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  • Writer's pictureJakob Nielsen

UX Roundup: Top AI Tools | Fewer UX Firms and Teams | UX Fails in Apple Vision Pro | UX Job

Summary: What are the top AI tools right now? | Fewer specialized UX firms and corporate departments, but more UX jobs | Apple Vision Pro exhibits many usability flaws, some of which can be expected to be fixed in future versions and others that are fundamental | UX job to conduct heuristic evaluations remotely for worldwide clients


UX Roundup for February 26, 2024. (Midjourney)

What Are the Top AI Tools Right Now?

I want to build a list of the AI tools that are used the most by UX professionals right now. (If readers like it, I may make another list next year, which will surely be different, considering how many new AI tools are released every week.)

Please help by completing this short survey asking about the top 5 AI tools you use.

The survey should take no more than a minute if all you do is enter the names of your preferred tools, but I (and the UX community) would be grateful if you are willing to spend a little more time to explain what’s good or bad about the tools.

I will publish the results in a future edition of this newsletter. Completely anonymized, of course.

UX professionals hard at work: what are their top AI tools? Let’s find out! (Midjourney)

Fewer UX Firms and Teams, More UX Jobs

I was on the UX Ignite show, hosted by Kuldeep Kelkar, Senior Partner at UXReactor. I recommend watching the entire show (70 min. video on YouTube), which also featured research maestro Kate Moran. Some of the topics we discussed included:

💡 From Basement Computers to UX Titan: The Jakob Nielsen Story

📚 From Insightful College Thesis to Impactful Real-World Research: The Kate Moran Story

✨ AI as a Forklift for the Mind

👨‍💼 Navigating UX Leadership: Strategies for Impactful Influence

🛠️ Harnessing AI for UX Innovation: Practical Insights + What Tools to Use Now

🎓 UX Education and Mentorship in an AI-Driven World

One controversial point I brought up is the pending decline of specialized UX firms and the traditional UX management career in large corporations. The distinction between specific roles and the broader job market is crucial. With AI’s aid, most UX teams will halve their workforce as efficiency doubles. This doesn’t imply widespread unemployment because there will be a surge in demand for overall UX work due to the immense amount of poor design.

Future trends suggest smaller, more spread-out UX teams, eliminating centralized UX management and executive roles like “VP of User Experience.” Instead, more companies will employ smaller UX teams, leading to a reduced hierarchy and fewer traditional career advancement paths in UX management. This shift towards treating UX as a common practice means UX principles will be universally integrated, possibly under different job titles focused on specific domains.

Some people say, “Ooh, commodity, that’s a bad thing.” I actually think the commodification of UX is a good thing because it means that UX will be taken for granted. It’s there, and it permeates everything.

Grains may seem the ultimate commodity. You may think it doesn’t matter how good your wheat is. Not true. Any upscale baker will tell you about the need to seek out special varieties from select farms. (Midjourney)

Commodity UX is just the way we do things. And people may not even be called UX Specialists, their job title may be something completely different, focusing on the domain they’re designing for. In the future, people will still do user research and iterative design. All the various methods that we’ve evolved over the last 50 years will still be useful, they’ll just be much more efficient, much more integrated, and much less put off to the side as a special department.

If you think ahead, let's say 10 or 20 years, I think that's how it’s going to be. And if people are planning their careers, they do need to look ahead 20 years. My message is: don’t plan on becoming a UX executive because those specialized UX firms and centralized UX groups will not exist.

UX will be inherently expected in all design processes, not sidelined as a distinct department. While individual companies will scale down their UX teams, the overall demand for UX professionals will grow as more organizations recognize the value of UX. Therefore, the future of UX jobs is not about fewer opportunities but a shift in how and where these roles fit within the broader industry landscape. Any individual company will have fewer UX staff, but many, many more companies will have UX, leading to more UX jobs overall.

Climbing the corporate ladder of ever-higher management positions will likely not be the way to future UX career success. You should think now about the future drop in Director/VP level jobs in UX. (Midjourney)

Apple Vision Pro = Hype

In June I wrote an article weighing the claims about AI vs. Metaverse devices such as the Apple Vision Pro (which had just been announced the day before my article), trying to decide which trend was real and which was hype. I concluded that AI is real, whereas the Metaverse and Apple Vision Pro are hype. The reason is that even back then, we had copious empirical data showing big productivity gains from AI (my current estimate is that current AI improves productivity by around 40% on average). In contrast, back 8 months ago, we only had cool demos of AR but no empirical studies of actual use. This didn’t bode well.

Now that Apple Vision Pro has been in the hands of thousands of customers, experience with real use is starting to trickle out. Bloomberg has a good article summarizing the reasons buyers are returning their headsets to Apple for a refund. (Subscription required. 9to5Mac has a useful summary of the Bloomberg article.)

Qualitative data from interviewing people returning the headset shows that these are the main reasons for the returns:

  1. Too heavy and uncomfortable to use: causes headaches.

  2. Causes eyestrain and glare issues.

  3. Not enough content to justify the cost.

  4. Users don’t experience a productivity boost compared to using standard monitors with a regular computer.

  5. Users feel isolated from family and friends. The Vision Pro can’t easily be passed around to others because of the need for a precise fit.

  6. The constricted (dare I say, “hyped-up”) demo experience in the Apple Store means that any buyers soon discover that the everyday experience isn’t as exciting as those fancy demos.

Reasons 1–3 are typical for a first-generation product and make the cost–benefit ratio of a purchase particularly unfavorable, considering the extremely high cost of current release ($3,500). Costs will go down for future releases, and the hardware will improve. More content might even become available in future years if this product becomes popular.

Reason 4 is more fundamental. Whereas AI has that 40% productivity increase even from the current, poorly implemented, products, AR doesn’t help mainstream customers perform real tasks. Even though the Bloomberg report is based on qualitative data and doesn’t provide measurement data for this task performance, the qualitative experience of not realizing any benefits is enough to doom the product.

And reason 5 is the ultimate doom for Apple Vision Pro. Donning a VR/AR headset makes users feel isolated. But wearing the headset is the core of the user experience for this entire class of products, not just the current Apple release. Bloomberg quotes one user as saying, “I feel it is so important to be in the moment and the device doesn’t allow you to be.”

Would you attend a party wearing a deep-diving suit, complete with copper helmet? You would feel isolated and not enjoy yourself. That same feeling of being isolated will likely doom most non-specialized uses of AR headsets. (Midjourney)

Despite the above, I absolutely think there will be many useful applications for AR in general and the Apple Vision Pro (at least in future-release versions) in particular. Applications that inherently involve the manipulation of 3D objects are likely to benefit from augmentation. Anything from airplane repair to surgery. But for general use, the new qualitative user data is damming.

(Hat tip to Dr. Nick Fine for alerting me to the user data.)

Job Opening: Conduct Heuristic Evaluations Remotely for Worldwide Clients

Baymard Institute has openings for UX analysts. Remote work from anywhere in the world.

This is a great job opportunity for candidates in countries with few local openings for high-talent UX professionals since this is fully remote, and yet supported by a team of world-class experts. The job is to analyze the usability of existing ecommerce websites for clients, so this is not a design or research position to create new sites.

Baymard is famous for publishing the world’s largest body of independent research about ecommerce usability, so it’s a true center of excellence that’s now adding team members in countries very far from their HQ in Denmark. (But you must be an excellent writer in English, since they deliver monster reports of 50-150 pages to the clients.)

Get a job inspecting the usability of ecommerce websites for international clients, no matter where in the world you live yourself. (Midjourney)


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