How old is User Experience?

February 12th 2015 Gayatri Sathe
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Today, life without technology is unimaginable. High penetration of internet across various sections of society has made platforms like WhatsApp, WeChat and Instagram popular. Why do we love these platforms? It is because designers have taken efforts to make them user centric.

User Experience Design (UXD or UED) encompasses the science leading to the improvement of interaction between the user and object. This term was introduced by Donald Norman in 1993. He further explains UXD in his books ‘The Design of Everyday Things’ and ‘Emotional Design’. But, UXD is not a recent phenomenon; its references can be found in history right from the Renaissance.

Renaissance:
The Duke of Milan asked Leonardo Da Vinci to design his kitchen. His innovative ideas to make a modern kitchen ended into Shakespearean comedy of errors, since the people using the kitchen couldn’t adapt to it. Da Vinci’s kitchen was a disaster but, is one of the oldest example of UX and a reminder that a pre-requisite for excellent UX is designing for the user.

Henry Dreyfuss:
Henry Dreyfuss in his book ‘Designing for People’ explains how products should be designed in business savvy and user centric manner. The designer should be involved in the entire process of production to ensure that the interface between the user and product is enjoyable and comfortable. Way back in 1936 Henry Dreyfuss designed the model 302, a landline telephone and it looked something like this:
WesternElectric

Walt Disney
Walt Disney was well ahead of his times. With Disney Park he created a place, which immersed the audience in an extraordinary experience. He coined it as experimental prototype; a place that was changing continuously to incorporate the latest technology to improve the experience of people visiting it. Walt Disney’s goal was to entertain and bring joy to visitors. Everyone working there was trained how to treat customers right to the minutest actions like smiling or waving. Thus, people still love and are drawn to Disney Park.

Don Norman
Donald Norman believes there are three levels of human mind that design needs to address.

Visceral level is the subconscious level and responds to visual appeal of the object. The other level is the behavioural level. It is about feeling in control, understanding the use of objects, feel and heft. Reflective level questions our actions by playing on our super ego, which questions every decision we make because it is more concerned about the image that we project.

So a designer has to think about all these levels and how the user’s mind will interplay at each level.

emotional design

Apple products:
Apple has a clear understanding about UX design. With iPad and iBooks you have a unique UX. Apple takes special care to study the interaction between users and the product. Thus, you just don’t have to learn or remember how to use their products. That is why people swear by Apple products.

User Experience dates back in the civilization of mankind and is not a recent phenomenon. This journey of UX continues as we get into the details of understanding cognition, emotion and ergonomics for designing simple products that makes our life comfortable.

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Gayatri Sathe

Gayatri has been on the path of being a designer since her school days. An architect by graduation, she now delights in creating ‘virtual spaces’ that that the humans have started inhabiting more and more. She believes that it’s important to get a good understanding of the whole picture to create ‘truly divine details’ in the creation. She worked in various domains like ecommerce, procurement, ERP, finance, travel etc. A true bookworm, she loves reading and absorbing information about the world like a sponge – especially about various cultures and how they relate to us in today’s world. Other than books, she enjoys movies, music and travel

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