AIX: Artificial Intelligence Experience

Embracing Human-Centered Design in AI User Experience


MARCH 2024

Introduction

In the era of rapid technological advancements, artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as a transformative force across industries. From frontier models like GPT-4 and Gemini Ultra to user applications like Microsoft Copilot and Ideogram, the list of AI applications is almost endless. In fact, one AI aggregator has over 12,000 unique AI apps at the time of writing.

The quality and accessibility of powerful generative AI (gen-AI) models has not only increased the opportunity for product innovation, it's also made product development easier, by providing entrepreneurs, product teams, and developers with powerful tools to support the design and development process. While the focus of many new AI products is on showcasing technological advancements, the success of these applications heavily depends on their user experience (UX). 

At MindPort, we advocate for integrating human-centered design thinking into AI development and implementation, to create products that put the human first. We believe that the future of AI is human-centered, and that these technologies should be designed to enhance and support human interactions rather than replace them. We define this as Artificial Intelligence Experience (AIX).

Within this article we explore AIX via the principles of human-centered design thinking, examining how AIX differs from traditional UX. We draw upon ideas from human-computer interaction (HCI) and UX research, as well as human-centered design principles, founded upon cognitive psychology and anthropological studies of technology, to explore this new field. We explain why a nuanced understanding of AIX is vital for successful AI development and implementation.

Human-Centered Design Thinking

At its core, human-centered design thinking prioritizes the needs, experiences, and contexts of people, ensuring that the solutions developed are not only technologically sound but also deeply resonant and meaningful to those who use them. This philosophy is rooted in empathy, a commitment to understanding individuals' real-world experiences, and a cyclical process of ideation, prototyping, and testing.

The principles of human-centered design thinking are anchored in the belief that effective solutions emerge from a deep understanding of the user's perspective.¹ These principles include empathy, co-creation, iterative development, and a holistic understanding of the problem space:

In the context of the user experience, human-centered design thinking offers a robust framework for creating systems, technologies, and interfaces that are intuitive, accessible, and enjoyable to use. This involves employing qualitative and quantitative research methods to gather insights into user behaviors, needs, and motivations. Techniques such as user interviews, surveys, observation, and usability testing become crucial in uncovering the nuances of user experiences. These insights inform the design process, guiding the development of user personas, journey maps, and wireframes that reflect the user's reality.

Since human-centered design thinking emphasizes a user-centric approach, we also include accessibility and inclusivity within our own thinking, ensuring that products and services cater to a diverse range of users, including those with disabilities. This approach not only enhances the user experience for a broader audience but also demonstrates a commitment to social responsibility and equity.

In the context of AI, the crucial difference is that systems are able to adapt, respond, and change based upon user needs. Unlike traditional digital products which act as simple tools, products while leverage AI offer a more sophisticated user experience. Rather than a unidirectional command — e.g., a button-press — gen-AI allows for bidirectional interaction, whether that's via a text-based chat interface, a voice-based conversational experience, or any other modality. What might seem like a subtle difference creates infinite new possibilities for functionality, and requires a reframing of how we think about the user experience.

Whether determining the tone of voice used by a chatbot, or how a generative feature will be built into an existing product, human-centered design thinking within the context of AI means developing smart systems that are intuitive, adaptable, and responsive to human needs.² We recognize the importance of designing AI that is aware of the situatedness of human actions, necessitating AI systems to be highly adaptable and contextually aware. While traditional UX is deeply rooted in creating interfaces that are intuitive, efficient, and visually appealing,³ AIX introduces a shift towards developing systems that are not only user-centric but also inherently intelligent and anticipatory. AIX extends beyond the surface level of interaction to foster a deeper synergy between AI systems and users, aiming to create experiences that are truly adaptive and personalized. This evolution from traditional UX to AIX is underscored by the cooperative relationship between human and technology, requiring a more nuanced understanding of human-AI interaction. Unlike conventional UX, where the focus is primarily on the design of static interfaces, AIX emphasizes the dynamic nature of AI interactions, where humans work in conjunction with systems which are capable of learning from and evolve with their users over time. This approach demands a more complex consideration of ethics, empathy, and empowerment in design, ensuring that AI not only complements but also enhances human capabilities without compromising autonomy or agency. In essence, AIX represents a confluence of human-centered design thinking and AI technology, crafting experiences that genuinely understand and adapt to user needs, contexts, and behaviors in real-time.


