Why the Demand for Usability Will Continue to Grow
Usability is an important aspect of any software system. The superior usability of employees' personal devices has brought about a revolution in the office environment. Businesses are being forced to implement policies (e.g., usability standards and bring your own device) that enhance the employee experience. Yet, usability is only in its infancy in terms of the importance it will play in future software systems.
As the world around us becomes more complex, our ability to solve problems without software assistance becomes more limited. While an explosion of specializations in various fields might provide us with answers, this tactic can only take us so far.
Software must play an increasing role in efficiently guiding humans trained in the basics of a particular field to not only find the cause of a problem but also the solution to the problem.
The human must then have the training necessary to carry out the solution. While it may only be science fiction, a great example would be the Starship Enterprise from Star Trek. The Enterprise is a highly complex system, but it can only house a limited number of engineers and other personnel. When a warp drive failure occurs, the crew can't rely on an engineer to always know the solution. The systems guide the crew to discover the root cause of the problem as well as a schematic of the solution that the engineer can then carry out.
As a software developer this is a very familiar task. I have a strong understanding of the concepts of computer science, but Google is my problem-solving interface. Copy and paste an unusual looking stack trace into the search box and voila! StackOverflow provides the step-by-step instructions to solve the problem. While it may not be that easy every time, systems will only become better at guiding humans to solutions based on a particular problem.
Future iterations of systems like WebMD may lower the demand for doctors, thereby decreasing health care costs through the use of more nurse practitioners and physicians' assistants.
LinkedIn may eliminate the need for recruiters by guiding a company to the perfect job candidate or a candidate to the perfect job.
Zillow may take the place of the real estate agent as you find your perfect home in the perfect neighborhood or find the perfect buyer for your house.
So if your career path is focused on becoming one of the half a million usability professionals we have been trying to obtain over the past ten years, you can be guaranteed that your skills will remain in demand for years to come.