Pre-print UX

Everything today is about user experience.

The standard ISO definition of user experience has it as ‘a person’s perceptions and responses that result from the use or anticipated use of a product, system or service’.

The earliest case of user experience has to do with books before the age of print. Readers’ engagement with manuscripts is the earliest evidence of what UX means.

Books are at the same time products, systems and services whose use has always been a question of user experience. Of reader experience.

Books have aroused strong emotions in users since the beginning of writing. Magic, affection, disgust, the books have been on the receiving end of most human reactions.

Script developed in part as a result of UX. Page layout evolved as a function of user response to the organisation of information and cultural requirements (education, religion, etc). Most typographical characters and practices from the pilcrow  to the rubric, column, heading, etc, is a result of UX before the printing press. The hyperlink is one of the most advanced editorial devices ever conceived and it was first systematically used in medieval glossed manuscripts to link up the main text on the page to that of other works.

The UX of books is constantly evolving. The way we engage with books is always being redefined. The UX of a papyrus roll is different from that of a vellum codex, and different from a paperback. Yet we cannot imagine the history of writing removed from that of user experience.

It is our experience and the projection of all future experiences that define the way we engage with the objects around us.

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