Personal technology is usually pretty easy to use, and, if it’s not, it’s not your fault.” Walt Mossberg

Steve Vasallo, general partner at Foundation Capital and author of “The Way to Design”, recently wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal about the design revolution that’s been occurring in consumer tech since the 1990’s that’s been making hardware and software easier to use. Hardware and software, once the realm of engineers for other engineers, began it’s first tentative steps towards the laymen crowd of everyday consumers and has been making progress ever since.

This progress is best summed up by Walt Mossberg, the recently retired technology journalist for Wall Street Journal, and his thoughts from his first article in 1991 as compared to his last in 2017.

1991: “Personal computers are just too hard to use, and it isn’t your fault.”

2017: “Personal technology is usually pretty easy to use, and, if it’s not, it’s not your fault.”

Mr. Vasallo, having been both a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and product designer, credits this shift in ease of use around hardware and software to one thing – design.

He also goes on to describe how companies like Google, Samsung, Dropbox, Slack and Airbnb are either retooling themselves as design-centric or were started by designers. And for good reason – according to the Design Value Index by the Design Management Institute (DMI), “Design-driven companies outperform the S&P 500 by 219%.”

Design is still sometimes misunderstood, however. Mr. Vasallo clarifies by saying:

“By design, I don’t mean a spiffy logo or a pretty website. Design now also refers to a methodology and a mind-set that place the experience of the end user above all.”

We love seeing how the conversation around design has evolved. Especially the emphasis on placing end users and their experiences at the forefront, as we’ve been passionate about user research and UX design for the past 10 years. We also strongly believe that if something isn’t easy to use it’s not the user’s fault. Particularly now that there is an entire industry around bettering the experience for users. 

Not being easy to use is not the user's fault when an industry for bettering user experiences existsClick To Tweet

The fact that successful organizations are embracing UX research and user-centered design, and that wildly successful startups are implementing it from their inception, is a sign to us that our long held belief that experience is a competitive differentiator has become mainstream. 

We’re always happy when organizations invest in designing excellent experiences because it means that ultimately us, as end users and consumers of these products and services, end up as the winners. When news of this article spread, we asked a few of our most passionate executives about their thoughts on how UX design has changed since then.

Alfonso de la Nuez, CEO and Co-Founder:

It’s tough to build and deliver great UX. It takes a lot of effort! Things get done when leadership takes charge and actually invests in the necessary resources. Having been in the industry for about 20 years, I love to see how far we’ve gone when business publications such as the WSJ, Forbes and others cover the importance of great UX design. This means two things: 1) Great UX is linked to financial performance, and 2) C-level Executives get it.

Roberto Lino, VP of Marketing:

Design in this form is about the abstraction of complexity. The challenge lies in removing obstacles in experiences so that what’s left is straightforward and intuitive. Our UserZoom platform enables Designers, Researchers, and Product Managers to quickly and more effectively identify these obstacles even before the product gets to the market. Having the ability to test digital experiences is extremely important in a world where it’s as easy to delete an app as it is to install it. First impressions are everything when user expectations are so high.

John Crouch, VP of Sales:

It’s great to hear confirmation of our mission from such tech luminaries as Steve Vasallo and Walter Mossberg. As an investor and a journalist, respectively, they have had the opportunity to observe a wide array of technology companies; their observation that good design and user experience separates the winners from the losers is a powerful reminder that this should be a priority for any business with customer-facing digital assets.

From all of us here at UserZoom, we wish you a fruitful retirement Mr. Mossberg and an extended thank you to Mr. Vasallo for the article.