Happy World Usability Day! Yes today is that time of year when all usability practitioners reflect on another year of helping businesses to improve their user experience and making the lives of everyday people better. It’s a day when we can reflect on the improvements we’ve brought to the world. We’re a little like silent heroes, busily working away to make the average persons day a little easier and less frustrating, without them ever realising who we are, just how much we fight for good design on their behalf or the end difference we make to their lives. Great design is invisible.
History of usability
This year is a particularly special anniversary for usability because as a discipline, the origins of usability and user experience are grounded in industrial efficiency during the world wars and of course the year 2014 marks the 100 year commemoration of the first world war. It was during war time that the value of human factors and ergonomics was recognised as a great way to create more efficient and effective soldiers, i.e. better killing machines. Our usability predecessors spent their days working on the battleground, ensuring that soldiers could get on with their daily tasks in the most optimal manner. What kinds of things did they do? Well, their work involved much more focus on human factors and ergonomics, taking into account the effects of workload, fatigue, physical task design, mental workload, teamwork, environmental effects.
It was during the second world war, that practitioners expanded their focus to aircraft and how through more intuitive design of airplane cockpits, pilot error could be greatly reduced.
Usability as we know it, didn’t really come into effect until the 1980s but it always struggled to gain recognition and respect. The term User Experience helped raise awareness of usability into the mainstream and the last 5 years have seen a phenomenal increase. What was once a highly skilled profession of human factors and usability engineers is now fragmented. However, the benefits are that usability finally has achieved the aim we all had many years ago of raising the awareness of its importance and those of us who have been around a while no longer have to fight our corner like we used to have to, which is a brilliant achievement! That in itself is worth raising a glass to. We did it!
Keep It Usable is an active supporter of the Royal British Legion. If you would like to help please get in touch.