The Link Between User Experience and the 1984 Super Bowl
Ease-of-use helps sell the Macintosh
Author: Joe Dumas, Oracle Applications User Experience
Revised: July 20, 2010
First published: Mar. 16, 2009
The first Macintosh commercial appeared at the 1984 Super Bowl. At that time, people were beginning to purchase home devices with complex controls: VCRs, microwave ovens, phone recorders, and soon, the mobile phone. Consumers were becoming aware of the value of learning to use a product without the need for aids such as manuals or human installers.
While that first advertisement was not about how user-friendly the Macintosh computer was, subsequent commercials were. The Macintosh ads were the first to promote ease-of-use as a primary feature. This concept got some attention, because a computer was by far the most complex electronic device available to consumers.
The promotion of the Macintosh was ahead of its time in another way: it touted the whole process of buying, setting up, and using the computer. We now refer to that as the user experience.
The Birth of User Experience Professionals
|Creating more features, called “feature creep,” did not provide added value to products if users could not make them work or if they obscured the use of more basic features.
It’s more than coincidence that the first society of user experience (UX) professionals was formed in 1982, just two years before that ad. UX professionals began to see that there were common problems with controls and menus that cut across not only consumer products but many other markets such as computer software, medicine, engineering, manufacturing, and telecommunications. In fact, all of these markets were creating devices that were computers of some sort. Several universities began offering courses in human-computer interaction.
|Illustration by Eric Stilan, Oracle Applications User Experience
While the Macintosh never garnered a large share of the desktop computer market, it did penetrate the education market, and many early UX professionals used a Macintosh in high school or college. The focus on ease-of-use in the promotion of the Macintosh gave UX professionals a popular example to point to when they began to migrate into software development teams. They saw the distinction between functionality and usability. Creating more features, called “feature creep,” did not provide added value to products if users could not make them work or if they obscured the use of more basic features. As companies competed for supremacy with products that had similar functions, improved ease of learning and use was recognized as essential. Oracle took up this challenge early in its evolution.
Building Usability into Software at Oracle
Creating quality products in the high-tech world of computer software is both a technical and management challenge. In the 21st century, we take for granted that the usability of products is a critical feature, and we have come to expect it.
There are more than 150 Applications UX professionals who work with development teams at Oracle to build usability into enterprise software. Oracle’s Applications products are many times more complex and powerful than the original Macintosh, but the commitment to a superior user experience remains a key goal.