“When UX doesn’t consider ALL users, shouldn’t it be known as “SOME User Experience” or… SUX?”

- Billy Gregory

Anurag Baral


The Story

Evolution of UI/UX over the ages

Customer satisfaction is of utmost importance for any business selling a product, and a deciding factor for this is the UI (User Interface) and the UX (User Experience) of the given product. As their names suggest, UI refers to the physical user interface i.e. the medium of interaction between the user and the product, while the UX refers to the experience and feel of the user while he or she uses the product, making it more of a cognitive element, unlike UI. In recent times, UI and UX designing have been synonymous while developing various apps. The UI and UX go hand in hand – if UI is the physical appearance of the application, the UX is the heart and soul. The basic principles of UX and UI have been present since ancient times, and several developments have occurred in this field over the ages.

The foundations of UI and UX lie in the discipline called ergonomics. Ergonomics may be defined as the scientific discipline concerned with the interaction between humans and the elements of the system. The Chinese had the philosophy of Feng Shui, which refers to the spatial arrangement of objects with relation to the flow of energy. Similarly, we had the ‘Vaastu Shastra’ in ancient Indian during the Vedic Period, which is still followed to this date in several Indian households. The Ancient Greeks religiously followed ergonomic principles, and have been mentioned in one of Hippocrates’ works as well. Cut to the 20th century, when some significant progress started occurring in this field. Frederick Winslow Taylor, American mechanical engineering came forward with his philosophy of Scientific Management, also known as ‘Taylorism’. ‘Taylorism’ was primarily based on increasing human efficiency by studying in detail the interaction between humans and tools. All this has been summed up in “The Principles of Scientific Management” by Taylor himself released in the year 1911, which also contains some key concepts that lead to the foundation of UX.  Further development in this field was carried out by Toyota. The Toyota Production System introduced a ‘human-centered production system’, where human input was considered to be of utmost importance. It strived towards creating an optimal working environment, stressing on the interaction between humans and machines, which is the very crux of UX.  In the year 1955, the American industrialist Henry Dreyfuss played a key role in revolutionizing the way consumer products were designed, to completely cater to the customer. All his ideas were based on scientific approaches and basic common sense. During the 60s, the legendary animator Walt Disney used UX design in a true sense while creating his cartoons, carefully keeping in mind the taste of the audience, thus becoming one of the first UX designers in history.

The user interface was initially defined as a medium for the transaction of request and response between the user and the machine.  During the 40s and 50s, when batch computers were in use, punched cards were the user interface. However, this interface was unreliable and the interaction wasn’t in real-time. The introduction of Command Line Interface, followed by the Video Display Terminal that showed the commands entered by the user on the screen instead of printing them out, lead to further progress. The 70s was a defining era for UI, with the development of the Graphical User Interface (GUI) by the researchers at the Xerox Palo Research Centre. It consisted of a digital user interface along with a pointing system, equivalent to a mouse. Xerox came up with the first GUI enabled computer named Xerox Star in 1981. This further inspired other upcoming tech giants like Apple, Microsoft, and IBM to come up with their commercial desktops throughout the 80s and early 90s. The top contenders in the market turned out to be Apple with the Mac OS and Macintosh series, and Microsoft with the Windows OS. Towards the latter half of the 90s, the laptop computers were introduced, which were a portable alternative to the desktop. Apple and IBM were the initial entrants. The laptops came incorporated with several features for simplifying the UI, like trackballs, trackpads, pointing sticks, etc. The early 2000s were an experimental phase for UI with several new things coming up that included the stylus by Palm Pilot, a voice UI by Dragon, scroll wheel by Apple, and the iPod as well. The development in UI caught pace towards the second half of the 2000s followed by the 2010s, with the emergence of smartphones. Apple indeed took quite a giant leap with the introduction of touchscreen in the iPhone in 2007 and on the iPad in 2010. Another crucial step taken by Apple was the distribution of phone functionalities to third party applications, popularly what we call ‘Apps’. The handheld UIs after this was all based on the app functionalities, including Windows 10, Android, iOs. In 2008, Apple and Google launched their app stores, App Store and Android Market (now Play Store) respectively. This was considered to be the beginning of what is called the ‘App Revolution’. In 2011, voice assistants started coming into the picture, with Apple introducing Siri, followed by Google Now in 2012, and Amazon’s Alexa in 2014. The latter half of the 2010s further upped the game of UI with the introduction of virtual or augmented reality (V.R), which added a whole new dimension to UI, along with gesture control. With such tremendous progress in UI in the 2010s, it was rightfully declared as the “Golden Era of UI and UX”.

So, what next? With almost everything going virtual nowadays, especially during this on-going pandemic, UI and UX have become more important than ever. They are needed in all virtual platforms.  The inclusion of artificial intelligence into UI could be the next big thing, where humans would be able to interact with machines just like they do with other fellow humans.  The future indeed has a lot in store for us.

“The next big thing is the one that makes the last big thing usable.”

— Blake Ross, Co-creator of Mozilla Firefox


Edited By :

Sarthak Sharma

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