5 trends that will shape digital services in 2013

What will the key changes be in business and design during 2013, and what should you do about it? FastCompany gives five predictions from the design firm Fjord

At Fjord, we work across domains like media, health care, retail, education, and banking, and the work always involves an element of “new.” A new platform or technology, a new business proposition, or new target users. We work at the front edge of mainstream, where innovation meets mass-market appeal. The constant presence of “new” in our work feeds our curiosity, and makes exploration a necessity.

In order to guide our work and inspire our clients, we constantly think about what tomorrow will bring. Each year, we ask teams at Fjord to predict the major trends that will impact businesses and society next year. Here, we delve into five of our predictions for 2013 and share our thoughts on what designers should be doing to make sure they stay ahead of the curve.

1. Dawn of the “Personal Ecosystem”: Connected objects start to take their place–right by your side.

The growing number of devices and sensors that we incorporate into our lives will set the scene for what Fjord calls “living services”–the point at which individual smart objects interconnect to form a support network for their owner. This is when a set of connected objects becomes greater than the sum of its parts: your “personal ecosystem.”

The past 18 months have seen the beginnings of mass-market adoption for a select few connected objects, driven by the services that make them meaningful. Nike+ FuelBand, Jawbone UP, and the Nest self-learning thermostat are early pacesetters. The “battle for the wrist” will hit the mainstream in earnest in 2013, with a variety of approaches coming to market focused on everything from health and wellness to information and entertainment.

We’ll soon start to see connected devices infiltrating more areas of our lives. As we are confronted with more data visualizations about our homes, jobs, and health, we are likely to develop what we’re calling “chart fatigue,” where information overload makes it difficult to extract meaning from data that should be valuable to us.

How to get in on the personal ecosystem:
• Increase focus on designing for the glance as wearable tech becomes more mainstream.
• Help users tie together elements of their object ecosystem to extract further value from a service.
• Segment interactions into things that are best seen and done on small dedicated devices, and things best done on the smartphone that they inevitably will connect to.
• Design for adaptability. Services that fit naturally into people’s lives and adapt to their habits and priorities will be the big winners in 2013.

2. K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid): How good old-fashioned K.I.S.S. principles are making a comeback.

As digital progress marches on, so does complexity. A growing family of personal devices, and ever-increasing volumes of data, constantly threaten the efforts of service designers to create elegant, focused, and simple solutions.

But at the same time, more organizations are finding that a focus on simplicity can have a transformative effect on services and businesses alike. As Albert Einstein said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible. But not simpler.”

Simplicity has a long track record of success and disruption. Ikea and Zipcar are good examples from the physical world. In the digital world, Skype was able to gain global market share with a very simple proposition, and Google disrupted the search-and-portal world with its singular focus and excellence. Other examples include Amazon’s one-click shopping, and Apple’s touch-focused iOS.

Now we’re seeing single-purpose apps and services gaining ground, feeding a desire for simplification. The payments startup Square is a good example: By simplifying the bureaucratic process of becoming a credit-card merchant, Square has managed to become a $3 billion company in under three years. Bank Simple has also changed the conversation in the financial-services sector with its radical approach to making finances transparent and easy.

Leaders in simplification will continue to disrupt and transform. As choices and options multiply, companies with solutions that can guide users through the mess will have an opportunity to become trusted advisers.

Simple rules for a K.I.S.S. world:
• Focus on what can be removed, rather than what could be added. Make sure every single feature, element, and interface drives real value for the user.
• Bravely go to the pain threshold that separates “extremely simple” from “plain dumb.”
• Use mobile as a primary tool to drive simplicity across products and services.
• Apply the principles of simplicity internally: How could your teams and your structure be leaner and more effective? Taking action to simplify internally will enable you to reflect that simplicity outward as well.

3. Access Will Supplant Ownership: What does it mean to own something in the digital age?

We’ve seen seismic shifts in the area of digital distribution of music, movies, and every other form of media. Users now expect their purchases to be portable and consumable on multiple platforms. We crave flexibility, and the way we buy and “own” is changing accordingly.

Spotify has proved that consumers are willing to pay to rent music if they feel they’re getting a valuable service. Services like AirBnB, 9flats, Getaround, and Lyft are making flat-sharing and car-sharing mainstream. The new competitor Jetsetter is helping to turn the concept of a luxury second home or family holiday on its head.

In the past, we projected our status and success through the things we owned–the car in the driveway, the vacation house, the books and the CDs that we displayed in our home. But increasingly status is now projected through our experiences and pursuits, and consequently the desire to “own” material objects fades.

Innovative new services will see companies generate increased revenue based on usage. For example, Microsoft’s Kinect technology could be used to charge for movies based on the number of people in the room.

As the focus shifts from ownership to access, these are key implications:
• Companies should design clear access models like renting, trading, and leasing. Ownership could simply become a standard “upgrade” function across categories.
• Include a variety of status-boosting elements in “access” services. For example, one-click ways to capture experiences and share them through social media networks, as well as “insight” sharing for those who prefer to project their intellectual pursuits.
• Create an “API for commerce” by atomizing your catalogue or offering. This could allow third parties to distribute your content, and it should also allow more flexibility, for example, by giving someone who’s bought a physical book the ability to take digital chapters along with them on their smartphone or tablet.

For the other two trends, read more

Source: FastCompany