Over the last year there has been a bunch of new trends in tech: the explosion of Blockchain, cryptocurrencies, the rise of alternative reality, virtual reality but to name a few.
All this technology is no doubt amazing and has everyone talking, but how many of us actually use them? Whilst it’s possible to spend Bitcoin in Supernatural, who does? It seems to be just a handful of tech-savvy people in the know. That is often the case, of course, until demand causes these technologies to be made accessible to the masses and actually easy to use.
One novel example of this is CryptoKitties – one of the world’s first blockchain games. As well as making $3 million dollars just in its first week, it also motivated a lot of new people to use and understand blockchain and the cryptocurrencies in the process.
“People who never would have never thought about purchasing Ether (a cryptocurrency like bitcoin) are now rushing to get their hands on some fancy cats.” (inverse.com)
Essentially, CryptoKitties presented blockchain in fun and friendly way, inviting the average person with no previous experience of the technology to use it. Whilst it may seem a strange craze, CryptoKitties is just one example of how a seemingly complex technology can made available to a brand new group of users purely by presenting it differently.
Design in Gibraltar
The same type of thing happens with all technologies that rise in popularity; there eventually becomes a tipping point at which the tech needs must be actually usable, by anyone. And this is where design comes in.
“Design is more important than technology in most consumer applications” — Dave McClure
This month we look at news in the design world and talk to people from the design community in Gibraltar to see the impact design has on the Rock. Here we have Andrew Cetnarskyj and Radoila Hristova (Radi) from the William Hill design team.
What do designers do?
William Hill are one of the world’s leading gaming companies, and were one of the first in their industry to adapt to changes in people’s behaviours to place bets online. Nowadays, they seek to go beyond this, and transform the experience of their products on mobile devices.
Making these changes brings a lot of impactful design decisions which essentially define how a product will be experienced by the end user. From a high level, they need to get two things right – both things massively impacting the success of the product:
- The User Experience (UX) Design: How to make products easy to understand and use.
- The User Interface Design: How to make products visually appealing and accessible.
“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” – Steve Jobs
Here are their insights on the challenges the face when at William Hill, as well as their tips on how to get into design for those who see this as a possible career:
How is design changing things at William Hill? Are there any challenges?
Radi: Greatest challenge from a User Interface (UI) perspective is achieving visual consistency within one product, but also across different products and channels, like online, retail, TV etc. William Hill has a strong and well-known brand presence, but achieving consistency has proven a bit difficult. We have been working hard past couple of years to come up with a WH design system, a common visual language for online, to resolve this issue and we are in the process of implementing it.
Andrew: Splitting User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) design into specific disciplines across three offices is the biggest change this year. A solid process has been a challenge but we are almost there and we have had to adapt new processes tool for remote communication and collaboration.
What’s the most exciting area you’d like to experience working in over the next year as a designer and why?
Radi: I definitely would like to have the opportunity to work on native apps. Especially Android and working with Material Design (Material Design is the design language by Google).
Andrew: Native apps – they offer more capabilities in the mobile customer experience. However, web technologies and Progressive Web Apps are slowly catching up, so either of these are interesting subjects from a UX point of view.
What do you foresee for UX in Gibraltar in the coming year (cryptocurrencies, gaming, AI, VR)?
Andrew: I see UX becoming a key stakeholder in gaming and cryptocurrency businesses as they fight for market share next year. Across all business, particularly mobile, a good customer experience can make all the difference. I think artificial intelligence and virtual reality (VR) are still at innovation or concept stage within most companies. William Hill did trial a VR horse racing project a couple of years ago though.
Radi: I definitely can see cryptocurrencies finding their way into Gibraltar. What fascinates me and what would be an interesting thing to see happen is a rise of AI and more advanced VR used to build upon an existing product.
How did you get into design, and what advice do you have for those looking to get into it?
Andrew: I completed a Consumer Product Design degree at University and saw native and web apps start to become more common place, often taking over physical or traditional products. So in my third year started learning how to code and build websites. I then paid my dues in some agency work before moving to William Hill.
My Biggest advice for UX designers is to try and learn the basics of the tech side – this can make it easier to turn ideas into reality. It’s also extremely important to be a team player and listen to other stakeholders. No one wants to work with a rock star or diva.
Radi: Design has always been wrapped in a lot of opinions and is very subjective. Listen to your users, look outside of gaming, follow best practices and you will be successful. Future designers need to be patient and believe in themselves and the work they are doing. However, as Andy said, working with a team and not just any team, but people you love working with, will get you very far.
As Radi highlights in her last answer, it’s important for designers in gaming to look outside their industry for inspiration. Spotting what trends are coming next is important not only in shaping how technology can be used, but who will be using it.
BY GRAEME FULTON