The End of Design? Machine Design

Picture of Tomasz Karwatka
Tomasz Karwatka

Supervisory Board Member at Divante. Leading industry voice who believes eCommerce can improve our world. Co-founder of Vue Storefront and Open Loyalty, angel investor, and founder of Tech To The Rescue. CoFounder at Catch The Tornado eCommerce Startup Studio

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In the era of Responsive-Web Design and Front-End Frameworks, graphic design becomes more and more often the responsibility of frontend developers. In the book In the Plex Marissa Mayer, at the time a manager at Google, criticises an employee’s project for being too human, with a lack of the computer-like quality. :)

I totally believe the situation took place for real, as I recall a friend of mine telling me years ago, that there were no UX designers at Google. The trend has caught on quickly in the startup world. With the appearance of Twitter and the Bootstrap library, it became an integral part of the webdesign history. Today, the top frontend developers are the people who have both – a great sense of style and deep knowledge of UX. In my opinion, however, the story doesn’t finish here – the process will continue to evolve.

With Big Data and Machine Learning gaining on popularity, Jeff Bezos’ dream will come true: As one of his coworkers says in The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon the ideal homepage has one book only – the exact one you want to buy.

Get to know your user

If an internet shop knows what I’m looking for (and more and more shops have this knowledge) and knows how much I like navigating (something very easy to tell even now), the shop can customize the web page content and layout so that it best meets my needs, here and now.

Maybe, in the morning, when I feel fresh and eager to explore I like three-column layout. But in the evenings I would appreciate a simpler navigation – choosing out of top 10 recommendations only.  When I’m traveling on business and I realize, already in my car, that I don’t have an audiobook to listen, what I need is just one recommendation and the “buy now” button.

For many years, I was working in UX. I spent countless hours observing users taking usability tests. Our aim was to create a navigation which would be convenient and intuitive. But guess what… Today we can create a navigation for every single user, based on their history of interaction and the A/B tests we have carried out on them.

AI can autonomously pose hypotheses about the layout and modify it based on the behaviour of chosen users. This way we avoid inconvenient redesigning, compromising projects, while we can still make the most of the interface’s potential.

Is it possible at all?

Of course. Recently, one of Divante’s division made Tchibo’s layout, which thanks to artificial intelligence, is always able to create a coherent and elegant design, regardless of the content. This allowed us to create an e-catalogue, which responds to the changes in stock and the customer’s behaviour. We can upload the content at the very beginning and let algorithms do the planning.

It’s only the beginning

In the future the algorithms will be able to generate the layout based on a given company’s visual identification only. With interfaces developing fast, we already have to think how to model the voice – assisted interactions, or the ones using augmented reality and a smartphone. In the future these tasks will be done for us by software.

If the scenario becomes reality, some of the graphic and UX designers will lose their jobs. But, in my opinion, only those, who won’t be able to give any added value the machine cannot provide. We will come back to where we came from: Once again what will matter in design will be the ingenuity and creativity. The algorithms will copy trends for us.

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Published March 3, 2015