UX Design: The Past, Present & Future

UX design is a consideration that often flies under the radar. When it’s great, you typically don’t notice it – it quickly becomes a seamless part of your everyday life. It’s only when you’re faced with a user experience that’s cumbersome or ill-thought-out that the need for specialist UX design becomes painfully apparent.

With that in mind, we thought it was about time we devoted a blog post entirely to UX. These are the things you need to know about UX Design – its history, its present, and where we see it going in the not-so-far future.

What Exactly is UX?

UX stands for user experience. When a UX Developer builds something around the way its target audience will physically use it, they’re employing UX design principles.

The purpose of great UX design is to create an item, service or software which is:

  • Intuitive, accessible and enjoyable to use
  • Plus sophisticated and sometimes complex, granting it depth and longevity.

For this reason, UX design focuses on:

  • Research to understand user behaviour and current usage trends
  • Innovating and foreseeing new uses
  • Alongside the actual physical process of designing and building something.

But where did the idea behind UX design start?

The History of UX Design

One of the first things you probably didn’t know about UX design is the name of the man who coined the term.

Donald Norman worked for Apple in the early 90s as a User Experience Architect. He first used the term ‘user experience design’ because human interface and usability were too narrow. He wanted to find a term that explained every aspect of someone’s experience with a system.

Indeed, the concept of UX and Apple as a brand have always gone hand-in-hand; from revolutionising home computing interfaces with the very first Apple Mouse, to what many consider the advent of modern UX design: the launch of the world’s first touch-screen mobile phone, the iPhone, in 2007.

It would, however, be unfair to call Apple the progenitors of UX. It actually goes back much further than that. Many cite Henry Dreyfuss, designer of the Hoover vacuum cleaner and author of 1955 book ‘Designing for People’, as highly influential in the field of UX design. Others point to Walt Disney as possibly the world’s first UX designer.

Wherever you attribute the origins of the movement, it’s clear that UX design has deep roots in design that echo to this day.

UX Design in the Present Day

In the modern day, UX has exploded, giving rise to specialist researcher, writer, designer, architect and analyst roles within the field.

All of these feed into a process which can largely be summed up as:

  1. Take time to understand user behaviour
  2. Generate ideas based on that understanding
  3. Build prototypes based on those ideas and iterate on them until you have finished product.

One thing you need to know about UX design is that this process is often fluid, rather than linear. It typically moves back and forth between the different stages, in the name of developing the best end product.

In many cases, initial prototypes will often be shown to user groups, who will feed back with more ideas, which can finesse the features of the design – creating a cyclical loop that benefits the final build.

In other instances, designers might take stock, go back to their initial bank of ideas and further iterate before road-testing their latest prototype via a focus group.

At DCSL, for example, we provide a UX Design Service where we host UX workshops with our clients. Our Solution Architects work with users to build mind maps that inform our software designs. We then build rapid prototypes using Axure RP, before taking a more detailed look at how the components work together on-screen.

Throughout this process, we also pay attention to the aesthetic side as well as the usability, making sure any app or other software we create is as appealing to the eye as it is to use.

At the time of writing, a number of emerging technologies are on the cusp of breaking through into the mainstream and revolutionising the way software is designed. That makes the future of user design in the software and tech field especially exciting.

The Future of UX Design

We couldn’t call this post ‘UX Design: The Past, Present and Future’ without focusing on the latter part. These are just some of the developments we expect to see in UX design across 2021 and beyond:

The Continuing Rise of Digital Healthcare

The growing popularity of health-focused wearables like Fitbit and the Apple Watch will mean further development of intuitive UX interfaces that can help people listen to their body and alter their lifestyles accordingly.

Remote health appointments are also on the rise, with health services likely to start employing branded solutions that better suit their specialist needs.

Meanwhile, developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) could lead to the creation of personalised treatment plans which will need input from both doctor and patient. No wonder investment in the AI and tech areas of healthcare are predicted to top $35billion (almost £25billion) by 2025!

Augmented Reality (AR)

With the majority of the world currently told to stay indoors, people are turning towards novel new ways to bring the outdoors to them. AR is just the technology for that, with potential for entertainment (think movies beamed to smart glasses) and interior design (seeing designs layered over your existing space via your phone) are just two possible applications.

Virtual Reality (VR)

If AR is one way to augment day to day life, how about escaping from it altogether for a few hours? From Oculus Rift to PlayStation VR, the gaming world is already seeing a boom in an area that only a few years ago was regarded by some in the industry as something of a novelty.

Outside of gaming, VR’s potential applications are many and varied. In fact, in 2021 it could be a growing way for several industries to continue without risking peoples’ health, including virtual tradeshows and theatre performances that put you firmly in the front row from your own sitting room.

All of these applications and more will give VR UX designers exciting new challenges to dig into.

UX Copywriting

Because UX design can be so complex, one of the main business challenges its supporters often face is simply explaining to decision-makers the ins and outs of why investing in UX is so important from a business growth perspective. As new technologies take hold, the prospects for that investment will only grow, but so too will the challenges of conveying its benefits.

We therefore expect to see specialist UX writers employed to not only write UX programs like virtual assistants, but to get involved with marketing efforts in order to bring the benefits of evolving UX design to the broadest audience possible.

Voice User Interface (VUI)

What once seemed like something straight out of science fiction is now a firm fixture in people’s homes. Digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home let you do everything from making shopping lists to closing your blinds at night, all with just a few spoken words.

With VUI now becoming commonplace, 2021 is the year we expect to see large corporations incorporating it into their UX principles. (Imagine booking beauty appointments or hotel stays seamlessly via a digital voice assistant, for example). That will mean UX Developers and Solution Architects need to think on their feet and develop new VUI design frameworks to guide their efforts.

UX Design Meets Ethical Design

As technology develops and the social ubiquity of social platforms like Facebook and Twitter increases, the value of people’s personal information increases. With it comes further legislation designed to protect users, like the 2018 rollout of GDPR.

This then poses a moral dilemma: how do UX designers continue to provide intuitive software experiences that don’t ask for more information than is really needed, and also allow users to balance life both looking at, and away from, a screen?

A human-centred, ethical design philosophy could be the answer. Seeing that develop in the field of UX design should be one of the software fields biggest trends for 2021 and beyond.

What Can UX Do For Your Business?

So that’s our look at UX design: the past, present and future. Were there some things you didn’t know about UX design in there?

If you need software designed with the user experience in mind, we can help. Check out our UX Design Service page to find out how, or get in touch to talk things through.