Enhancing User Experience with AI

Human-centered design thinking becomes increasingly important in the development of AI applications. AI is a powerful technology, which comes in a myriad of forms and flavours. It has the ability to speed up and automate processes, detect anomalies, and generate content. But it also risks being perceived as a threat; removing autonomy and control from the user. If designed well — by putting the human first — AI applications have the potential to revolutionize the user experience by offering more personalized and intuitive interactions. For instance, AI-powered recommendation systems can provide personalized content suggestions, while natural language processing can enable natural and conversational user interfaces. These capabilities, however, must be leveraged with a clear focus on enhancing human capabilities and enriching the human experience, rather than merely showcasing technological advancements. Questions product teams might ask themselves include:

We take the perspective that AI applications should support human action and decision-making, and be leveraged to enhance cognitive abilities and learning, making interactions with AI not just functional but also beneficial to their users.⁴ This perspective is grounded in real-world implementations of AI. Take, for example, Notion's implementation of AI. The team behind the release initially assumed people would use their generative AI features to do the work for them, but quickly realized that users didn't want to outsource the full process to AI. In their own words:

"So we pivoted from AI as content generator to AI as collaborative partner. Rather than replacing your efforts, AI could be a smart guide, helping you get more stuff done, faster and better."

Focusing on the relational aspect of user interaction with technologycollaborations between humans and AI — leads to the creation of products that users can form a meaningful relationship with, rather than merely use as tools. This relational-focus improves the usability, engagement, and long-term loyalty towards products. But this principle of using AI to support human action and decision-making goes beyond the development of digital products. Through our own work we've seen how important this relational aspect is when traditional organizations implement AI solutions. When implemented poorly, AI is perceived as a threat, undermining authority, jeopardizing workflows and harming existing relationships

Due to this relational nature of AI, the concept of AIX expands far beyond a user interface. The integration of AI into user experience design requires a careful balance between automation and human judgment, adhering to principles which promote human dignity, autonomy, and fairness.⁵ These considerations are vital in ensuring that AI systems respect and promote the human condition, enhancing rather than diminishing a user's sense of autonomy.


MindPort's Approach to Human-Centered AI

MindPort is at the forefront of defining AIX by incorporating human-centered design principles into AI development. By combining data analytics with behavioral research and social science, we have a comprehensive understanding of user interactions, preferences, and pain points. Whether building new AI products, augmenting an existing process with AI, or implementing AI within a traditional organization, we incorporate user research into all stages of our work. This approach enables the development and implementation of AI products that are not only technologically advanced but also deeply attuned to user needs.

Case Study: Enhancing Generative AI User Experience

A company building a generative AI creative platform partnered with MindPort to refine its creative suite of tools and UI. The challenge was to understand the evolving needs of a diverse user base. Through a combination of data analytics and user research, we uncovered how users were seeking more intuitive interfaces that could seamlessly integrate into their workflows, while not undermining their autonomy.

The key insight was that users desired "smart" products that could adjust to their skill levels and creative goals. In response to our work, the company developed multiple UIs, tailored to different user segments, enhancing usability and engagement. Additionally, customizable AI response features were introduced, allowing users to adjust outputs to better align with their objectives, and leading to increased user satisfaction and long-term product loyalty.


Conclusion

The integration of human-centered design thinking into AI development is crucial for creating products that truly enhance the human experience. By emphasizing user needs, ethical considerations, and maintaining a human-in-the-loop approach, AI products can become more intuitive, adaptable, and supportive of human endeavors. MindPort's commitment to this philosophy is paving the way for a future where AI and humans interact in mutually beneficial ways, guided by the interdisciplinary insights and ethical considerations that are essential for the development of a meaningful and empowering AIX.

To learn more about our innovative approach to human-centered AI design and AIX, see our recent case study. To explore what we do, see our services.

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¹ Tim Brown, "Change by Design"² Lucy Suchman, "Plans and Situated Actions." & Martin Heidegger, "The Question Concerning Technology."³ David Benyon, "Designing Interactive Systems: A Comprehensive Guide to HCI, UX & Interaction Design."⁴ Benedict Carey, "How We Learn."⁵ Sherry Turkle, "The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit."⁶ Paul Formosa, "Robot Autonomy vs. Human Autonomy: Social Robots, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the Nature of Autonomy."

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