July 2, 2013

Notes from the Road – Technology Getting Out of the Way

Last month I was lucky enough to spend two days at the MIT Technology Review Mobile Summit in San Francisco.  When I attend conferences, I don’t focus too much on the discussions topics in the agenda. I like to absorb the themes and concepts that connect all the presentations and my interactions with others at the event.

At this event, the biggest trend I sensed was the sea change that’s coming in the realm of user experience – namely how technology will get out of the way of human interaction in the years to come. What’s truly exciting about the pace of software product development is how close we are to devices fading into the background, leaving only the experience.

It’s the culmination of the old adage, “The best technology is like magic, because you don’t see it.” Products are getting more and more seamless, software is being integrated into our normal routines, and hardware is going hands free and soon, wearable. Companies are automating transactions so that they are a natural part of the interaction taking place, rather than a distraction from that interaction.

This coming shift was also evident in how little talk there was of a traditional “mobile” nature at this show. I didn’t hear a single conversation that focused on smartphones, except in the context of not forgetting how many feature phones there still are in the developing world. The innovators at this conference see these devices – smartphones, tablets – simply as intermediary steps from the old computing paradigm to the rapidly approaching always on, hands free tomorrow.

(One of our UX designers just blogged about this trend in “The Best Interface is No Interface.”)

Finally, you couldn’t attend this event and not have the takeaway that passion separates winners and also-rans in business today. The winners keep a laser focus on the user experience provided by their products and services.

Advances in software and data analysis allow for a continuous product development process, one that constantly refines existing products and creates new ones. Focused companies develop software products that invoke passion on the part of users, and this success is magnified quickly in our digital world.

A focus on passion and the experience, not the technology – it’s a concept Apple nails in its latest ad campaign. The future is closer than we think, and the focus is on the human experience and the user experience, not the technology.