Adobe Sensei, MidJourney, Khroma, Canva, and even Shutterstock, the list of AI design tools could go on and on.
The speed at which AI is rearing its head in the design space is fascinating. And so is interest in it. According to Google, the online search volume for AI design tools and software has grown by 1700% between 2022 and 2023.
AI design’s ability to automate repetitive tasks, offer intelligent design suggestions, enable faster design iterations, and more means it is no surprise UX designers are concerned these tools will replace them.
So, will AI take the jobs of UX designers?
Short answer - NO. For instance, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, the employment of web developers and digital designers — which include UX designers — is projected to grow by 16% between 2022 and 2032, much faster than the average for all other occupations.
But a longer and more nuanced answer is AI will likely play a significant role in the workflow of human designers going forward. This means the best UX designers will harness AI’s potential to:
- Do better and faster work
- Remain competitive
- And meet evolving customer expectations.
Let’s look at both angles: why AI will not wholly replace human UX designers and how the latter can use AI tools to become better professionals.
User Experience: The Basics
Renowned cognitive scientist and designer Don Norman coined and popularized the user experience (UX) concept.
He introduced this term to emphasize the importance of designing products and systems, focusing on how users interact with them and the overall quality of that interaction.
As Laura Klein, Principal at Users Know and author of UX for Lean Startups, points out, “If UX is the experience that a user has while interacting with your product, then UX Design is, by definition, the process by which we determine what that experience will be.”
The idea behind UX design is simple: people have definite experiences interacting with apps, websites, products, and services. UX design aims to ensure those experiences are great by ensuring customers can easily use the product to achieve their goals.
If UX design aims to create products that are easy to use, meet customer needs, and delight them in the process, then great design will rely on a deep understanding of the customer.
“It's a process of deeply understanding the user's needs and objectives, identifying where their greatest problems exist, and working generatively to ideate ways to solve these problems,” notes Scott Johnson, VP of Product, Kalderos.
With how demanding understanding user needs, ideating relevant design solutions, and other UX design tasks are, UX designers have their work cut out.
And that’s why AI can be a game-changer for them.
The power of AI to simplify complex tasks, automate repetitive ones, and provide insights that speed up the execution of others is unmatched.
With even free AI tools like ChatGPT and Midjourney, you can map out detailed user personas, build user profiles, and analyze the behaviors of different types of users. You can also generate tables of comparison between a company and its competitors.
AI in UX Design
Here are some of the ways AI can level up your work process as a UX designer.
1. Analyzing User Data
AI tools can help streamline data analysis, predict user behavior, and detect patterns from large volumes of data. This gives UX designers valuable insights, leading to more user-centric and practical design solutions.
2. Creating User Personas
AI tools can swiftly generate detailed and accurate user personas by analyzing large datasets and user interactions. These capture diverse user behaviors, preferences, and demographics.
This way, UX designers can access data-driven user profiles that enable them to design with a deeper understanding of their audience, resulting in more tailored and compelling user experiences. Tools such as SmartOne can help with this.
3. UX and Product Writing
Content that resonates with the designer’s audience, enhances the overall user experience and reduces the need for placeholder text.
4. Automating Design Workflows
Automation isn’t also left out in the marriage between AI and UX design. AI tools can streamline repetitive and time-consuming design tasks, such as:
- Generating wireframes
- Resizing images
- Formatting layouts
- Enabling faster concept generation
- And smarter workflows.
Uizard, for instance, excels at generating mockups from text prompts.
5. Adding UI Elements and Branding
Some AI tools grant UX designers access to a vast library of customizable UI elements, color palettes, logos, and typefaces. These allow for the efficient creation of professional-looking and cohesive user interfaces.
These resources streamline the design process, and ensure consistency and brand alignment. All the while offering the designer the flexibility to tailor visual elements to specific project requirements.
6. User Testing and Prototyping
Design serves customer needs. And some AI tools can help UX designers test how well their ideas do that.
Tools like Visualeyes enable designers to generate interactive prototypes, conduct usability tests, and gather user feedback. This way, designers can iterate on designs more rapidly, make data-driven improvements, and easily enhance the user experience.
7. Helping Designers Overcome “Paralysis Mode”
Lacking inspiration or fussing over little details in a way that impedes progress can sometimes be the bane of creatives. UX designers aren’t left out.
But AI tools can help change that.
With solutions like Vas, designers can get creative suggestions, wireframes, user data-driven recommendations, and more. So they can get their projects off the ground faster and kick out the curse of overthinking.
Why Can’t UX Design Be Replaced by AI?
