The Next Big Thing in Design - Anticipatory Design

November 19, 2015

Anticipatory design has always been around. Designers have been trying to anticipate what users are going to want to do, in order to simplify an experience for them. Some examples are pop-up boxes and in-app notifications. Even though anticipatory design has always been around, it is being used increasingly more in the design world today. This blog looks into anticipatory design and offers some examples of brands currently using anticipatory design to their advantage.

What is Anticipatory Design?

Anticipatory design puts responsibility on the designer to streamline a process as much as possible for users and, in essence, make decisions on behalf of the users so they don't face difficult choices along their user journey. The aim is to make the user's tasks within your app and/or website simpler.

Why is Anticipatory Design Important?

With the amount of digital interaction users have with brands everyday, businesses need to simplify the user experience to capture the interest of a fatigued crowd. Anticipatory design helps designers to shorten the user journey so that they complete necessary tasks more efficiently. With the increase in big data available, it is becoming much easier to collect enough information on users so that a personalized an efficient experience can be delivered.

The Paradox of Choice

Barry Schwartz, psychologist, wrote a manifesto declaring the dissatisfaction users feel when they have too many choices. In 2014, Aaron Shapiro, CEO of Huge, developed the term anticipatory design based on Schwartz's manifesto.

'The next big breakthrough in design and technology will be the creation of products, services, and experiences that eliminate the needless choices from our lives and make ones on our behalf, freeing us up for the ones we really care about: Anticipatory design.'

With this in mind, anticipatory design calls for a dramatic change in mindset. Instead of offering users lots of options, designers actually need to minimise the options. The idea is to liberate users from having to decide and ultimately leave the user's brain to focus on more important matters.

How Does Anticipatory Design Work?

As mentioned earlier, anticipatory design relies on user's relinquishing their data to benefit the design, data such as credit card numbers, passwords, browsing history and so on. With this type of information anticipatory design can personalize the experience for users. Shapiro pointed out that anticipatory design exists already in the real world. Google Now presents information based on location and travel history. Nest uses your previous behaviour to adjust the temperature in your home.

What examples have you seen of anticipatory design? Tell us over on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Written by
Alexander Rauser
Alexander Rauser


Alexander Rauser is the author of Boardroom Guide to Digital Accountability and Digital Strategy: A Guide to Digital Business Transformation, and creator of the DSX Program, a digital strategy and transformation program for Enterprises.

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