The Communication Studio

The Vision Thing

JV portrait: Overlook

UxP is the "buzzword in good currency" .... this week

Everybody's doin' it. Investing in it. Making it a part of their business. Wondering if it just might be the driver of their business.

If computers are the wave of the future, displays are the surfboards.

Ted Nelson

The context for this moment is ... everything that has gone before. And UX is all about context. So, let's take a moment to look back and consider how we got here...

A Brief History of UX

The conscious study of efficiency has been a science of sorts for about a century now, fueled largely by industrial mechanization and mass production. Initially identified as human factors and ergonomics, the focus was on designing equipment and machines for easy use by (the physical limitations of ) humans.

Then we started creating thinking machines - and the "usability" challenge expanded to include cognitive science. One of the first advocates of this more holistic approach was Don Norman, who is credited with popularizing the term User Experience:

"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 a system, including industrial design, graphics, the interface, the physical interaction, and the manual."

An important theme emerged at this time, as well. User-centricity went beyond production efficiency to propose that successful design was a function of user satisfaction.

The Steamroller of History

IT Meets the Web

In the middle of the 20th century, businesses invested heavily in computerized automation. It was centralized, top-down: largely mechanistic and efficiency-oriented, driven by Big Iron (mainframe computers). The "corporate IT shop" was simply a more powerful extension of the existing business model.

Suddenly - in the mid-70's - a new paradigm emerged: A flood of cheap microcomputers gave individuals incredible power and ubiquitous networks (the Web) destroyed the old structural hierarchies. Success in the newly-defined interactive arena was now determined by the ability to self-service.

... Which brought UX front-and-center. Our immediate challenges are understanding it, describing it, and making it a part of how we work.

The one Constant is Change

The technology just keeps on coming: tablets, mobile, wearable devices, "the internet of Things".... And we adapt quickly. There are now a couple of generations who have grown up with the understanding that all of this technology is implicit and seamless. Usability is an expectation. Which means that...

Ultimately, UX is History