At a U.S. Senate panel hearing, Open AI CEO Sam Altman and Christina Montgomery, IBM’s Vice President and Chief Privacy and Trust Officer, testified that AI may eliminate some jobs but will create new ones. “There will be an impact on jobs. We try to be very clear about that,” Altman noted.
Should you then be worried as a UX designer? As we mentioned earlier, no. And here’s why.
1. Human-centered Design Approach
Human-centered design, which is a significant pillar of UX design, goes beyond analyzing cold, hard facts for insights.
It relies heavily on human intuition. And the designer's ability to empathize with the realities and needs of their users.
Human designers can engage with users, interpret subtle nuances in the feedback these users share, and make design decisions based on empathy and cultural context. The process is often complex and deeply subjective.
On the other hand, AI operates on data-driven patterns and algorithms, which can't fully capture the richness of human emotions and experiences.
And human UX designers are still better positioned to understand and address the intricate and often nuanced aspects of user needs and emotions. Decisions that ensure the result is truly user-centric.
This is the true essence of UX design. Jason Ogle, founder and host of the User Defender podcast, describes it as “an empathically-driven practice crafted to solve human and business problems…”
2. Contextual and Holistic Thinking
In UX design, contextual thinking means understanding the broader context in which a design problem exists. This includes the user's needs, goals, emotions, and the environment in which the customer will use your product or service.
Human designers tend to excel at considering the users’ unique circumstances and adapting their designs accordingly. This can be difficult for AI systems to replicate without truly understanding human emotions and experiences.
Holistic thinking, on the other hand, entails considering the entire user experience from end to end. Human UX designers can consider the role aesthetics, usability, accessibility, and functionality play in a cohesive and delightful user journey.
This requires intuition, creativity, and an ability to balance trade-offs. AI’s data-driven, rule-based nature means it's likely to struggle to replicate this behavior at the moment.
3. Creativity and Innovation
Human designers possess an innate ability to think creatively, transcending established design conventions and patterns.
They can envision and craft novel solutions to complex design problems, pushing the boundaries of what's possible in UX design. This imaginative thinking leads to innovative and distinctive user experiences. Experiences that captivate and engage users in ways that AI-generated designs can struggle to replicate.
As designer and technologist John Maeda notes, “For things that don’t have repeatable patterns, we’re always gonna have a job to do. When it comes to something original that no one else has thought about or a personal perspective, AI is bad at that. At least right now.”
4. Collaboration and Communication
UX design is inherently interdisciplinary. It often requires close collaboration with various stakeholders, including developers, marketers, content creators, and product managers.
Human UX designers can effectively communicate and collaborate with these diverse teams, mediating between technical requirements, business objectives, and user needs.
UX designers also facilitate discussions, gather feedback, and synthesize input from different perspectives to create a cohesive, user-centric design.
This interpersonal skill set is challenging for the current iteration of AI to replicate.
Why? It lacks the capacity for nuanced, real-time communication or understanding of the social dynamics involved in such collaborations.
5. Adaptation and Continuous Learning
AI tools are limited by their programmed algorithms and data-driven insights. While they can automate specific tasks and provide valuable data analysis, they lack autonomous learning and adaptation capacity.
They are static in their abilities and cannot proactively evolve alongside the dynamic landscape of UX design.
On the other hand, human designers possess a growth mindset and a passion for continuous learning. They stay updated with the latest trends, research, and industry practices, allowing them to adapt their skills and processes accordingly.
This makes them indispensable despite AI’s impressive capabilities.
As John Maeda notes, “You’ll never become completely expendable if you’re always outgrowing your capabilities. This is what makes [humans] difficult to copy.” And it’s also what makes human designers irreplaceable.
AI – Human Collaboration is the Name of the Game
Despite the ability of AI tools to deliver design solutions quickly and at scale, humans edge them in the aspects of creativity, collaboration, empathy, and more.
The solution? A partnership between both parties.
The World Economic Forum believes that by 2025, humans and AI will spend equal time on current tasks in selected industries. While AI will focus on information and data processing, humans will handle reasoning, decision-making, interaction, etc.
With the growing adoption of AI tools in the design space, it’s not far-fetched to believe that the WEF’s forecast will become a reality in the UX design space.
Innovative UX designers who want to remain competitive must learn how to partner with AI to do the work they love. An excellent place to begin is by checking out tools like Playbook’s AI-powered design platform.
Created to be a designer’s assistant and not their replacement, Playbook’s AI design tool is simple to use and effective in action. It caters to designers across various verticals and niches. Check it out here.