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Ford Simplifies UX Design

  • Published on July 6, 2015
Ford Simplifies UX Design

The user experience (UX) for automobiles has undergone a revolutionary set of changes over the past decade. As technology expanded at a rapid pace, user experience often took a back seat to automaker’s desire to include the latest technologies. Having connectivity to Bluetooth or offering an integrated GPS was considered important, while thought for how a user might access the controls appeared to be of secondary concern.

Frustrated drivers quickly discovered that UX was critical, as they attempted to connect their phone, enter a GPS addresses, or synchronize an address book without success. Some functions that were intended to make it easier for a driver to operate hands-free instead introduced new distractions.

Ford is separating themselves from their original partner, Microsoft. At the early onset of in-car technology, they appeared to be a solid choice. But just as early versions of Windows were not known for their great user experience, the same could be said about the in-car technology. Software glitches that are annoying on a PC or laptop are completely unacceptable in an automobile. The need to work with controls while operating a vehicle has created a need for a focus on simplistic, accessible UX. Ford has found this user experience with an unusual technology partner for 2015. Ford turned to QNX, a subsidiary of Blackberry, the once high-flying maker of phones that were the must-have among connected business users long before iPhone and Android devices were available.

The new UX in cars is known as Sync3 and it provides a greatly simplified way of interfacing with electronics and connected devices. Traditional controls for things such as audio volume and temperature are returning, leaving the touch screen to control access to phone, GPS, and BlueTooth connected devices. Having worked with many embedded systems, many of the principles that are taught in the UX courses at American Graphics Institute carry through those used in automobiles.

Gary Joblonski, the director of infotainment systems at Ford indicated that they know their 2010 efforts with Microsoft were an over-reach, and the effort is now on simplification. Dieter Rams would be proud, as Swiss design philosophy makes its way to the UX of the automobile.


About the author

 is a user experience designer, Photoshop expert, educator and author based in Boston. She is the author of more than 20 books on design tools and processes, including Adobe Creative Cloud for Dummies, Adobe Creative Cloud Digital Classroom, and Photoshop Digital Classroom. She has been awarded a Microsoft MVP three times for her work with user experience design in creating apps for touch, desktop, and mobile devices. Jennifer holds the CPUX-F credential from the UXQB.

Jennifer delivers UX training and UX consulting for large Fortune 100 companies, small start-ups, and independent software vendors. She has been hired by Adobe and Microsoft to deliver training workshops to their staff, and has traveled to Asia, Europe, India, the Middle East, and across the U.S. to deliver courses and assist on UX design projects. She has extensive knowledge of modern UX Design, and worked closely with the Microsoft Windows team to create educational material and deliver UX workshops to key partners globally on behalf of Microsoft. Jennifer works with a wide range of prototyping tools including XD, Sketch, Balsamiq, Fireworks, Photoshop, Illustrator, and Blend for Visual Studio. She also works extensively in the fields of presentation design and visual design.