A brand’s user interface (UI) encompasses the text, images, fields, buttons, and other elements a person interacts with when using a website or application. It’s easy to understand why the UI could shape people’s impressions of a company.
However, the role of cloud computing in UI is an aspect that often gets overlooked. Here are some thought-provoking ways that cloud computing can positively affect UI and help companies overcome identified challenges.
It Supports Conversational Interactions
Advancements in UI have led to the arrival of conversational user interfaces (CUIs) that allow people to interact with sites or apps by speaking instead of typing.
Chatbots and virtual assistants are two increasingly popular types of CUIs. They both allow businesses to interact with users in new, highly convenient ways. For example, a chatbot can respond to people even outside regular business hours. Similarly, virtual assistants enable hands-free interactions ranging from booking taxis to checking a parcel’s status.
Before the widespread availability of cloud computing, conversational user interfaces typically involved people listening to prerecorded menu options, then speaking the vocal prompt or number corresponding to their desired choice. Companies commonly used these interactive voice response (IVR) systems to get calls transferred to the right departments.
However, you’ve almost certainly used an IVR system that could not understand what you said. In that case, you might have to listen to a lengthy menu all over again before making another choice.
Today’s CUIs work with the help of quick but robust cloud processing. It increases the chances of a CUI understanding a user on the first try and even getting smarter with increased exposure.
For example, Amazon’s smart speakers feature a CUI that can understand the context around people’s requests. It also understands the various things people may say when backtracking after uttering something. One person might say, “No, no, never mind,” while another one says, “Cancel that.”
Even if you’re relatively new to conversational interactions, it’s easier than you may think to move forward with them.
For example, Amazon makes it easy for brands to launch “skills” that people can install on their smart speakers to make the gadgets more capable. Those offerings work due to cloud computing technology operating in the background. This example shows that UI can apply to voice prompts as well as conventional web browsing.
It Facilitates Efficient Improvements
UI relates to the interactions people have with your site and how seamless those experiences are. Staying on top of UI means making frequent updates to fix identified problems or prevent issues from occurring.
For example, internal tests might indicate that a form on your site doesn’t load correctly in a certain smartphone browser. That discovery requires making tweaks before users get upset.
Fortunately, cloud computing helps those changes happen faster, even if your UI specialists live on the other side of the world.
For starters, any authorized user can log into a cloud-based interface and make the required changes. Many cloud systems also allow real-time collaboration. In that case, a designer could alter something, then immediately get feedback from colleagues who are using the platform simultaneously and see which actions happen and when.
Cloud computing platforms also typically keep running records of changes and the responsible parties. Relatedly, a decision-maker could revert to a previous version of a site or app if they didn’t like what was different.
However, something to keep in mind is that allowing more team members to access a cloud interface does not always get the best results. That approach could even introduce security risks, especially if people have access but don’t genuinely require it.
Fortunately, many cloud-based products offer security enhancements, such as two-factor authentication (2FA). Others allow administrators to log into a centralized portal and instantly make access changes. Such features could come in handy when people leave the company or get promoted, necessitating access changes.
It Enables Better Collaboration
Many people can probably recall time spent working for highly segmented companies. The employees in various departments had tightly defined roles and rarely or never engaged with colleagues outside their respective areas of the company.
Unfortunately, from a UI perspective, that approach makes it difficult to anticipate the various ramifications of potential changes.
Consider a situation where the design team wants to enlarge images across a site. However, perhaps the company’s customer service representatives frequently speak to people who access the content on mobile devices with limited data plans. Making the images bigger could negatively impact site loading time, plus require more data to work.
Cloud computing allows people from any department to collaborate and share insights that could enhance UI. Sometimes, that collective knowledge even happens outside a company’s walls.
For example, if a business has field teams, those workers could use Wi-Fi-enabled devices to immediately enter users’ comments or suggestions after hearing from them. If your company allows that, ensure everyone uses standardized formatting to make the information clear and actionable. Otherwise, data variations could cause preventable challenges.
Collaboration between company representatives and customers can also happen in real-time thanks to cloud computing. Many beauty brands offer virtual consultations, letting people get personalized tips about how to soothe problematic skin or pick the right shade of eyeshadow. Such offerings enable people to use their smartphone cameras to interact with beauty experts. Some platforms enable uploading pictures or other files.
Whether collaboration happens internally or with customers, the resulting perspectives could support a brand’s UI. The beauty of cloud computing is that it promotes instant feedback. That advantage means company decision-makers can respond promptly to customer needs or changes in preferences.
It Supports Emerging Trends
Successful company leaders know the importance of staying on top of notable trends. That doesn’t mean implementing them in every case, but it’s at least valuable to consider whether new technologies could support an improved UI, for example.
For example, many designers are starting to incorporate virtual reality and augmented reality into their work. Such technologies deliver richer and more immersive experiences to users, which could help them have more favorable opinions of the respective companies.
Some leaders may feel overwhelmed by the fast pace of technological change. It’s often difficult to determine whether to invest in something new, especially if the eventual payoff remains unclear. Luckily, scalability is one of the often-cited benefits of cloud computing. Many cloud providers allow customers to add or remove services as needed.
For example, Amazon Web Services (AWS) provides a product called Sumerian. It lets people create interactive virtual and augmented reality experiences that run in a browser or through specialized equipment, if users have it available. Customers then get billed based on user traffic levels and the size of their assets. That structure makes it easier for companies to control how much they spend on these new technologies.
Additionally, people often consider cloud computing as the backbone of artificial intelligence. That’s because the cloud environment offers the processing power for smooth user engagements with virtually no latency. Such progress facilitates better UI through personalization.
Imagine a scenario where a person sees specific content variations based on their past interactions with a site or their location in the world. Artificial intelligence powered by the cloud helps that happen.
Cloud Investments Help Enhance UI
You may not have initially spotted the link between cloud computing and better UI. But these examples highlight how there’s a clear connection. Even so, it’s crucial to do your research when choosing a cloud company and determining what services you need. Find out about how often the cloud provider backs up your data and what uptime guarantees they offer, for example.
Additionally, remember that cloud technology is not a magic fix to any UI problems you’re currently experiencing or anticipate may happen soon. The ideal strategy for applying cloud computing to your UI enhancements is to figure out what you want to achieve and how the cloud aligns with those aims. Then, it’s easy to connect your investments to goals and use metrics to evaluate the outcomes.
Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the creative director at a digital marketing agency before becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philadelphia with her husband and pup, Bear.