Journal 08 Apr 2019

UX: A modern phenomena or a process deeply rooted in history?

Today, creative agencies are clamouring to find UX specialists. People who understand how people use things and how the positioning and layout of things can influence the way that people act and react.

Maybe this drive in demand actually stems from the companies who employ agencies to enhance their results and their need for a little more science for their money.

The pioneer of UX?

You see, back in 2007, Apple launched the iPhone. It came packaged, much like the iPhones of today, in a simple box with a prominent Apple logo. Inside the box were all the things you would expect. Phone. Battery. Charging cable. Instructions. No, wait. There was no 150-page user manual with 7 pages printed in 21 different languages with ‘Read before first use’ printed on the front. Sure, there was a quick start guide, but beyond that, it was every person for themselves. Well, not quite, there was of course, customer support, after all what sort of a customer experience would it offer, without customer support?

Apple’s reasoning behind a step that received much criticism as a ‘cost saving’ measure, was that the phone quite simply didn’t need an instruction manual. It was intuitive. Intuitive technology. The reason 3-year olds across the country now have a better understanding of how to use an iPad than many parents.

Anyway, Apple stuck to their guns and continued to turn out 2nd and 3rd generation iPhones and iPads with no instruction manuals. Soon, they became lauded for their bold move. Companies saw the success that Apple had with this UX focus and decided that UX was the way forward.

UX fumbled its way from the Apples and (dare I say) Audis of this world, to all walks of life, from app designers and developers to website design, banking, photo printing and more. A whole lot more.

UX has now become an integral part of every business strategy (or at least every successful one).

However, maybe UX wasn’t a Steve Jobs epiphany, but a learning from thousands of years of cultural evolution around the world?

The beginnings of a new user focus?

I’d go so far as to say that one of the first nods to the modern art of UX can be seen some 6,000 years ago in 4000 BC where Feng Shui focused on arranging surroundings in the most optimal, harmonious or user-friendly way. Sound familiar?

In 500BC Ancient Greece, Hippocrates, the founder of medicine, talked about the importance of a physician’s workstation, and how essential it is to have tools “positioned in such a way as to not obstruct the surgeon, and also be within easy reach when required.”

Let’s compare that to Wikipedia’s definition of UX as including ‘a person’s perceptions of system aspects such as utility, ease of use and efficiency’. Different words, but the core message is the same.

Then, through the age of automation, pioneers such as Frederick Winslow Taylor and later the teams at Toyota developed ways to improve results by combining the efforts of humans and machines.

More recently in 1955, Dreyfuss, designer of the Hoover and the table-top telephone, summarised UX perfectly when he said, ‘When the point of contact between the product and the people becomes a point of friction, then the [designer] has failed.’ More than 50 years before Steve jobs brought out the first iPhone, the term UX was parcelled up and presented for companies to unwrap with fervour, 60 years later.

Now, as companies continue to place greater importance on UX, recruiting UX designers, UX strategists, UX researchers and more, we can’t help but wonder where this newfound focus on UX will take us.

The world of UX is evolving against a backdrop of new opportunities enabled through the development of artificial intelligence, automation, augmented reality, and virtual reality. Chat-bots and voice-activated technology offer new ways in which companies can simplify the way that companies interact with humans.

However, for companies to deliver a seamless customer service, ‘free from friction’ that risks slowing down purchase decisions and separating shareholders from growing returns, businesses will need to continue to innovate and focus on exactly what the customer needs and the very best way to deliver it quickly.

IC Creative is recruiting UX specialists for companies that are making the customer experience easier, more convenient and more enjoyable, all around the world. To find out about the UX roles we have available, visit our website, or send us your CV.


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