4 Must-Know Points in UX History

When you think of buying a new product, whether it is a new car, mobile phone, or even a new sofa, you will probably find yourself thinking about different aspects of your product. For example, think about the last time you went to the cinema. What made you choose that particular film? Did it begin in time? Were your sits comfortable? Was there anything blocking your view on the screen? Was the theatre nice and clean? Answering the questions relates automatically to the user experience field. User experience is relevant to many fields and comes in a range of variations, though in the last decades, user experience is mostly related to digital or technological services and apparatuses. User experience may be a modern field, but it has been a long time in the making. In the following post we will go through history of user experience, and see how this broad field has developed in the last century and evolved into its current form.

1. The Pioneer of User Experience Thinking: Leonardo Da Vinci

In the 1400’s, Da Vinci took a job that included designing a kitchen for an elite dinner party. He created conveyor belts which were made for transferring food items to the kitchen, and designed a sprinkler system for safety measures. While the conveyor belts were not stable, and the sprinkler system leaked and ruined some of the food, what seems like a disaster, is seen today as a case that bears the roots of user experience design and thinking.

2. The 20th Century: An era of Ergonomics, industrial efficiency and human ingenuity

In the early 1900’s a new research field began, focusing on human factors and ergonomics. This aimed for designing devices and apparatuses in a way that would align with human capabilities. This new designing idea evolved all the way to the Taylorism and the industrial revolution, where industrial efficiency came hand in hand with human ingenuity, in order to increase the efficiency of the companies. Later on that century, based on Henry Dreyfuss’s “Designing for People” text, companies were trying to understand their user needs, an integral principal in UX design until today.  

3. The 1970’s: Personal Computers arrive

The personal computer was invented, based on theories that were written ages ago. The first computers were designed by engineers who worked in cooperation with psychologists, in order to provide the best user experience possible, using different tools as the mouse and graphical user interface.  

4. The rise of smartphones: The iPhone

In 2007 Steve Jobs unveiled the latest thing in mobile phones technology – the iPhone. Keyboards were replaced by touchscreens and when the new device was launched it changed the personal computing world in an irreversible way.   The relationship between in human beings and technology sets the basis of all the great revolutions and developments of user experience that took place in the past. With a quick review above on the past of user experience, one cannot help but wonder what the future holds in this evolving and fascinating field of user experience.  
Megan Wilson is user experience specialist & editor of UX Motel. She is also the Quality Assurance and UX Specialist at WalkMe Megan.w(at)walkme.com