Fjord Kitchen SF: Creating Services for the Invisible Interface

Annie Woodhead

Last night, we held our inaugural Fjord Kitchen event in San Francisco on “Creating Services for the Invisible Interface,” hosted in partnership with IxDA as part of SF Design Week. Moderated by Chris Albrecht, Creative Director of GigaOm, the event brought together an accomplished group of experts including Navneet Dalal, Co-Founder and CEO of Flutter; Shelley Evenson, Researcher for Design and User Experience at Facebook; 
Rochelle King, VP of User Experience Design and Product Services for Netflix;
 Yoon C. Lee, VP of Global Product Innovation for Samsung;
Egan Schulz, Design Director for Mobile at PayPal; and Tim Twerdahl, VP of Product for WIMM Labs. We were lucky enough to host the event at the amazing space of hyper-local San Francisco publication, The Bold Italic.

Considering our packed house, designing for invisible service experiences is clearly a hot topic, and our panelists engaged in an eye-opening discussion that touched on some of the challenges and opportunities just beginning to emerge in the space. Fjord’s CEO, Olof Schybergson, wrapped up the main themes of the panel to give the audience some food for thought.

1. The Importance of the Fluid Experience

Our panelists all agreed on the importance of having one personality across multiple platforms to create a fluid experience. At the same time, optimizing for devices and platforms is also crucial. There’s a healthy built-in tension between balancing these two ideals, which may not be a bad thing.

 2. The Long and Short of It

When asked about their philosophy on taking a long-term vs. short-term approach to design, panelists felt that the pace of technology dictates that most of their energy has to be spent on solving shorter-term issues. Short release cycles and the flexibility of designing for digital platforms means that constantly shipping new products and upgrades is the norm. At the same time, panelists were firm that companies need to have a view of where the world is going, and what their place in that new world will be. It’s important to construct a lighthouse that gives their teams a vision for where they want to be in 3-5 years, but getting to that lighthouse may not be a direct path.


3. The New Paradigm of Digital Services

Panelists recognized the emergence of a new paradigm in the creation of digital services. We began with designing for the Web, with the keyboard and mouse as the reigning interaction method. Then came design for mobility, where touch interfaces dominate. The third paradigm we’re now seeing is what Fjord calls “design for smart services,” with distributed computing and multimodal interactions. Egan Schulz from PayPal pointed out that while designing for the third paradigm may seem futuristic, designers need only look to the way people behave today to find opportunities to create more natural interactions with technology.

4. Defining the Dominant Language

Navneet Dalal from Flutter pointed out that HCI software solutions created for the desktop paradigm were not natural to the way humans move and behave. Touch interaction is slightly more natural, but we still have a long way to go. Design for smart services, and the advances in technology enabling this design are helping us to close the gap, and create a more human experience. The third paradigm will need a new language, and it’s an interesting and exciting opportunity for designers and companies to define it.

5. Cracking the Behavior Code

To crack this new language, designers will have to figure out ways to help computers decipher our natural body language. What does it mean when we wave our hands, are we saying hello or goodbye? If I give the thumbs-up sign, does that mean I like something on Facebook? Designers must distinguish between a user’s intent, and when they are simply going about their day. Decoding this language will be a key challenge in creating successful services for the invisible interface.


 6.  Context, Data, and Personalization

Panelists agreed that to create these more human, personalized experiences, services with contextual awareness will be extremely valuable. We’re beginning to see companies use data in smarter, more personal ways to create services that take advantage of the “real” world around us. This new level of built-in personalization and meaning will help businesses create better experiences and deeper connections with their customers.

7.    Tomorrow’s Designers

What are the qualities that tomorrow’s designers need to have to be successful? The panelists agreed that strong design skills are a must, but designers must also have a rounded understanding of both technology and business to thrive. Designers won’t necessarily be hacking the code, or writing the business strategy, but they must be able to have a dialog with business leaders. Flexibility, a passion for learning on the fly, and the ability to adapt to constant change are characteristics that will define tomorrow’s designers.

Looking ahead, designers have an exciting opportunity to create invisible and seductive service experiences that will alter the way people engage with technology. Systems will get smarter, experiences will get more personalized, and people will begin to interact more naturally with the devices and interfaces that are already embedded in our lives. The companies that can immerse themselves in this new paradigm will undoubtedly be the ones that create lasting bonds with their customers.

A huge thank you to everyone who came to the event, and to our wonderful moderator and panelists. Until our next Kitchen! For more photos from the event, please visit: our flickr 

Annie Woodhead

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