AI without UX is just a fear-inducing empty prompt box

July 9, 2024

You can’t move nowadays without hearing about a new ‘AI-powered’ product or an existing product implementing a new tranche of AI-enabled features. Artificial Intelligence has become the buzz of the decade, it’s transforming industries, fuelling new startups and sparking new business models.

We recently attended MADFest, a three day festival aimed at marketers in London. On visiting this event and others recently it is clear how AI has become the central theme to so many early and growth stage startups. Booth after booth (or at MADFest, picnic bench after picnic bench) companies were pitching their AI-enabled marketing technology, from AI platforms offering to ‘predict’ the success of a marketing campaign, to generative AI content platforms writing copy for your adverts. There was no shortage of spectators at MadFest’s ‘AI + Emerging Tech’ stage where people queued for over an hour to hear talks about ‘assessing your AI performance’ or ‘how AI is reshaping the creative industries’.

Amidst all the excitement and free caffeinated drinks, it seemed to me that the most crucial element was missing - User Experience (UX). There were an overwhelming number of enthusiastic team members talking about how their product uses AI for this (insert literally anything here) or AI for that, but few could convincingly tell me how proven the problems they were ‘solving’ actually were.

Just because AI has the capabilities to do a certain thing doesn’t mean we should leap head first into implementing it. Of course being first to market is important at times, but with user research, usability testing, and an iterative design practice, AI-powered products and services can become more intuitive, easy to use and even enjoyable. At the very least, it's worth taking a moment to ask yourself ‘How can I make this resonate with my target audience?’

At Furthermore, we've been discussing the potential role of inadequate design processes in the failure of many AI-powered startups and whether the absence of thoughtful design may be a contributing factor to their demise. When launching something new, we understand that striving to be ahead of the pack is important, but at what cost? Is being first to market more important than entering the market with a product that has resilience, solves genuine needs or is truly innovative? Is a product that fails to stand out from the crowd worse than one that just fails its users?

Without UX, even the most sophisticated AI can end up as an empty prompt box waiting for input, causing confusion or worse, instilling fear in its user's mind.

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