Automation and UX: Designing with disruptive tech

28 Jun 2024

Iman El Sayed. Image: Accenture Song

Accenture Song’s Iman El Sayed talks about the AI and automation ‘rollercoaster’ and how she sees it affecting UX design.

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In recent years, exposure to the emergence of advanced AI and automation capabilities has been almost unavoidable, as the disruptive tech continues to integrate with practically every sector of society.

From its integration in online payments to HR processes, no stone is left unturned by the touch of automation and AI. The design industry is no exception, as Iman El Sayed points out.

El Sayed is a design experience consultant at Accenture Song, and while she clarifies that automation tools have existed in the design field for a while, she states these tools were on a “micro level”, such as Adobe Illustrator’s auto trace function.

“Those capabilities were taking on manual repetitive tasks,” she says. “What we see today is AI automation on a completely different level. In addition to handling manual tasks, it’s also taking over some of the ‘thinking’ and creative tasks.

“These are attributes that up until recently were only associated with humans, and now have been increasingly integrated into AI systems, enabling them to assist in generating ideas, making decisions and even producing creative content autonomously.”

Hopping on the rollercoaster

When it comes to the overall impact of AI automation on the UX industry, El Sayed paraphrases famous web usability consultant Jakob Nielsen by saying that the industry is moving from “a command-based interaction to an intent-based one”.

“Users no longer instruct the computer on specific actions but instead specify the desired outcomes. For us designers, this means we need to shift our focus towards understanding user intentions more deeply and designing systems that can interpret and fulfil these intentions effectively.”

With the widespread AI and automation integration across industries, it’s unsurprising that a considerable number of workers are concerned, with particular worries around job security. However, El Sayed says that it’s “natural to be scared or anxious of the unknown”.

“If you’re a designer, chances are you’re curious by default and have probably already tested and used many of the available AI tools out there today.” However, she adds that with the pace at which AI is advancing, the difficulty at predicting what’s coming can understandably cause fear and concern. But El Sayed compares this tech evolution – and her own interaction with it – to a rollercoaster.

“You can stand at the entrance, expressing your fears and doubts, but the ride will still operate,” she says. “My way of dealing with it is to get in line, buckle up, and enjoy the ride and use the momentum to experience something exciting and new.”


When integrating AI and automation into your design workflow, El Sayed believes that “starting small is key”.

She recommends that design team leaders should allow their teams to openly express their fears and ambitions around the new tools, and to emphasise that the new tech is to make their jobs easier, not replace them.

“You can start by asking ChatGPT to help you explain a complex brief and create a simplified version that is easy to understand,” she says. “For user interviews, use an AI transcribing tool like that takes notes and summarises the key points.

“There are AI tools for almost every stage of the design process, approaching these tools with a sense of curiosity and playfulness is what enables designers to fully explore their potential and integrate them seamlessly into their creative workflows.”

With AI integration in UX design, El Sayed foresees responsible use of the tech primarily benefitting productivity, creativity and flexibility. For example, she says ChatGPT can alleviate the anxiety and procrastination that’s sometimes experienced at the onset of a new project by asking the chatbot to create a project plan or brainstorm ideas. Or if a designer has a creative block, AI tools can be used to create mood boards or colour palettes.

As well as the benefits, however, she says that designers still have a lot to learn when it comes to using AI in “the right way” and avoiding potential pitfalls.

One such pitfall that she points to is “defaulting to AI chatbots as a solution for clients aiming enhance their customer experience without understanding the customer sentiment around them”.

“Despite recent advancements, many chatbots still lack personalisation, and customers often struggle to understand their value while also worrying about their privacy.”

What do UXpect?

With AI and automation integration becoming ever frequent, we asked El Sayed for her thoughts on how this integration will affect the future of UX design.

She says that now more than ever, there’s a greater emphasis on a “product-focused and action-oriented approach” to UX design.

“For designers, this means close collaboration with AI experts and data scientists as well as constant upskilling to stay on top of new technologies and evolving job market demands, but also learning as much as possible about how AI algorithms work and how to leverage AI-driven insights to create the best possible user experience,” she says.

“As designers we have to remember that our job is to provide the human perspective. We must strive to design AI systems that are not only efficient and innovative but also fair, inclusive and respectful of individual privacy and rights.

“This means being mindful of biases, transparency and the potential impact on user trust and societal norms.”

She believes that some new skills that will be required of UX designers include knowledge of conversational design and a “deep understanding of human psychology”, while some designers may branch out into new technologies like VR and AR to explore new ways of experiencing digital content.

“Personally, I am excited about all the changes AI will bring to the UX industry, it’s a thrilling journey that will open up unprecedented opportunities where technology and human-centred design come together.”

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Colin Ryan is a copywriter/copyeditor at Silicon Republic