The way users interact with computers and software has changed dramatically over the years, and continues to evolve as technology advances. Some of you may remember the days of green and black text on a monitor displaying the commands that were typed on the keyboard, when only rarely did you have a reason to use a mouse. With a shelf full of paper manuals to refer to when you needed to find answers and a box full of floppy disks to save the data you needed, you couldn’t help but hope for an easier way to do things than the manual methods you were used to. Those unfamiliar with computers found them intimidating to learn and generally were able to avoid using them.

Then operating platforms such as Windows came along. They changed the user experience from keyboard-focused to mouse clicking, and brought along many new visual changes. It felt much “friendlier” to use a computer, which made it possible for many people who were hesitant to use computers to try them out. Big thick paper manuals were still around, but you could also sometimes find answers you needed in help files.

Time passed and technology advanced, as did software and the experience of using it. The internet opened opportunities, and more powerful computers allowed for more powerful solutions to run on them. As capabilities increased, so did the demand for bigger, more powerful solutions. It seemed everyone needed to see everything they needed all in one place all at the same time. The motto of the day was “give me everything, and give it to me now!” The user experience actually started to become more of a challenge, because of the difficulties caused when developers tried to fit every bit of information onto one screen. This often resulted in users barely being able to find what they really needed. The designs were focused on getting all the information out, rather than the experience of the person who was using the system.

Fast forward a few more years to the age of the smartphone, Wi-Fi, cell networks and tablets. Anything you want, right at your fingertips — literally! Touch screens are replacing the traditional mouse and keyboard and smaller, more mobile devices are dominating the market.  All the knowledge you want, quickly accessed without paper. It’s no longer all about getting everything you need all at once, but has refined to getting what you need when you need it in such a way that you can easily digest the information. The solutions still need to solve complex problems, but more emphasis is being put on the experience the users face and providing solutions that fit their needs, instead of forcing the user to fit the solution.

We are seeing a significant trend towards simplification. The user experience has gotten even friendlier to those who are less inclined to use computers, tablets or phones. Where once people were able to easily avoid using any computers or digital devices, now they are so deeply integrated into our society they can no longer be avoided.

The user experience has changed dramatically over the years. As software solutions (like Tyler’s) move forward with technology, we all must adapt to the changing expectations of users and the experiences they want and demand. What do I see on the horizon for the near future? Bigger, more interactive touch screens everywhere, virtual screens on display and prompting interaction, motion detection responsiveness, glasses that display information, easily and instantly accessible data everywhere…

Changes keep coming, and the user experience will change with each one.  What do you feel will impact you the most going forward? How do you expect your experience to change?

One thought on “A Brief History of the Computer User Experience

  1. While I agree with you about the ever changing state of technology, I’m going to say that what is to come is going to be outside the box you’re looking at right now. One thing that seems constant is that the changes, when viewed as a whole after a generation or so (like you’re doing now), are nearly unimaginable to the majority of the people in the current generation. The things you envision, I’d agree, are likely outcomes. I’d add in significant increases in speech recognition and usage of that tech. – more advanced than that used with Siri or Google Now. These, however, are easily imaginable and natural extensions of currently available technology. The coming generation of engineers and inventors are probably already coming up with things that will make us feel old and stodgy.

    So, to answer your questions: 1) I have no idea what I expect to impact me the most, but I’m sure it is beyond what is currently available/imaginable and 2) Constantly.

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