In his book The Most Human Human, Brian Christian explained that “UX — short for User Experience — refers to the experience a given user has using a piece of software or technology, rather than the purely technical capacities of that device.”
But since its inception, the computer industry has been primarily concerned with technical capacities. Computer advancements have followed the oft-cited Moore’s Law, a trend accurately described by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore in 1965, which states the number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit, thereby increasing processing speed and memory capacity, doubles approximately every two years.
However, as Christian explained, for a while in the computer industry, “an arms race between hardware and software created the odd situation that computers were getting exponentially faster but not faster at all to use, as software made ever-larger demands on systems resources, at a rate that matched and sometimes outpaced hardware improvements.” This was sometimes called “Andy and Bill’s Law,” referring to Andy Grove of Intel and Bill Gates of Microsoft. “What Andy giveth, Bill taketh away.”
But these advancements in computational power, along with increased network bandwidth, parallel processing frameworks (e.g., Hadoop), scalable and distributed models (e.g., cloud computing), and other advancements (e.g., in-memory technology) are making powerful technical capacities so much more commonplace, and so much less expensive, that the computer industry is responding to consumers demanding that the primary concern be user experience — hence the so-called Consumerization of IT.
“As computing technology moves increasingly toward mobile devices,” Christian noted, “product development becomes less about the raw computing horsepower and more about the overall design of the product and its fluidity, reactivity, and ease of use.”
David Snow and Alex Bakker have recently blogged about the challenges and opportunities facing enterprises and vendors with respect to the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement, where more employees, and employers, are embracing mobile devices.
Although the old mantra of function over form is not getting replaced by form over function, form factor, interface design, and the many other aspects of User Experience are becoming the unrelenting UX Factor of the continuing consumerization trend.