Will AI replace UX designers? Short answer: Not anytime soon.
Long answer: AI is a powerful tool in digital product design. It can be used to shorten and simplify UX design processes like user research and data analysis. But it has a long way to go before it can replicate the empathy and creativity needed for UX design.
Or, if that isn’t a sufficient answer, why don’t we ask the AI? (If we wake up in the Terminator universe tomorrow, it’s not our fault 😜)
So, if you’ve been lying awake at night wondering “Will AI replace UX designers and put me out of a job?” You can breathe a sigh of relief for now.
But while we’re on the topic, let’s take a closer look at what AI is, address some concerns from creative communities, and examine how designers can use AI to ideate, iterate, and automate processes.
What Is AI?
AI (short for artificial intelligence) is a machine or software that simulates human intelligence by identifying patterns in data. It analyzes and mimics our behavior to answer questions and assist with problem-solving.
Some systems of AI you may already be familiar with include natural language processing, voice recognition, and face recognition. If you’re a smartphone user, AI is probably deeply rooted in your daily routine.
But will AI replace UX designers? Let's examine what AI does to determine if it has the same capabilities as a living, breathing designer.
How Does AI Work?
As humans, we can intake, understand, infer, and apply information. Artificial intelligence replicates organic intelligence through designated pathways designed programmatically.
AI generates results when the input of one function is determined by the output of a previous function. That output is an input of another function, and so on until a decision is made.
For example, humans can recognize the color blue by intaking light waves through objects around us (like the sky or a pair of denim jeans). Someone teaches us that this color is called “Blue”. Now, we understand what blue is and can identify things that are not the same color (for instance, a lemon is a different color than the sky).
When we see the color blue enough, we can infer that different shades are closely related to the color blue and apply that information every day.
AI works similarly. We tell the machine what the color blue looks like by showing it a bunch of colorful pictures so it can process that information through a weighted value. An AI machine built to identify the color blue has HD cameras for eyes and was already trained to know what the color blue is via its neural network.
The AI takes pictures of things in its way and decides whether or not the numerical color value is close enough to what it’s learned to be blue. If it’s shown a picture of a lemon, it’ll pass by it because its “blue value” isn’t high enough.
How Does AI Impact Creatives?
With the way AI has evolved in the past few years, accessibility and integration of this technology have reached their apex. Processing power is relatively cheap and companies have utilized it at relatively basic levels to solve problems and automate processes.
However, the systems aren’t “perfect” quite yet. The advancement of AI has been bogged down by quality control issues, privacy concerns, and especially improper utilization.
Of course, you can’t have technological advances without some ethical discourse. And it’s easy to see why! Remember how Netflix pretty much ran Blockbuster out of business? Or how about the bookstores replaced by Amazon? How many people were out of a job because of them?
For every Facebook friend that posts their AI art selfies from Lensa, you’ll see another post from an artist worried about their work being stolen and losing out on profits. So, what ethical concerns come from AI? And will AI make careers in creative fields (like UX design) obsolete?
Will AI Replace UX Designers, Graphic Designers, and Other Creatives?
According to The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “There are ~86 billion neurons in our brain. That's nearly impossible to replicate given our current processing power. It's difficult to put a ceiling on AI because it could eventually be better at thinking than us…or it could collapse because we can't make it any better. After all, our brains just aren't good enough.”
As we said earlier, AI saves UX/UI designers a lot of time and resources when gathering data, generating ideas, and improving features. However, machines and algorithms lack two core characteristics that make the foundation of UX designs: creativity and empathy.
AI algorithms can identify patterns in user behavior. But it can’t tell you how the user feels while navigating the digital product design.
User-friendly products will always need that “human” touch, either through behavioral design, personalization, or branding strategy. UX design requires a high level of intuition, relatability, and empathy for your user. A machine will likely never understand the complexities of the human mind (and if they did, we really WOULD be in the Terminator universe).
As far as graphic and UI design goes, the creative capabilities of AI are limited. It can mimic an art style, but it can’t create art on its own. That’s why AI art software like MidJourney or Lensa needs a prompt or a specific art style to analyze the patterns and produce results.
The same goes for UX writers. AI can capture a company’s personality and vocabulary, but it won’t understand the nuances of their communication style. You can use it to fill in some blanks (especially when writer's block hits), but it’s up to you to retrofit the suggestions to suit the brand voice and tone.
Ethical Concerns With AI
AI isn’t inherently unethical. The systems don’t create themselves, so whether they’re used for good or bad depends on the person behind the machine. AI developers need ethical frameworks to ensure safe and legal usage.
Safety Of AI
AI algorithms are usually refined and thoroughly tested, but they’re rarely foolproof. Self-driving cars are often marketed as “zero accident autopilot” modes. However, it’s difficult to validate this claim due to the sheer scale of possibilities.
