min read ·
November 9, 2023

Demystifying AI Usability on World Usability Day

Experience Design Practice Lead

Ruben Cardoso

With over 12 years of practice in product strategy and design, Ruben is passionate about people and problem solving through innovation. He is a strong and empathetic leader inspiring teams to deliver the best customer experiences.

As we gear up for Usability Day, it's time to crack open the dialogue about the ever-evolving landscape of usability in the digital age—particularly through the lens of Artificial Intelligence (AI). In a world where technology is an everyday thing, AI tools have weaved their way into the fabric of our daily lives, transforming the way we interact with the digital realm.

But as these tools become more pervasively available, it is important to focus on how teams building these tools can put usability front and centre to make these tools truly accessible for all types of users. Here are a few things we feel are important to keep in mind when building AI tools with usability as a priority:

  • Collaboration: Collaborative integration of data scientists and UX designers within product teams, alongside business and user stakeholders, is imperative for effective AI development. In many instances, data science functions in isolation, generating models devoid of essential context. Through this collaboration, AI initiatives align with real-world user requirements, business objectives, and usability standards. This holistic approach ensures AI tools are not just technically robust but also user-friendly, intuitive, and purpose-driven. It bridges the gap between technical excellence and practical utility, delivering AI solutions that genuinely address user needs and provide tangible value to organizations.

  • Transparency: Modern AI models often face the significant challenge of communicating their decision-making processes and rationale to users effectively. When users can't grasp why a recommendation or output was made, it erodes trust in the AI system. In turn, this lack of trust can lead to users discounting or even ignoring these recommendations. Users may shift blame to the model instead of recognizing their role in implementing recommended actions for improved outcomes. Afterall, scepticism is a very human response from users when they’re asked to blindly follow instructions without understanding the underlying logic. Building trust in AI systems is a complex endeavour that requires transparency, interpretability, and clear communication. AI developers must find ways to bridge this gap by providing users with insights into how recommendations are generated, what factors are considered, and why certain actions are suggested. This not only enhances user trust but also empowers users to make informed decisions based on AI-driven insights.

  • Simplicity: AI adoption hinges on a system's ease of use and comprehension, a principle applicable across various products, with AI tools being no exception. A prime example is ChatGPT, whose straightforward value proposition resonated profoundly with users and rapidly gained popularity. Its simplicity in offering natural language understanding and generation struck a chord, making it accessible and valuable. The ease of understanding and interacting with AI systems significantly influences their acceptance and utilization. Therefore, simplifying AI interfaces and communicating their value clearly is crucial for fostering user engagement and widespread adoption.

  • Execution: Even for a simple AI tool, a pivotal factor for its success lies in execution. Even with a straightforward value proposition, the reliability and accuracy of AI tools is crucial. For instance, in the case of a recommendation engine, if it consistently delivers inaccurate or poor predictions, it erodes user trust quickly. Trust is a cornerstone of usability in AI systems, and users need to have confidence in the tool's capabilities. The execution of an AI tool, and its ability to consistently provide accurate results and meaningful recommendations, is what ultimately determines its effectiveness and usability. Users rely on AI systems to enhance their decision-making processes, and when those systems consistently fall short, it not only diminishes trust but also undermines the tool's overall value and adoption. Therefore, a seamless user experience must be paired with robust execution to ensure an AI tool's success.

  • Early testing:  Early testing is a critical phase in AI tool development. Most teams assume that an AI tool can be tested only once it is fully built, however, an equally crucial aspect is conducting usability assessments on initial prototypes or concepts. Usability testing during the early stages serves as a preventive measure. It helps identify and address potential issues and user expectations before they become embedded in the final product. This proactive approach ensures that the AI tool aligns with user needs and expectations from the outset. By combining real-coded examples with early usability testing, developers can systematically refine their AI tools, leading to more user-friendly, effective, and satisfying experiences. This iterative testing process enhances the chances of success and fosters user trust and adoption.

Finally, As new AI tools continue to flood the market, usability is slowly emerging as a cornerstone for success. Simple things like ensuring collaboration, simplicity in value proposition, clear communication, and early testing are all instrumental in crafting AI tools that resonate with users and drive widespread adoption.

The execution of these tools and their reliability in delivering accurate results are pivotal factors influencing user trust and overall usability. By prioritizing usability, we can bridge the gap between AI's potential and practical utility. AI becomes a valuable companion that enhances decision-making processes, making our lives more efficient and effective.  AI tools must not only be technically robust but also user-friendly and aligned with real-world needs. AI is here to help us build technology faster and better to help build a better world for our future generations and highly usable tools that solve problems at scale can truly help make that happen.


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