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Will AI Devices Kill UX? Why radical simplicity and a singular focus matter in technology.

Article by Lindsay Witmer Collins, originally posted on Inc.


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The advent of generative AI has triggered a potential sea change in how we interact with apps and how we use them to navigate our lives. As a creator, some of the most interesting things happen between the start of such disruption and the point at which we settle into a new paradigm.


Take Humane's AI Pin and the Rabbit R1 as examples of two drastically different visions for the future of app design.

  • The AI Pin is screenless. User interface (UI) is projected onto a user's hand and navigated through simple hand and finger gestures.

  • The Rabbit R1 gives users a navigational overlay that sits on top of their apps. R1 navigates apps for you and translates some activity into its own UI.

If future devices are screenless or navigate apps for the user, should app creators invest in the UI/user experience (UX) of their products?

 

Yes.


These evolutions will raise the standard of rigor in UI/UX design.


Radical simplicity will win

For UI/UX to be effective in the future, it must be simple enough to be "framed" by the navigational UI of devices like the AI pin, the Rabbit R1, and other similar devices sure to come. I predict we'll soon be building additional versions of our apps (and websites) specifically for AI to read, navigate, and validate. In any case, simpler apps will be easier and faster for both humans and AI to use, and they'll win on those premises, as I would argue they always have.


Apps that achieve wide adoption solve a singular problem in delightful and usable way.

  • Slack grew to a $4 billion valuation by 2016, with no sales team, which is virtually unheard of in enterprise software. Instead, it relied mostly on viral growth. Though Slack now offers more features like note-taking and video huddles, it rose to prominence by being the most intuitive, simple chat app.

  • Calendly's dominance over Acuity is my favorite example. Acuity does everything Calendly does and more--but Calendly does one thing better: instant scheduling. That's why we all use it.

  • In the AI space, I have been loving Pi. Unlike ChatGPT, Pi has a beautiful, and beautifully simple conversational interface. I've been blown away by the conversations I've had with it.


By the way, I'm not knocking ChatGPT's design. It comes with a high degree of customization that lets users build "assistants"' for certain functions and "fine-tune" models by uploading their own data. But those of us living waist-deep in tech can forget how steep the learning curve is for users who are less tech-adjacent, i.e., regular people.


OpenAI's new GPT marketplace moves toward simplicity. Instead of users building and honing their own GPTs, creators and experts can create singular, ultra-specific GPTs for users to buy and use out of the box. We're enjoying building these at WLCM.


Apps can no longer serve two masters

Beautifully simple design stems from a deep awareness of the value the app provides--the problem it solves, how, and for whom. Only on this foundation of intent can you execute in a way that will win in the app marketplace.


In my mind, if your app does eight different things, you should probably be creating eight different apps.


The viral apps of tomorrow will be created by companies and entrepreneurs who maintain a laser focus on their use case. These apps will be able to pivot, scale, and evolve while keeping the main thing the main thing.


Winning apps will be navigation-free--and lovable

Creating apps that are usable by the coming wave of autonomous agents and their devices, like the R1, is one thing to keep in mind as we design and build. And within the walls of our own projects, we can harness that same navigational capacity of AI to create better experiences.


Because AI is able to maneuver within and among various app functions on behalf of the user, by leveraging it in our own apps, we can

  • Remove many interfaces we take for granted (Do we need forms anymore?)

  • Uncomplicate navigation (Can we do all this in one interface?)

  • Radically simplify our user experience overall


Importantly, we can also build products with which we can communicate in the organic, unstructured way we communicate with our friends. In time, that's what our most beloved apps will feel like--a presence with whom we've built rapport.


UX will always matter, and current developments are shifting what's possible, for the better. We are now living in a world where we can build intelligent apps that are as friendly as they are knowledgeable, and that break new ground in what can be achieved with a single, simple interface.


It's a great time to be alive in tech and design.

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