Characteristics of the interface of the future


By Stephen Van Bellegham 

What are the characteristics of interface?

When I speak to various businesses around the world, one of the questions I am often asked by more sceptical teams is “Do people really trust all this automation?”

For me, it isn’t difficult to get enthusiastic about the possibilities offered by algorithms, and there are so many aspects of our lives that can be improved by algorithms. can do things better than we humans. But I do understand their doubts.

Of course, everyone likes to think they make all their own decisions, but this is true for very few of us.
As a simple example, a Google search will often bring back millions of results and hundreds of pages of links, but 95% of people never look further than the first page of results.

Characteristics of interface and their effect on our decision making

Why? Because the Google algorithm has been doing its job well for the past 20 years, so we trust it to help our decision-making process.

A study published by the Harvard Business Review revealed how people now put the results they get from algorithms ahead of the advice they receive from their fellow humans.

Their only criterion for making this choice is a consistently high quality of outcome. If an algorithm has proven its reliability over a longish period, people will trust it before they trust the judgment of their family and friends. As soon as an algorithm keeps its promises, we trust it.

While tech companies continue to develop and improve these algorithms to help make our lives easier, they also focus on making user-interfaces as intuitive and simple as possible. The last ten years have seen ease-of-use improve dramatically.

Today, we can conduct our bank transactions with Face ID. We can confirm our purchases with a fingerprint. We can start up our favourite films by voice command.

We can turn on the alarm system in our house from anywhere in the world. If I approach an underground car park, the barrier opens automatically, thanks to a mobile app from my bank.

There is no need to mess about with tickets and the payment is made automatically. The app does it all; I don’t have to do anything.

In some airports, it is now even possible to board a plane without the need to have your boarding pass or passport physically checked.

A face scan now decides whether you can get on the plane or not. And as we have just read with Mc Donald’s, in the near future the menus of the fast-food chain will reflect our personal preferences.

If you study the nuts and bolts of all these successful and innovative interfaces, they all have four characteristics in common.

The characteristics that will define future interface

1. Proactive: a modern interface anticipates. It needs to discover what the customer wants before the customer knows it himself.

A smart interface solves problems before they arise. Think, for example, of the smart fridge, which orders new milk as soon as the last bottle is opened.

Or a machine that orders its own new spare parts as soon as the existing ones are showing signs of wear. McDonald’s plans for its menus also involve making a proactive choice about what meals best match people’s taste profiles. By the time you are ready to order, the menu has already been amended!

2. Zero effort for the customer: the international trend in every sector reflects a further decrease in the effort that customers need to make to complete a transaction.

If a process is complex and boring, most people leave before completion. To keep people sufficiently interested, interfaces need to be simple and, preferably, fun.

Mc Donald’s new Drive-Thru concept requires no effort from the customer, not even the pressing of a button. The menu is adjusted automatically as the customer’s car approaches.

3. Invisible: consumers hardly know that the new generation of interfaces are there. Nowadays, machines can arrange things without any need for human interaction.

The Mc Donald’s menu is an example of this. So, too, is the Facebook algorithm. Every time you log on to Facebook, you are automatically offered a list with updates that reflect the kinds of things you like to see.

You don’t ask for this list and you don’t ‘see’ that it is being prepared; you just get it. And usually, you think: ‘Hm, this looks like fun…’ In the years ahead, the internet will be literally everywhere, but at the same time, it will also be less tangible.

If we want to go online today, we first have to click on the Safari, Chrome, or Edge app. In the future, the internet will just be there, invisibly built into all the smart devices that surround us or perhaps even in our AR glasses, once these have been perfected.

4. Personalised: every customer is different. Segmentation is a concept from a marketing era that has gone forever. Today, the individual needs of the individual customer are paramount.

These needs are specific and vary from person to person. The better the ability of your interface to personalise, the bigger your success will be.

The McDonald’s menus will be tailor-made for every single customer. This is segmentation on a scale of one.

The reality is that good performing interfaces have become the norm. They are no longer a differentiator. Instead, they are the new minimum.

Even though there is still room for further improvement inconvenience, these gains will never have the same differentiating impact as ten years ago.

Yes, the years ahead will see us move ever closer to fully automatic and invisible interfaces, but they will no longer be enough on their own to make the difference.

In the future, differentiation will need to be achieved by dealing effectively with all the customer’s worries and concerns.

Helping customers to realise their dreams and ambitions, while at the same time taking away their fears and making a positive contribution to the challenges faced by society, will be the key to success.

Prepared by Patrick O’Brien.

If you would like to learn more about Stephen Van Bellegham and his work, visit his website at

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