Alexander Brand January 16, 2024
It’s no secret that AI has the potential to transform business. But “potential” is a pivotal word here. In order for an AI-powered solution to be transformative, people have to actually want to use it. That means with AI, user experience (UX) is more important than ever.
You might be saying to yourself: Of course, UX is always the key to user adoption, right? Yes, but unlike the applications of the past, solutions that use generative AI (GenAI) can revolutionize how people interact with technology. Think about the difference between browsing the web for recommendations on films to watch, versus an AI that learns your preferences and proactively suggests titles you’ll love. These experiences are like night and day. That’s why, when designing with GenAI at the forefront, we must revisit the fundamentals of UX design with a fresh perspective.
Fortunately, through our work on client and internal projects, we’ve gained some valuable insights on creating an environment that helps users feel supported, engaged, and effortlessly in control of their GenAI applications. In this new realm where AI is no longer a novelty, but a necessity, this blog post delves into three critical strategies we’ve identified that can elevate your GenAI app from functional to transformative. Let’s dive in to understand how you can turn these insights into impactful UX enhancements.
GenAI UX TIP 1: Put the User in Control
The true power of AI is unlocked when it works in tandem with the user. A principal challenge in designing for AI-powered applications is finding the right balance between fully automating processes and keeping the human element involved. While the ultimate goal may be to reduce manual input and decision-making, it’s crucial to cultivate confidence in each interaction. By fostering a symbiotic relationship between the user and AI, you’ll exponentially increase the user’s engagement and allow them to capitalize on the efficiency your app can potentially deliver.
One straightforward way to establish that sense of harmony is to enable users to easily refine or redirect the AI-generated output. Your application should provide feedback mechanisms that allow users to ‘teach’ the AI, thereby improving the results and personalizing the experience over time. For an example of this sort of mechanism in context, check out the “Revise” feature in the AI-powered cloud migration platform that I previewed last year.
Taking it a step further, the application could suggest or highlight the different ways in which GenAI can assist them. This is particularly helpful as it can sometimes be difficult for the user to know what, when, or how to prompt the AI in order to improve the response. For example, many products now offer GenAI-powered writing assistants that provide users options to shorten, paraphrase, or expand selected text.
Key Takeaway: Implement an effective feedback loop for users to guide the AI. This will help establish a symbiotic relationship that evolves and strengthens with every interaction.
GenAI UX TIP 2: Pay Attention to Latency
No one likes to wait – even more so in a world where instant gratification is often just a click away. Traditional web and mobile applications have been dealing with this challenge for more than a decade now, finding ways to minimize latency and create seamless user experiences that are measured in mere milliseconds. However, generative AI is not quite there yet. While large language models are improving, they can still take several seconds to generate a complete response.
If not taken into consideration from the beginning of app development, this delay in processing can diminish confidence and negatively impact the user experience. To counteract this, employ strategies that keep the user engaged. This could be as simple as providing visual feedback when the AI is processing a request, or using streaming APIs to establish a ‘conversation-in-progress’ feel. More complex tactics might include smart caching of commonly used responses, or pre-generating content in anticipation of user needs.
Key Takeaway: Prioritize performance optimizations to manage latency that’s still inherent in GenAI. Be mindful of this in your design – a responsive app will maintain user engagement and satisfaction.
GenAI UX TIP 3: Weave AI Seamlessly into the Experience
Users shouldn’t have to be AI experts or prompt engineering gurus to get the most out of your application. The goal is to make the interaction with AI as intuitive as collaborating with a human assistant who understands and can even anticipate your needs. This is why it’s necessary to revisit the fundamentals of human-centered design to analyze the user journey and identify the best opportunities for integrating GenAI into the overall experience.
As you evaluate this integration, think about ways in which AI can enhance the user’s activities. This could include helping the user grasp context, executing long-running tasks in the background so users don’t have to wait, or providing assistance without being prompted. For example, a design tool could automatically suggest different layouts or templates based on the content that a user has entered, without them having to specifically request those suggestions.
Key Takeaway: Make the AI’s presence inconspicuous yet invaluable. Automate complexity, and where possible, ensure the AI is a silent partner – enhancing the user’s work without needing to be front and center.
Differentiating on Experience
Remember, we’re only at the beginning of this revolution. AI promises to fundamentally transform how we interact with computers. Will the mouse and keyboard soon become obsolete? What about the computer screen? As anyone attending or following announcements from CES 2024 might have noticed, that day could be coming sooner than one thinks.
This is a time for rethinking product development from top to bottom. As GenAI technology advances and the competitive landscape of AI-driven solutions grows, the user experience will become an even more significant differentiator. But the apps that prioritize UX today are the ones that will not just survive, but thrive in that future landscape.
Foster a symbiotic relationship between AI and the user, optimize performance to keep pace with the demands of instantaneity, and make AI integration seamless. By focusing on these three areas, you can significantly enhance the UX of your GenAI-powered app, instill loyalty in your users, and gain a massive competitive advantage.