Humans have always sought to make their lives more harmonious and comfortable, and this urge has probably led to many innovations, from industrious evolutions to vehicles, rooms, and so on. Even though the term “user experience” has been trending in recent decades, you will find its trace back to 4000 BC Chinese philosophy. To think about it, it can be traced way far back, but the Chinese philosophy “ Feng Shui” is what got popular.
People associate Feng Shui philosophy with user experience because Feng shui seeks to harmonize people with their surroundings, such as their homes or offices, just as UX design seeks to design digital experiences for maximum ease of use, functionality, and delight. They both strive to improve people’s lives through innovative design solutions and necessitate knowledge of human behavior.
This article will go through the history of UX and how it has evolved over time.
Why? Because sometimes it is better to revisit the past to grape the concept, to understand what it is worth.
Feng Shui Philosophy (4000 BC)
Feng Shui is a method and a philosophy that has been used for the creation of environments that are comfortable, supporting, and nourishing for thousands of years. The utilization of balance is what makes this possible. Feng Shui practitioners utilize Yin and Yang, two energies that are complementary to one another even though they are opposites, to bring harmony to a location. Yin and Yang are embodied in the five elements, which are collectively referred to as the Wu Xing. They are represented by the elements of water, wood, fire, earth, and metal.
The most popular is the Feng Shui bedroom theory, in which he instructed how to keep the bed, tables, chairs, and mirrors in a bedroom to keep the energy flow. The bedroom is the essential room in the house, according to feng shui. It is where you spend the most time and feel at ease. Aside from that, you spend a lot of time in this room sleeping. When you sleep, you are in a more passive state. As a result, you are highly susceptible to energy in the bedroom.
Ergonomics in Ancient Greece (500 BC)
It’s time to give a trip to Greece after China; this is where you will find some traces of UX here as well. Ancient Greece was one of the more highly advanced societies in early human history. They employed complicated equations to add tiny curves to their construction, giving the impression that it was level and straight. Western philosophy was born from the ideas of thinkers like Socrates and Plato.
Their religion, art, culture, and medicine were so advanced that the Romans adopted them as models to better their own society. Their innovations changed the world for good. For instance, water mill, water clock, Hydria, Archimedes screw, and much more! To know more, just google you will have your mind blown for sure! Given all this, it is not unexpected that some early examples of user experience design were found in Greece, primarily through Ergonomics in the 5th century.
Okay, but what does this have to do with user experience design? One of the best pieces of evidence that the ancient Greeks understood ergonomic principles is a text by Hippocrates outlining the ideal environment for a surgeon. As he puts it, “the surgeon’s tools must be positioned so as not to block the surgeon, and also be within easy reach when required.” to increase usability and smooth activity, just like we do in UX.
Taylorism: A Scientific Management Theory (Early 1900)
We will now jump straight from the 5th century to the 19th century to the doorstep of Frederick Taylor, after which the scientific management theory is named. This is because he advocated the theory. It uses scientific methods to determine the best way to make things so that productivity increases.
Taylor’s scientific management theory said that it was the job of managers at work to come up with the right production system to make the business as efficient as possible. Frederick Winslow Taylor published “The Principles of Scientific Management” in 1911. In the book, he claimed that flaws in a specific work process could be scientifically rectified by improved management techniques and that the most effective way to raise labor productivity was to optimize work performance.
One well-known example was using a stopwatch and some form of biomechanical research to devise a more efficient way for employees to load pig iron onto train carriages. On the first day that his innovative method was used, the amount of pig iron the workers could transport increased almost three times from the day before. This is also what we would like to achieve in the modern day, right? Through UX, we want businesses to increase conversion.
Even though “scientific management” and “Taylorism” are often used interchangeably, it would be more accurate to say that Taylorism was the first type of scientific management. Taylor’s techniques for increasing worker productivity may still be witnessed in corporations, the modern military, and even professional sports.
