A conversation with Janet Hwu, Lead User Experience (UX) Designer at Shield AI.
What is the role of trust in creating and testing user experience?
Trust is of paramount importance to the user experience of our products, and I believe user experience is the primary means by which Shield AI builds trust with our customers. The reliability of our aerial robotic systems and the ease of interaction with those systems allow us to break down the barriers of communication between human and robot.
Artificial intelligence is still a black box to most people, even to those who are accustomed to interacting with AI daily through consumer applications. Creating good user experience for this type of product, especially one that provides security and protection, requires all human touchpoints (physical and digital) to function as seamlessly as possible. Each interaction presents an opportunity for transparency and visibility into our robot’s autonomous behavior. Our interfaces, if designed well, can lift a lot of the mystique around what a robot is doing and why.
My objective as a UX designer is for our product to feel like an extension of its users -- a tool that is intuitive to use, easy to understand, and dependable enough to earn their trust. Although we are developing platforms capable of self-learning and autonomous operation, we want to empower our users with the ability to assume fluid control whenever and however they wish.
How do you build product trust through effective user experience?
Building trust starts with delivering a product that reliably addresses the user’s needs. For example, we want to ensure that Nova, our autonomous quadcopter, explores and maps buildings with speed and accuracy. On top of that, creating a trustworthy user experience requires collaboration among our entire staff, involving but not limited to:
Thoughtful visual design of our apps -- ensuring that users get the information they need without adding unnecessary cognitive load.
Clear UX writing -- careful word selection that distills the complexities of autonomous navigation into concise, meaningful messages to the user.
Effective training materials and programs that familiarize the user with our system capabilities.
Consideration of how people interact with our hardware under the physical conditions of our anticipated use environments.
What steps do you take to ensure that you are designing for trust?
Our testing team tests each iteration of our software and hardware with real flights and real human users, on a daily basis. While virtual simulations are critical to improving system performance, gauging someone’s feelings of confidence and trust requires in-person conversation and qualitative assessment of his or her experience as well. As a first step in each product design cycle, the team observes or participates in these flight tests. We document feedback and observations, which we translate into actionable improvements for the development teams to implement. Through consistent testing of our product, we aim to identify and alleviate points of friction in our user experience and make our product that much better at fulfilling our company mission -- to protect service members and civilians with artificially intelligent systems.