A Brief History of UX Design and its Evolution
When you think about user experience design it’s a term we instantly associate with apps and websites. And especially when considering a typical job description of a UX designer, it can trick you into thinking that it’s a modern concept. The term was first coined in 1993 by the cognitive psychologist and designer Don Norman when he worked at Apple Computer — but the UX field is older than the term. So, I’m challenging you to explore with me the history of UX since it’s crucial to understanding this field. If you’re new to UX, this serves as a great introduction to the field and if you’re an experienced professional, it might just get you thinking differently. While you may view history as something you learned way back in high school, knowing our history can provide valuable insights into the future. So let’s have a look at user experience and its origins. 4000 BC: Feng Shui and the importance of space The most basic principles of UX can be traced as far back as 4000 BC to the ancient Chinese philosophy of Feng Shui. It refers to the spatial arrangement of objects in relation to the flow of energy. In practice, Feng Shui is all about arranging your surroundings in the most optimal, harmonious or user-friendly way and it concerns everything from layout and framework to materials and colors. Photo credit: The Feng Shui Living If you’re still wondering what an ancient Chinese philosophy could possibly have to do with UX design, let me explain. If you were an interior designer arranging the furniture in a way that makes it easy for the inhabitant to navigate the room, a UX designer would apply similar principles to the task of creating a mobile app or a website. The end goal is the same: to create an intuitive user-friendly experience. 500 BC: The Ancient Greeks and ergonomics Another trace of UX origins can be found in Ancient Greece. There’s evidence to suggest that in the 5th century BC, Greek civilizations designed their tools and workplaces based on ergonomic principles. But, what does that have to do with UX? For those who don’t know, Ergonomics — also known as human factors — is the scientific discipline that considers how humans interact with other elements of a system and “the profession that applies theory, principles, data, and methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance”. Photo credit: The Ergonomics Unit So, how does this related to UX? Well, one of the strongest indications that the Ancient Greeks were well aware of ergonomic principles is a text written by Hippocrates describing how a surgeon’s place should be set up. He advises that the surgeon’s tools “must be positioned in such a way as to not obstruct the surgeon, and also be within easy reach when required.” Sounds a lot like UX, doesn’t it? Early 1900s: Frederick Winslow Taylor and the quest for workplace efficiency Fast forward a few thousand years to the early 1900s and we meet Frederick Winslow Taylor — a mechanical engineer and the pioneer of Taylorism — on a mission to make human labor more efficient. The Principles of Scientific Management book by Frederick Winslow Taylor Taylor conducted extensive research into the interactions between workers and their tools. In 1911, he wrote “The Principles of Scientific Management” in which he claimed that systematic management is the solution to inefficiency. » Read More
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