Fordism: Evolution of Manufacturing Technology System ( 1973)
It must be mentioned that Taylorism is the starting point of Fordism. Fordism is a way of organizing mass production on a small scale. It was first used in the United States in the early 1800s at Henry Ford’s Highland Park car factory. Ford’s mass production model was a significant change in how things were made, but it was based on improvements that had already been made. It was founded, for example, on Taylor’s work on scientific management, a comprehensive technical division of labor in the manufacturing process, and the exact measurement of the time it took workers to complete a specific task on a production line.
Fordism is a way of making things in large quantities using assembly line technology. Henry Ford, a mechanical engineer who started the Ford Motor Company, came up with this method at the beginning of the 20th century. Frederick Taylor came up with the word “Fordism” when he said that Ford took away people’s pride in their jobs and turned them into unskilled workers who were just cogs in the machine. This was a significant manufacturing development that had enormous effects on workers and labor structure.
The idea behind mass production is to sell low-cost, standard products to large groups of people who like the same things. Ford was the first to use it in making cars, and when he did, it made workers much more productive. In October 1913, making a Model, T Ford took 12 hours and 8 minutes of work. Six months later, it only took 1 hour and 30 minutes. This gave mass production a substantial competitive edge.
The Toyota Philosophy (1940)
“The Toyota way” got acknowledgment worldwide because of how efficiently they managed their production system, employees, customers, and society as a whole! Operational excellence is the main reason the Toyota way has been so successful. Toyota has made operational excellence a key part of its strategy. This operational excellence is not all based on the tools and methods for improving quality that Toyota made famous in the manufacturing world.
It is conceivable to trace the origins of the Toyota production system concept back to the period shortly following World War II. This was when the economic outlook was uncertain, and there was a scarcity of human, natural, and financial resources. In this context, the primary purpose of the Toyota System has been to maximize production efficiency by reducing waste consistently and thoroughly.
In the digital world, we call it decluttering.
Toyota’s former president, Toyoda Kiichiro, and later Ohno Taiichi and Eiji Toyoda, created this concept between 1948 and 1975. It symbolizes a highly efficient manufacturing system comparable to Henry Ford’s several decades earlier, yet Toyota’s approach to product development and distribution proved substantially more consumer-friendly and market-driven. It sounds similar to UX, isn’t it?
Henry Dreyfuss and The Art of Designing for People (1955)
When it comes to usability improvement, the name that comes to my mind is Henry Dreyfuss. He is best known for his statement, “Designing for people.” Also, Dreyfuss’ design concept was founded on logic and scientific principles. In 1955, he wrote Designing for People, basically a summary of UX design: “When the point of contact between the product and the people becomes a source of friction, then the [designer] has failed.” On the other hand, if people feel safer, more comfortable, more likely to buy, more productive, or just plain happier when they use the product, then the designer has done his or her job.”
Dreyfuss was an American industrial designer who created several well-known goods. Even though they are famous, you might not know much about them or why they are essential to our history and current way of life. The Hoover vacuum cleaner, the desktop telephone, and the Royal Typewriter, especially the deluxe model for businesses, are all examples.
Before starting a project, UX designers can follow Dreyfuss’s example and set clear expectations about the time and resources needed for user research. If the client does not get it, go back to the beginning and explain why user research is essential, or move on to the next project.
Walt Disney—The First UX Designer (1966)
Disney is regarded as one of the very first UX designers despite not even having that title. He was a visionary who imagined a world in which cutting-edge technology could improve people’s lives. He was consumed with the idea of creating incredible, immersive, authentic, and seamless experiences. That’s how Disney World got its start.
Walt Disney was also conducting research and development in the field of user experience design at the same time that Dreyfuss was. The following explains why he is frequently referred to as the first user experience designer.
Disney entered the amusement park business in the 1950s, and in July 1955, he launched Disneyland in Anaheim, California. The bright innovator had the idea to make the theme park an immersive experience in which every element would be considered. Imagineers were the name he gave to his employees at the theme park, and he devised a set of ten directives for them to adhere to, subsequently popularized as “Mickey’s 10 Commandments.”
Know your audience, put yourself in the shoes of your guests, use good storytelling techniques, take advantage of all the non-verbal ways of communication – color, shape, form, and texture – avoid cognitive overload, tell only one story at a time, bring clarity, create fun, and pay attention to cleanliness and routine maintenance. These ten principles are very similar to those of user experience design.
