I’m delighted that User Experience is finally a widely recognized term with corresponding value. It was an evolution, as industries always are. And many professionals have been designing for users all along. Job titles are all over the place, but a practitioner falls into the category somehow - even if they don’t even realize it.
In 1995, I was in 5th grade at Reamstown Elementary School. All I worried about was making sure I got my homework done on time so I could play outside as long as possible before dark.
Around this time, Don Norman was coining the term “User Experience Design” while working on products I would later rely on in my journey.
Since 2003, I’ve been designing web products. While my experience has grown from business websites to the web as an application platform (yay for distribution and consumer market growth!), the projects I’ve worked on were based on business goals. They were strategic solutions for business growth tied to full brand experiences wherever possible. I've always tried not to operate in a silo, and my early marketing experience fueled. From corporate website redesigns, to social strategy, to growing a brand with content marketing and live events, this holistic approach has translated to a ecosystem of customer touchpoints before I ever even used a mobile app.
Back then, there wasn’t a name for it. At least, not many referred to it as UX. It was just design.
It still is just design.
But now, designers are able to differentiate from other more niche disciplines, and businesses are recognizing the value.
Users are being consulted, while we evolve into problem-discoverers as well as solvers.
Finally, design is leading business and users are experiencing (and expecting) the benefits.
UX in the Age of Apps
What shift has happened between 1995 and today? App Culture. When iPhone was released in 2007, there became a market for micro-applications and the consumerization of software really ramped up. More of the general audience have internet access at all times. There became a recognized need for automating and connecting tasks that now existed. The bar began to rise.
Formerly, software was for enterprise and professional use, outside of the few consumer software applications for power-users. But with the rise of app culture, the value of technology was finally realized by a larger audience. The term "app” is for every day people.
Confusion between UI / UX
I think this era is also to blame for the confusion between UI and UX because they can often be related (UI as part of an UX solution). Movements like #NoUI encourage awareness of more than just user interface thinking. But you can’t pull user interface thinking outside of the user experience as it is a big part of many touchpoints with engagement today.
To design an interface you need to understand UX. To design for a user - interface or not - you need to understand context, business needs and your users. So while UX is a now a named field, let's recognize UX design for what it is. Just plain old good design.