The term ‘user experience design’ was coined by Don Norman when he was at Apple in the early 90s. In an interview nearly 10 years later he said “I invented the term because I thought human interface and usability were too narrow. I wanted to cover all aspects of the person’s experience with the system including industrial design graphics, the interface, the physical interaction and the manual.”
However, this kind of customer-centric design was nothing new.
Leonardo Da Vinci himself had a crack at it, all the way back in 1430. Asked to help the Duke of Milan with a dinner party, Leonardo designed a complex conveyor belt system to deliver food to the guests to give them a new, innovative dining experience. Comically, this particular invention didn’t go to plan – the belts moved too quickly, the food went everywhere and the sprinkler system that Da Vinci had installed in case of fire was accidentally triggered,dousing guests and spoiling the food.
Despite it’s faults, Da Vinci was trying to take the experience of a dinner party, and use technology to enhance it. But, we’ve come a long way; UX has now evolved into one of the most fundamental roles of our technology-driven world.
‘When technology delivers basic needs, user experience dominates’
If UX has always been around, why has it transformed from ‘a nice idea’ into a worldwide phenomenon?
Cast your mind back to 2007: the launch of the iPhone. In most ways, the phone was inferior to its competitors on the market – you couldn’t send pictures, it didn’t have 3G, but it dominated in the one way that counted; it was easier to use.
Don Norman himself said, “when technology delivers basic needs, user experience dominates.” As we become more technology literate, we have more of an expectation that it will fulfil our basic needs – which means that UX design is more important than ever before.
Clearly, users enjoy products that are easy to use, after all, people don’t want to spend more time doing things than they absolutely have to. Furthermore, great design breeds user loyalty – just look at the queues of people outside Apple stores around the world with every new iPhone launch. If you want people coming back again and again, UX design is a great place to start.
Sharing your data = advancements in UX
UX design used to be a trial and error scenario, but advances in technology have led to a mass collection of data about how we use digital devices. This data can then be aggregated to give an average user experience, enabling businesses to optimise their services.
However, no individual user is the same. As technology continues to advance, and as we continue to allow our devices more and more access to our data, each user experience can become personalised. This blog, for example, is shown the same way to you as it is to everyone else. But, in the future, it could be personalised – shown to you in the way that your devices know you like to read things.
‘Convenience makes hypocrites of us all’
Yes, I know what you’re thinking, it’s a little unsettling to think about all the personal data that your devices have collected about you. Your smartphone knows who your friends are, what stuff you wanna buy and, most likely, your favourite brunch spot. The thing is, this data is being used to make your life easier. It may seem like an invasion of privacy, but in the words of journalist, Bobbie Johnson:
“We have our beliefs, our morals, our instincts. We have our dislike of douche bags, our mistrust of bad behavior. We have all that. But in the end it turns out that if something’s 10% cheaper and 5% faster, we’ll give it all up quicker than we can order a sandwich. Convenience, in other words, makes hypocrites of us all.”
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