Even after I’d been working in tech a few years, User Experience was black magic to me. I knew it was powerful, important, I just didn’t know exactly what it was supposed to do or accomplish. Like how I take ibuprofen when I’m feeling sick: I know it helps, I’m just not quite sure how or why.
But I learned (UX tenets, not the ins and outs of how medicine affects the human body). At first through osmosis, picking up little tricks and practices as I meandered around, writing web copy. I’d sit with the designers and we’d figure out the best route for a consumer to take. How can we best optimize this page for maximum comprehension and retention and the like?
My big takeaway: a lot of UX is empathy and common sense. It’s thinking about others’ wants and needs ahead of your own. It’s general consideration for your fellow man, woman, or child. We’re talking basic human decency, here. Once I was able to see UX in this light, the mysterious fog around the concept lifted for me. It’s not black magic. Never was.
Now that I know a thing or two, relatively speaking, the entire concept of UX has infiltrated my life. It is everywhere. Literally, wherever you see a human, there’s a good chance they’re in the midst of an experience that someone designed. Whether on their phone, in line, or just walking down the street, someone used UX philosophies to design what they’re doing and how they’re interacting with their surroundings. Crazy, right?
Watching football on TV, I can’t help but notice how the graphics on screen have evolved as we’ve come to expect better UX in our daily lives. Watch a clip from the 80s or 90s and things just off. There are no graphics on-screen that inform you as to who’s winning, how much time is left, or even who’s playing. Today, with a quick glance toward the graphic, any viewer can easily tell these things along with other vital facts like timeouts left or even where the ball is on the field. Hell, the yellow first down line is one of the more genius UX moves of the century. These seem like simple, logical things but we have to remember they weren’t always there. It wasn’t always intuitive. Someone used tenets of UX to determine the most valuable information and then designed it for quick consumption.
For me, UX’s most interesting battleground in recent years has revolved around cars. The most obvious example of this is in new infotainment systems. Apple CarPlay vs. Android Auto vs. what the car manufacturers come up with. There are slight differences in each but all seem to be constantly testing and iterating to see what works best for the specific needs of a driver. What’s safe but fun? Innovative but lasting?
But those are on screens and we’re familiar with UX on screens. More interesting is the impact of UX on car interiors. Look at the fanciest, most expensive cars in the world. Their interiors are jam packed with features. It’s a barrage of buttons and screens and insanity. The steering wheel of any new Ferrari has well over a thousand buttons, give or take. But look at the most innovative car company, Tesla. Their interiors are stark in comparison. The new Model 3 looks like a modern house with its clean lines and lack of obstructions. That, to me, is good UX. And hopefully, that’s where we’ll continue to head.
Clean, simple, straightforward. That’s UX to me.