Since his death in October 2011 a great deal has been written about Steve Jobs, much of which describes him as a visionary who, at least according to Michael Bloomberg, ranks alongside Edison and Einstein as one of the great geniuses of the past century. And whether you agree with Bloomberg or think that his assessment may be a step too far, it is impossible to deny that Jobs - and his team at Apple –changed the way we live, not least in terms of our interaction with technology.
Known for describing things as ‘insanely great’ and always one for a great soundbite, one of the many recorded Jobs quotes is: “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” And it is clear that this philosophy underpinned the development of the intuitive, touch-based interfaces that are at the heart of products such as the iPhone and iPad. What’s more, we can see from Jobs’ early insistence on special fonts being used in the very first Apple computers that from the very start he had a keen eye on the user interface (UI).
Indeed, the impact of Apple’s focus on great interfaces goes far beyond user enjoyment of the Apple products themselves. For what Jobs did with his inspired approach to UI design was build in all of us an expectation – an expectation that any interface on any device or system (be it consumer, industrial or commercial) should deliver a user experience at least comparable with that of an iPad or iPhone. Anything less is simply not good enough.
From medical hardware and retail terminals to industrial control systems OEMs in a broad range of areas now realise they must rise to this ‘user experience challenge’. For not only does a good user experience mean a happy user but it can also lead to benefits such as improvements in productivity and efficiency or reduced operating costs.
So, surely the real Steve Jobs legacy is this - a world where we have the right to expect intuitive and easy-to-use interfaces, built around (or augmented with) simple but powerful touch-based operation, that bring products to life. Or, as the great man could well have put it: “A better user experience for all”. If you want further inspiration from the great man himself, why not take a look at his Stanford University speech graduates back in 2005.