The system’s algorithm can weigh potential outcomes and stop the car if someone hits the brakes in front of you. But it’s not as prepared when a kid chases a ball into the street.
Long story short, nothing is perfect (even computers). If the system is 99.999% perfect, there’s always the .001% of someone getting seriously hurt in an accident.
Bias In AI
AI’s primary strength is the collection of data, and some data used to train AI models could have hidden biases.
However, this data isn’t always set in stone. AI and ML (machine learning) systems can always be modified with more data it gathers, tipping the scales in a more balanced direction.
AI And Privacy
The collection of personal data has been a major topic of conversation for users since Facebook’s data mining scandal in 2018. The use of AI in everyday technologies has only amplified the concern. Since users are more likely to interact with personalized content, how can companies use AI to curate content without violating their user's privacy?
The trick is to remain transparent about data collection and how it’s being used to improve their experience. Take every opportunity to educate the user about the processes and benefits to build a sense of trust when interacting with AI.
Spreading Misinformation Using AI
Fake news this, fake news that. At this point, you’ve probably heard the term “fake news” more than your own name. However, AI and ML can easily replicate templates of trustworthy publications and generate factually inaccurate text, spreading misinformation across the web like wildfire.
AI can be a tool of good or evil. It’s best to create a set of guidelines and best practices for your organization and monitor usage frequently to make sure you’re adhering to the rules.
How Can AI Improve User Experiences
We’ve probably made AI sound like another cold, unfeeling technology that assists in UX processes. But there’s much more to AI than meets the eye!
AI can give UX designs more value beyond user-friendliness. From basic problem-solving to automation and personalization, we can simplify complex tasks, test designs, and generate solutions that fit any business.
Facilitate Faster Decision-Making
You’ve heard about the burden of choice before. Why not relieve some of that burden by letting an AI narrow down the user’s options?
AI models learn from the behavior of other users in the digital product's target demographic. A product they bought or a solution they took would likely benefit you as you navigate a product.
AI is a powerful business tool that can influence customer behavior or help companies predict trends with augmented analytics. Use AI to anticipate, weigh your options, and feel more confident in your decision-making.
Provide Better Assistance
Some user queries require the help of another person to solve a problem. But for more general FAQs, a chatbot saves time and energy for the user and customer service representatives.
Through ML, chatbots gather common questions asked by users so you can understand the problems they encounter while using the product. This helps you provide better, faster assistance while making the user feel like you understand them and their needs.
Human-machine interactions are becoming more life-like through the power of AI with products like Siri and Alexa. With Voice AI and speech recognition, digital assistance is more personal (and convenient) than ever!
72% of users and customers will only engage with personalized digital experiences. If you’re not working some form of personalization into your interface, you’re missing a golden opportunity to engage ¾ of your user base.
Products like Spotify, Duolingo, Amazon, and Netflix are synonymous with customized experiences. Spotify, in particular, pushes the envelope in tailoring their experience through features like Wrapped and The Only You Campaign.
Personalization is an effective UX strategy that makes it easier for your users to find what they’re looking for. And with all the AI systems available, it’s much easier to customize your interface to your user's behavior.
AI and ML models organize and process data much faster than humans can. This makes it a super useful tool for businesses managing multiple tasks and workflows. You can automate anything from basic processes to complicated data integrations.
Industries from retail to IT have adopted these AI models to handle repetitive tasks and reduce human error, freeing up more time for employees to focus on more important projects.
AI automation is a no-brainer because of its speed and efficiency. You probably already use some form of AI for email marketing, customer relationship management, and business operations. Expect this to become more prevalent as AI grows in popularity.
So Will AI Replace UX Designers?
No. It will be a long time before AI models have the creative and empathetic abilities needed for UX design.
But, to quote the bot, “The future of UX design is likely to be greatly influenced by AI and other emerging technologies. It will be important for UX designers to stay informed about these developments and to consider the potential implications for their work.”
AI is a major asset in improving user experiences for a variety of digital products. And there’s no shortage of innovative features you can incorporate into your product with a simple algorithm.
Just remember that a user-friendly design needs a strong set of ethics and guiding principles to ensure your users can accomplish their goals safely and honestly. Since AI doesn’t have values on its own, it requires some experienced and principled UX designers and developers to make sure it’s used for the right reasons.
Speaking of experienced and principled UX designers…CreateApe knows how to build game-changing websites and apps that use AI to its full potential.
If you have an idea for an AI-driven product that will revolutionize your industry, we can’t wait to hear all about it. Start a project with us today!
Contributor: Ryker Frohock, Software Development Professional