Artificial intelligence is on the rise, with many proclaiming that AI technologies are now mainstream.
Whether or not that’s true, there’s no denying that adoption of AI is increasing rapidly—and that it presents many advantages and opportunities. It’s estimated that, by 2035, AI technologies will boost corporate profitability by 38% across 16 industries.
That’s great for business, but what about the people employed in those sectors? More specifically, what does it mean for professionals in the design industry? Will AI replace UX designers?
In this guide, we weigh up the future of UX in the age of AI, exploring:
- What is AI?
- Will AI eliminate the need for UX designers?
- How can UX designers leverage AI?
- The takeaway
First things first: What exactly is AI?
What is AI?
AI (artificial intelligence) refers to computer systems and machines which are ‘trained’ to mimic the intelligence of humans. In simple terms, AI works by training computers to process large volumes of data, recognise patterns within the data, and carry out certain actions accordingly.
AI is used to automate tasks that have traditionally been carried out by people. Consider the increasing use of chatbots to understand and respond to customer queries—that’s an everyday example of AI in action.
Artificial intelligence is also used to enhance existing products and technologies. Remember how Apple added Siri, the AI-powered digital assistant, to their product portfolio in 2011? Netflix is another prime example, using recommendation algorithms to suggest TV shows you might like based on your previous viewing data.
That’s AI in a nutshell. Now for the question at hand: Will AI replace UX designers?
Will AI replace UX designers?
Based on their analysis of over 200,000 jobs in 29 countries, PwC estimates that up to 30% of jobs could be automated by the mid-2030s.
However, the employment outlook for humans isn’t necessarily as bleak as it sounds. The World Economic Forum predicts that, while AI will take some jobs away from humans, it will also create 97 million new jobs by 2025.
It’s also important to note that automation will vary greatly by sector. While industries like finance, transport, and logistics are likely to be heavily impacted by AI, jobs that rely on social skills and the so-called ‘human touch’ won’t be so easily displaced.
So what about UX designers?
The general consensus seems to be that AI will not remove the need for UX design, nor will it replace human UX designers.
UX design is arguably one of the most human-centric jobs out there. It requires empathy to relate to your target users and understand the problems they need you to solve. It calls for an in-depth understanding of how the human mind works and why people behave the way they do when using certain products and services. And, of course, it relies heavily on collaboration between multiple human stakeholders.
It’s hard to imagine a world where all of that ‘humanness’ could be replaced by artificial intelligence. Ultimately, designing experiences for humans requires a human touch. Right now, that’s something that only humans can offer.
That’s not to say that AI has no place in the UX design world. Far from it, in fact. AI presents a great opportunity for UX designers, and it will certainly transform the way they work in the future.
With that in mind, let’s consider how AI can assist UX designers in the creation of outstanding user experiences.
How UX designers can leverage AI to create even better user experiences
AI isn’t a threat to the UX designer’s livelihood. Rather, it’s a powerful tool that UX designers can leverage to create top-notch user experiences.
AI can help with UX by:
- Making it easier to gather and analyse large volumes of user data
- Enabling more precise personalisation
- Providing users with improved customer service
- Automating certain aspects of the design process
- Helping to address the web accessibility gap
Let’s explore each of these opportunities in more detail.
AI makes it easier to gather and analyse large volumes of user data
Data and analytics play a pivotal role in the UX design process. Whether collecting data as part of your initial user research, running A/B tests to see which version of a design performs best, or analysing behavioural data to see how your product performs in usability testing—the more data you can gather and analyse, the deeper your insights will be.
AI makes it easier to handle data at scale, ultimately giving UX designers a better understanding of what users want and need.
AI enables more precise personalisation
Personalisation in UX is about providing the end user with content that’s closely tailored to their needs and interests. It uses behavioural data and machine learning (a subset of AI) to adapt the product interface depending on who’s accessing it. This ensures that each individual user is presented with the most relevant information for them. As such, personalisation is a powerful tool for improving the user experience and resonating with your target users.
AI allows you to provide better customer support
In order to deliver a positive user experience, many products and services need to incorporate quick and effective customer support. For example, if you’re designing an ecommerce website or a banking app, you want your users to be able to resolve any issues promptly and efficiently. Chatbots are a great example of how AI can help you to design customer support into your product—and thus enhance the user experience.
AI-powered design tools boost efficiency
While there’s no immediate danger of AI replacing UX designers, it can help to automate some aspects of the design process. There are many AI-powered programs on the market; in fact, you may have unknowingly leveraged AI when using some of the most popular UX design tools.
There’s Adobe Sensei, an AI tool that integrates with Adobe software; platforms like Uizard, an AI-powered prototyping tool; and the likes of Khroma and Colormind which automate the task of creating colour palettes—to name just a few. UX designers will always need to rely on their own unique skills and creativity, but AI can lend a helping hand when it comes to some of the more routine tasks.
AI can help to close the web accessibility gap
Accessibility is one of the fundamental principles of UX design. It’s about ensuring a product or service is accessible to as many people as possible, particularly focusing on users with disabilities. Unfortunately, less than 2% of all websites are meeting accessibility guidelines, resulting in what’s known as the web accessibility gap.
Writing for Forbes, Niv Penso explains how AI can be used to improve accessibility on a major scale:
“AI-powered solutions now make it possible for website owners to make their sites accessible without having to alter their source code. The automatic nature of the process presents a scalable solution to the web accessibility gap. Now, remediation processes can be done on a global scale, to millions of websites and with automatic, ongoing maintenance. More importantly, it can make a huge difference in the lives of millions of people with disabilities worldwide.”
It can be scary to read about the rapid rise of AI and the impact it’s set to have in the not-so-distant future. But hopefully this post has helped to assuage some of your fears about how AI might affect the UX designer’s role. As it stands, it’s highly unlikely that AI will replace the need for UX designers. Ultimately, UX is far too reliant on the ‘human touch’; empathy will always be number one when it comes to designing user-friendly products. AI will play an increasing role in the UX design process, but we see it as an opportunity rather than a threat.
So, if you’re thinking about becoming a UX designer, don’t let AI deter you. Human designers are still very much in demand, and will continue to be for a long while yet.
Ready to join this exciting industry? Check out our guide on how to learn UX and get started in the field.