The history of UX design: The good, bad, and UGLY

User experience is (or at least should be) the main focus of any design. UX design has been at the forefront of literally every project ever, and it can either make or break any project.

You can sink as much time and effort into a brand as you want, but if the UX is bad, then nobody will go for it. The idea is to make users happy and excited about your brand, not scare them away with hideous UX.

As many good examples of UX as you can find online, there is an equal amount of terrible ones, too. Whether it’s a website, video game, mobile app, or even a physical product, the user should always feel like the experience is convenient and somewhat entertaining. How’s That possible? Glad you asked. First, let’s start with a few good examples of UX design:

The good

People often associate UX design with something online. Maybe it’s some sort of tool or some pretty and easy to use interface. The truth is that brands as a whole can be UX oriented.

I’m sure we can all name a few notorious brands that have made their mark by doing whatever they can to make the customer happy.

For the sake of this part of the list, however, we’re going to go over those online examples, and then we can talk about a few ways you might be able to optimize your own online

Flipsnack’s ease of navigation

The team over at Flipsnack has worked endlessly to make sure that each and every customer they have get’s the experience they pay for. Most people would think of a tool that allows you to customize your own catalogs and magazines as a complicated mess of spaghetti that you can’t even eat, but not Flipsnack.

Right from the get-go, you understand how to navigate the tool, which is quite impressive for a tool that offers quite a few customization options.

Starbucks’ purchase history

Starbucks is no stranger to great UX designs. Built within its mobile app is a smart system that understands each user’s purchase history. The app will keep track of all your previous orders for your convenience.

All you have to do is click and you’ll be on your merry way. Compare this to ordering food on any other site or app, where you have to manually check the entire menu or at least search for what you’re looking for.

Having a purchase history isn’t anything extraordinary, but it’s the thought of the customer that really puts this one on top.

PayPal’s super simple interface

I don’t know about you, but anytime I go on a new website, and it looks too complicated, I quickly find a new route for my web surfing adventures. There is absolutely nothing more daunting than having to basically crawl through a maze to get to the page you’re looking for.

On both the mobile app and the main site, PayPal has taken extra special care of their customers in this department. This isn’t to say that PayPal has always been this way. Before 2014, you’d be lucky to come out of your PayPal experience with nothing but a mild headache.

Luckily, we have a new interface that’s as straightforward as it gets.

Finalmouse’s restock emailing

If you’re into the PC gaming scene, then you might have heard about the latest and greatest gaming mouse on the market. Unfortunately for a lot of people, these mice are a lot harder to get a hold of than most other options.

In most cases, the site sells out of not just their latest product, but every single mouse they have available in a matter of minutes. Finalmouse saw this issue and immediately went into action by offering email notifications to anxious customers as soon as a website restock is announced.

Not only are the waiting customers notified, but they’re given plenty of notice to warm up their clicking fingers. Understandably, still not everyone gets a new mouse, but Finalmouse really didn’t have to go the extra mile considering that they sell out of all their product anyways.

How do you accomplish good UX?

Well, if that’s not the most loaded question ever! The truth is, good UX depends a lot on the product and how the brand reacts to certain problems. That being said, there are a few simple points to follow when talking about good UX:

  • Remove all the clutter

Listen, I know that it can be hard to get all the necessary information onto one screen, but there are lots of areas that you can optimize or even delete completely.

As much as it might hurt you, find a way to display all your information and keep the website clean. This will also help with loading times, which is a big deal for literally everyone.

  • Shorten your content

If you run a blog, then you know that long-form content usually ranks better than short form content. But that doesn’t mean your main page has to be loaded down with content. The main page serves as a home base to help navigate users through your webpage.

If it’s loaded down with words and images, not only will users get exhausted trying to find their way through all the mayhem, they will simply leave entirely. Again, this will shorten your webpage load time.

  • Make the necessary buttons easy to find

Nobody should have to track down the search button. Put it out in the open!

  • Make everything convenient for the user

This tip may sound sort of generic but think about this point as if you were in their shoes. People come online and browse because it’s much easier than having to get dressed and go out in public. If you disrupt that convenience, they’re sure to leave.

Of course, there’s probably an endless amount of tips one could give to optimize UX design. The most important thing to remember is that whether it’s an online restaurant menu or an online money transfer tool, people don’t want to have to bend over backwards to get what they want.

The bad and ugly

It’s no secret that bad design leads to bad user experience. But good design is sort of objective, isn’t it? In some cases, that can be true, but there are a few universal trends that people typically go for to play it safe.

Notice the word “typically” in the paragraph above. As much as we’d all like to imagine designers making the right choice for the sake of UX, it’s not always the case.

With that said, here are a few examples for us to learn from, and maybe laugh at a little:

Adobe Photoshop

Photoshop is a program that I think everyone is familiar with in some regard. Even if you’ve never used it, you’ve undoubtedly heard someone say, “I’ll just photoshop it.”

If you have used it, then you know how absolutely hectic it is.

Granted, there are quite a few features that are integrated into photoshop, so it makes sense that it’s kind of hard to navigate.

With all of these features, it can take someone years to master Photoshop.


Yeah, that trillion dollar company that every seems to not get enough of? Notoriously terrible at UX design.

In this case, we’re not really talking about software, but a physical product. As a matter of fact, quite a few different ones.

As a giant in the tech industry, you would expect Apple to constantly pump out the latest and greatest, but that’s often far from what we get.

For years, Apple absolutely refused to add a second mouse button.

On top of that, we haven’t seen a built-in auxiliary port in an iPhone since the iPhone 6.

To top all of this off, they have some of the most expensive phones with some of the worst battery life.

All that being said, there are still plenty of Apple enthusiasts out there, and they’re not going away anytime soon.

RCI racing

RCI racing isn’t as well known as some of the other names on this list, but we sure can learn a lot from just a quick glance at their main page:

At first glance, it may not seem all that terrible, but let me just remind you that that is an entire screen capture.

If you can get past the neon yellow that all but catches the screen on fire, you’ll have to navigate through bland text, sketchy looking links, and use the scroll bar to go left and right.

The conclusion

Well, we’ve made it to the end. We’ve been through a lot in this article, but it’s all for the best.

UX design is an essential part of customer interaction, and it should be the top priority of any designer, whether it’s a website or physical product.

The best tip anyone can give you as a designer is to keep the customer in mind. If you don’t think they’d like it, odds are that they probably won’t.

In addition to that tip, another tip would be to spend the extra money and hours making it perfect for the customer. After all, if it weren’t for them, we might not have these opportunities at all.

Melissa Thompson

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.