UX is 2.5 Million Years Older than UI
Design Thinking and Journey Mapping are two methods that can be used to better understand and improve the user experience. It is a common misconception that UX and UI are interchangeable terms. However, User Experience (UX) is much older than the term User Interface (UI) and dates back to the beginning of the human race. UX didn't start when the graphical user interface (GUI) was presented in the "The Mother of All Demo's" in the 1960s by Douglas Engelbart. Engelbart was dedicated to enhancing the human-computer interaction and invented an interface that represented the functions of a computer. The UI was just one part of his vision, and he also demonstrated the use of a mouse and a keyboard.
So, why are UX and UI used interchangeably? Does this mean that people didn't have user experiences before 1960? Of course not! People had very meaningful experiences and somehow survived. However, the invention of the UI has changed the way we interact with technology and, in some cases, has even lessened the user experience. Many activities, such as writing a letter and mailing it, playing a real game of solitaire with real cards on a rainy day, or watching a live game of baseball, have been replaced with digital alternatives that can be done on a smartphone or tablet.
But where does the UX part come in? UX is not just about the UI; it is about all the things that contribute to a user's experience. This is where Design Thinking and Journey Mapping come in. Design Thinking is a problem-solving approach that puts the user at the center of the design process. It involves empathizing with the user, defining the problem, ideating potential solutions, prototyping and testing the solutions, and iterating until the best solution is found. Journey Mapping, on the other hand, is a tool used to visualize the user's experience and identify pain points and areas for improvement. It involves creating a step-by-step map of the user's journey, including their thoughts, emotions, and actions at each step.
Let's take hunger as an example. Millions of years ago, a person was hungry and needed to get food. An early human could have many of the same unique user experiences to achieve that goal, ranging from waking up, trying to make breakfast, realizing they had no food, searching for an animal, almost getting killed by the animal, winning the battle against the animal, dragging the carcass back to the cave, preparing the meat, starting a fire, cooking the meat, and finally eating dinner. By using Design Thinking and Journey Mapping, we can analyze this user experience and identify pain points and areas for improvement, such as finding a safer and more efficient way to hunt for food.
Today, a person is hungry and needs to get food. A modern-day person can have many unique user experiences a day to achieve that goal, ranging from waking up, trying to make breakfast, realizing they have no food, driving to the store, searching the shelves for the food, paying for the food, driving back home, preparing dinner, and finally eating dinner. By using Design Thinking and Journey Mapping, we can analyze this user experience and identify pain points and areas for improvement, such as finding a more convenient and cost-effective way to get food.
So the next time you say UX/UI me something, UX is not just about the UI. It is about understanding all the factors that contribute to a user's experience, including their goals, the steps to achieve those goals, and how they feel about the process. By using Design Thinking and Journey Mapping, we can better understand the user's experience and create technology that truly enhances people's lives, rather than just providing them with a digital alternative to real-world experiences. By putting the user at the center of the design process and using tools such as Design Thinking and Journey Mapping, we can ensure that the technology we create is truly user-centric and meets their needs and expectations.