Internet Trends 2018

3 UX Takeaways from the Internet Trends 2018 Report

KPCB’s Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends report for 2018 dropped last week. Here are three key takeaways about user experience (UX).

 

Good user experience drives adoption and conversion

Internet Trends Report 2018 - p17

 

Arguably of the three apps pictured above, the Cash app from Square is the most revolutionary. The app has made sending money between individuals as efficient as three taps (well, if you exclude the number of taps to enter a dollar amount). It’s incredibly easy and nearly frictionless.

 

Internet Trends Report 2018 - p193

 

While Spotify has been around for a few years, leading consumers around the world down the streaming path for music, their loyal users always wonder, “How does Spotify know that I’d like this artist I’ve never heard of?!” The surprise and delight their users get through new music discovery is palpable. And they achieve that through personalization—which I would argue is great user experience.

 

Internet Trends Report 2018 - p82

 

Spotify’s efforts of magical personalization and constant refinement of their UI, have translated into actual dollars. Their paying subscriber base jumped from around 15 million to around 70 million monthly active users in just four years.

 

Consumer grade is the new professional grade

The consumerization of enterprise applications has been going on for a while. Meeker points to Dropbox pioneering it in 2007.

 

Internet Trends Report 2018 - p264

 

As a user experience designer, it’s obvious to me that products should just work, and that steep learning curves for any product or application should be eradicated.

 

Oracle OPERA UI

 

This is Oracle’s OPERA hotel management software. Where is the hierarchy of information? Looks like it requires weeks of training to understand, right? Perfect for a front-desk worker at a hotel, no? Not consumer-grade, not human-grade.

OPERA was made by Micros Systems before Oracle bought the company. You still see Micros-branded point-of-sale systems at restaurants today, and they look like this…

 

Micros POS UI

 

Despite the color coding and zones, it looks like this will still require days of training new wait staff for them to be proficient.

 

Square Register POS UI

 

Compare that with Square’s Register app that runs on an iPad. You don’t even need a manual to figure out how to use this.

(As you can see I’m very passionate about making enterprise software easier to use and understand. I’ll definitely write more about this in the future.)

The Internet Trends 2018 report details out their formula for enterprise software success that both Dropbox and Slack followed…

 

Internet Trends Report 2018 - p268

 

Virality isn’t always possible, especially with things like point-of-sale systems. However good old fashioned word-of-mouth can certainly help, and I think that’s where Square really shines with small business owners. When the Square card reader debuted, this tiny piece of hardware that plugged into your iPhone’s headphone jack was so ingenious that everyone asked about it when they saw one for the first time.

 

Computer, what is the nature of the universe?

As Star Trek depicted in its fictional universe for decades now, voice is the future of human-computer interaction. This year we passed an important threshold in terms of voice recognition accuracy.

 

Internet Trends Report 2018 - p25

 

Better accuracy will drive greater adoption of the technology, as seen with the explosive growth of Amazon Echo and its Alexa skills.

 

Internet Trends Report 2018 - p26

 

Voice recognition as a user experience paradigm brings up questions of affordance1, like how do we teach humans what they can ask so the computer will return (or do) something useful?

Voice-user interface is also changing search engine algorithms as we tend to ask Siri (or Alexa or Google) questions rather than keywords. Therefore we need to change our content to maximize our SEO rankings.

 

The future is bright

Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends 2018 deck is a whopping 294 slides. I encourage you to flip through it as I’m skipping whole sections on the continuing rise of e-commerce, digital ad spends, and China.

 

  1. In UX terms, an affordance is a cue to help the user know what they can do with an interface. Example: a button on a screen should look clickable. ↩︎

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