A UX Mindset From the Past

Looking back to the 1940s when computers started to play a role in the global economy, people didn’t believe in a big future of computers. In fact, Thomas Watson, who was president of IBM back then, said that “there is a world market for maybe five computers”. How wrong he was. But in order to understand that statement, you have to know that at this time computers were built from scientists for scientists. Some time should pass until computers got a new purpose.

Thirty years later, applications like Atari’s Pong or the Color TV-Game popped up and started to shift computers into a far more entertainment driven niche. It was in the 80s when IT specialists, designers, and psychologists started building computers for the masses. Microsoft and Apple became big, and again the focus shifted to another perspective: usability. And so the rise of computers kept going, utilizing social media, bringing up smartphones, IoT devices and new technologies. Right now we are at a point where, with the use of augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality, the borders between the digital world and the world we use to know start to blend.

A Mindset from the 70s

As funny as it may sounds, there are still a lot of companies and even industries that understand computers solely as machines that keep the system stable. Maybe even being afraid of changing their perspective. Where do you want your business to be placed? Are you up to speed?

Our ideology at work is to relentlessly follow the approach of user centred design. This means, independent of where the mindset of you, your business or your industry is located on the timeline of computer evolution, the user has to be put in the centre of everything you do!

A Definition of UX Design

Sometimes referred to as the UX Design Unicorn, when we think of a UX designer, it usually is someone who covers more or less all of these skills.

UX Design Unicorn

While the skillset is important, another integral component of UX design is the workflow and attitude shown off during everyday business. We like to work in the Double Diamond Process which describes iterations starting from a problem, proceeding to a problem definition and ending up with a prototype or solution.

The quality of your UX design can be measured by KPIs such as conversion rate, time on task, drop-off rate or count of sessions per user. Usually, those parameters are selected individually for each project.

Economic Impact

Taking the very popular example of Amazon is an easy way to convince people of the power of UX design. Jeff Bezos understood the impact of a great user experience very early and invested 100x more in customer experience than in advertising in the first year of Amazon.

Forester Research recently stated something similar, namely that every dollar invested in user experience, will return an average of $100.

UX return on investment, Forbes

If you keep on digging through the big companies you will soon notice that all of them understood this factor and have serious UX power within their teams. Even during the last half-century, many companies stacked up their design teams. The following graphic shows the change of the respective ratios of designers as opposed to other employees through the last years.


A very much recommendable read on the return of investment with UX is “The Trillion Dollar UX Problem” where some of the previous figures were pulled from.

4 Take-Aways

At the end of this article, we want to provide you with five brief principles that can help you in improving your UX design situation.

  1. Think out of the Box, outside of the Box
    Having ideation workshops is great, but please overthink doing them in your own conference rooms where everyone will have a hard to to get out of their standard mindset.
  2. Start with the Problem, not the Solution
    Don’t precipitate decisions, it’s all about starting with the problem. Just remember this.
  3. You are not the User
    Keep that in mind, even if you are sure you know the issues that your users are facing — talk to your very real users.
  4. Everybody has a Plan until they get punched in the Face
    This wonderful quote comes from Mike Tyson. You need to be prepared for possible setbacks. It often times is better not to be fixated on one solution you might have in mind, as the user’s voice (or fist) might hit you unexpectedly.

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A UX Mindset From the Past was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.