patterns in large language models, and the ability to develop content strategies for such models, will gain a competitive advantage. The key lies in effectively bridging the gap between complex AI functionalities and user-friendly interfaces. Designers who can create user interfaces that make generative AI tools easier to use will have a distinct advantage. They can also help create a perception that these tools are trustworthy and helpful.

Core Usability Metrics: A Primer

To thrive in this new era, it’s crucial to familiarize oneself with traditional usability metrics. These include:

1. Learnability: The ease with which new users can accomplish basic tasks. An intuitive design is the cornerstone of learnability.

2. Efficiency: Post-learning curve, how quickly can users perform tasks? Optimization for efficiency is key.

3. Memorability: When returning after a hiatus, how easily can users regain proficiency? A memorable design aids in this.

4. Error Handling: Frequency, severity, and recoverability from errors are vital. A robust design minimizes errors and provides clear recovery paths.

5. Satisfaction: The overall enjoyment and confidence instilled by the design. A satisfying experience is fundamental.

The Road Ahead: Learning and Adapting

To adeptly navigate the usability challenges of generative AI tools, one must delve into extensive research and hands-on experience with these tools. By engaging with as many generative tools as possible, documenting obstacles, and observing or interviewing users, designers can develop a keen sense of the user experience challenges and opportunities ahead.

Here are some additional tips for developing your usability skills:

  • Practice using generative AI tools yourself. This will help you to understand how they work and how to use them effectively.
  • Talk to other designers and developers who are using generative AI tools. This will help you to learn about different approaches, best practices, and current limitations.
  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Learning is a process of trial and error. The more you experiment, the better you will become at using generative AI tools and understanding their limitations

Conclusion: Preparing for a User-Centric AI Future

In sum, the rapid development of AI technologies, especially generative AI, underscores the paramount importance of usability. Designers who invest time in understanding the workings of large language models, familiarize themselves with the emerging patterns of generative AI tools, and refresh their knowledge of traditional usability principles will be well-equipped to address and solve design problems in the near future. The key to success in 2024 and beyond will lie in the ability to blend the technical complexity of AI with the simplicity and intuitiveness of user-centric design.

Do you need a refresher course in the principles of usability and how it relates to AI. Check out this article from the Nielsen Norman Group.

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