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Insight / Studio

The future is already here.

Matthew Laakvand, UI/UX Developer

26 04, 2017

The future is already here.

As a child in the late 1980’s, I remember my mother enrolling in a speed typing course that brought her typing up to what seemed like lightning speed to me then. I also remember the ear splitting sound that my Sinclair ZX Spectrum would make churning through a tape cassette whilst loading the 8 bit video game my pocket money had gone towards that week.

Despite my Sinclair ZX’s fully functioning keyboard, not to mention the floppy drive, my mother purchased an electronic typewriter with auto correct Tipex built in. An expensive purchase then and the height of what was considered to be modern technology. But what my mother didn’t realise then, was that my Sinclair ZX Spectrum, along with the Acorn computers
and even the Arari, were all precursors to the next-big-thing; the Home PC.

(Here’s a picture of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum for those of you who had forgotten or never knew it existed.)
(Here’s a picture of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum for those of you who had forgotten or never knew it existed.)

At that time, the ‘Home PC’ was something considered to be a thing of science fiction, a long way off in the future and unaffordable. Yet the technology had at this point existed already in other guises.

Fast forward to now and where are we? Our lives are interwoven with technology. We have miniature computers in our pockets. These computers, or phones if you prefer, are many, many times more powerful that the supercomputers of the 1960’s that required entire warehouse sized facilities to house them, or even the home PC .

With our mini pocket computers we can do pretty much anything we can think of, but fundamentally we are using them to access information and interact with systems that make our lives a little easier. Emails and visiting websites aside, when was the last time you went into an actual bank?

We’ve all heard the phrase “let’s not reinvent the wheel”. Tell it to the FIA who are changing the regulations for next season’s F1 cars to allow for faster, grippier wheels. A long way from the original wheel hewn out of stone.

We need to always be looking to the future or else we are simply playing catch up to it. The common frog is unable to sense gradual change. If you sit a frog in a cold pot of water and turn on the hob underneath, it will happily sit there even as the temperature rises slowly through warm, hot, simmering and finally boiling, until the frog eventually dies. It lived in the moment unable to see the future coming. We cannot be that frog if we are to be effective for our clients and customers in the future.

People have heard of Google Glass or Oculus Rift, but for now these technologies seem far off right? Wrong! They are here now, but like how my mother overlooked my Sinclair ZX, most of us can’t see the benefits of using this new technology just yet, opting for advanced but essentially old technology instead.

Google’s VR offering comes with an app to help you learn the basics.
Google’s VR offering comes with an app to help you learn the basics.

We experience the internet though our mini pocket computers right now, using interfaces that we are used to. That is set to change in a way that will make the way we experience the internet unrecognisably different, but at the same time, if people like me do their jobs well, effortless. As a UI/UX developer my goal is to create interfaces and processes to make the user experience of a website or application easier, faster, better.

Something we can start doing now and should be thinking about more is ‘Responsive Web Development’. “We are already doing this” I hear you scream. Well yes and no. It is true that we can make websites adapt to different devices, but what if I said it is entirely possible to give your differing demographics entirely different experiences of your website based on their age? An elderly person for instance, may prefer bigger type or muted colours. A child of seven may be drawn to brighter colours or content that will engage them more appropriately.

Imagine the Argos website. It contains 1000’s of products and offers ways of finding what you need as an adult, but if you are a seven year old child you’re only interested in items that are applicable to your age and maybe gender. All of a sudden the website offers a more limited range of products appropriate for the seven year old child and maybe even a simple way to share the item with Mum or Dad.

If you take anything away from this article I hope it is that we should be planning to use technologies that seem futuristic. Planning to use them now before a technology becomes mainstream will mean that we are engaging our audiences when it arrives rather that trying to catch up when it is already hear.

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