Have you noticed that software seems to be easier to use recently? There's a reason for that, and it's the UX revolution - more than just a fad or a trend, it's a major industry movement.
Major trends may be obvious, but sometimes its useful to frame the trend with words and carefully explore the tends and its implications. The tech world is going through such a trend right now.
First, a brief history of major tech trends:
I - From monolithic mainframe computers to desktop client/server computers.
II - From text terminals and DOS screens to a graphical/multitasking screen.
III - From local area networks to the Internet and the cloud.
These tech trends are more than just changes of a paradigm, they define eras of technology. The mindset and skills for one era did not translate into the next . Each one of these tech trends made and broke companies and careers.
The trend that’s occurring now involved the user experience or UX.
IV - the UX revolution.
It used to be that making something possible that was previously impossible was enough for a software company or career to be successful. That’s no longer true. Today, the question is not if the software solves a problem, but how easily it solve the problem. The user experience is now more important than the algorithm. This is for two primary reasons:
1) Due to the rise of the iPad, iPhone, Facebook, Amazon, and other well designed user experiences, users expect a polished user experience and have a low tolerance of any poorly designed user experience.
2) The cloud has made it possible for any startup to produce, advertise, and deliver software quickly world-wide. No longer does it take a large company with a distribution channel to market software. Software conferences regularly host sessions on how to launch a software company in a weekend. This intensifies the competition.
So what is UX an how is it different from the user interface?
User experience design does involve the user interface, but UX is more about the psychology of how a user thinks and reacts to various information and how it’s presented. It’s a new field of study, but there’s a deep and growing body of knowledge about how to lower the stress of a user and make the user more productive while increasing the quality of the work product.
Any programmer can put together a form, and with some thought it might be a very nice form. A graphic designer can help design an interface that aesthetically pleasing. While UX is a skill that any programmer or software designer can learn, it’s also a new career field and position on software teams. When psychology and human-computer interaction knowledge are added to the software UX reaches a whole new level.