The Era of Personal Computers (The 1970s)
Many people think that in the 1950s, when they hired psychologists to design the revolutionary telephone dial, Bell Labs was the first to add a “human” element to interactive systems.
MITS, a small firm, created the first personal computer, the Altair, in 1974, popular among hobbyists. Personal computers. The Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (Xerox PARC) debuted in 1970, and it was here that the graphical user interface (GUI), the mouse, and object-oriented programming were invented, laying the groundwork for the contemporary personal computer.
Then fast forward to 1984. Apple Computer produced the first mass-market personal computer with a graphical user interface, built-in screen, and mouse, the Macintosh. It immediately established Apple as a prominent innovator in the field of user experience.
When Apple Computers started using the term “user experience” and did some of the first user-centered designs, which made them look like the best. With the rise of the personal computer, the user and the buyer became increasingly similar. This made “ease of use” or the “user’s experience” the most critical factor in deciding what to buy.
But with the rise of the internet in the 1990s, UX as a field and a separate practice began to take shape. Before the web, people bought a PC and then got a good (or bad) user experience. A good user experience (UX) often leads to a purchase. So, companies started putting money directly into UX as a practice—basically as a way to make more money.
Don Norman coined the term “User Experience.” (1980)
Not only did Don Norman Coined the term User Experience, but he was also the first person to have “UX” in his job title. The term was first used in The Design of Everyday Things, a book by renowned UX design expert Donald Norman in 1988. It changed from the old term “user-centered system design,” which meant that Norman focused on the user’s needs instead of on the system itself and how it looked.
The name didn’t become a job title until the early 1990s when Norman joined Apple Computer as a fellow and then as a “user experience architect.”
Norman said the following in an interview with Adaptive Path:
“I came up with the term because I thought human interface and usability didn’t go far enough. I wanted to talk about every part of a person’s experience with the system, such as the industrial design graphics, the interface, how it works in real life, and the instructions. Since then, the term has become very common and is starting to lose its original meaning.
Before joining Hewlett-Packard, Norman became Vice President of Apple Computer’s Advanced Technology Group, Apple Research Labs. In 1998, he and Jakob Nielsen started the Nielsen Norman Group. Jakob Nielsen was another one of the first to come up with usability methods still used today, such as the 10 Usability Heuristics.
Both men are still working to improve user experience and promote user-centered design. Nielsen is still a principal at the Nielsen Norman Group and is still looking into the best ways to improve the user experience, like the recently published Jakob’s Law of Internet User Experience.
Don Norman is 81 years old and is still a fellow. He also started and ran the Design Lab at the University of California, San Diego. During his career, he has also significantly contributed to studying related fields. He is also known as the “father” of cognitive engineering.
2018 and Onwards
Today, we have user experience architects, designers, researchers, and so forth. In addition to fields in Human-Computer Interaction devoted to the interactions between people and computers, some schools are primarily concerned with the connections between design, psychology, and science. The demand for user experience designers is growing, and new professionals are entering the field from various vantage points.
From artificial intelligence to speech technology, and virtual reality to interface-free design, UX designers encounter new daily obstacles. Concepts in interaction design that were previously novel are now mental models for all of us, illustrating the dynamic progress of the discipline!
UX is an ever-changing field, and the discipline has evolved considerably over the last few decades. It can sometimes be a struggle to keep up as our deliverables have changed and evolved over time — desktop and mobile, mouse and touch, web and native, and so on.
However, one aspect of UX remains constant: users. Personally, I prefer “people” to “users.” The former, “humans,” are complex, leading busy lives, yearning for pleasure while at times experiencing frustration. The latter term, “users,” runs the risk of being too vague and, consequently, too simple to dismiss. Let’s design for humans!
To create genuinely human-centered user experiences, we must comprehend how humans function, which necessitates some attention to psychology. In recent years, our responsibilities as designers have expanded, and we must now comprehend how to construct goods and services and why we construct them.
As our relationship with technology evolves, the study of user experience design will continue to produce new views, methodologies, and understandings of how innovation may impact human experiences, and the journey will stay exciting.