I mean, come on!

adobe hates you

Let’s say I were to ask for an explanation—from one of my smarty-pants developer friends—of why it is that I need to reboot after an update to one of the top five least important applications on my computer. They would probably drone on with some incomprehensible explanation that I would just ignore anyway.  In reality, I wouldn’t bother asking because the reason is not important to me. It’s 2014 and the personal computer has been around long enough that many of the people who worked on those first computers have died of old age. It’s an unreasonable inconvenience in a time when applications like this should be obsolete and the maintenance of these applications should be automatic.

Creativity for the masses

Marc Barros, of Inc., published a short, but fantastic article on how to bring creativity back into an organization. It’s not only the way to bring it back, but it’s how every organization should start out. I know people that will not agree with many, if not most of these things. It’s no coincidence that they are not entrepreneurial-minded—the group that I believe a list like this speaks to the loudest.

Here are five changes you can make today to bring creativity back to your culture:

  1. Offer Unlimited Vacation
  2. Let Employees Work Remotely
  3. Ditch the Meetings
  4. Nix Department Goals
  5. Give Plenty of  Feedback

Sounds good to me.

Harming the experience

kuow-listen-online-downloadThis morning, I had a hankering to listen to my local public radio station to catch up on what’s happening in the world. Most of the time I listen through my Sonos system (a wireless system that allows me to stream music throughout my house). But today, for some reason, I thought I would listen via their website. Oops.

Now, I’m a smart guy (my wife told me this just yesterday), but this experience was off-putting even for me—someone who can actually decipher the convoluted options. It reflects an all too common problem with many companies’ online presence: They don’t spend the time to make continual updates.

kuow-listen-online

The fact that I am faced with such myriad options is not only ridiculous but it’s completely unnecessary. Why do I need to be burdened with selecting how I listen to the stream? There are plenty of technical solutions that exist that allow me to listen to a stream without doing anything other than clicking a big button that says “Listen Now.”

The other troubling thing about this experience is that it’s inconsiderate toward many of their core users who comprise a generation that are willing to be online but are not as savvy as your twelve-year-old nephew. I’m talking about parents, grandparents, and your great-aunt in Albuquerque. What is Real Audio? What does MP3 high | MP3 low mean? And my favorite, Copy and paste this URL into your MP3 player. Oh, I get it now, that seems so easy. What’s an MP3 player?

All these problems would be moot if they just started the stream without making me do it for them. They don’t expect me to head over the station in the morning and turn on the lights, so why do they expect me to do this?

It probably seems unfair that I’m picking on the local NPR station but it doesn’t matter what type of company it is. They want money just as much as the other guy. Engaging with users is the reason these websites exist, whether for profit or not. Taking the time to know them and providing an appropriate experience is essential to being part of the online community.

Sharing is caring

I’m in the midst of creating a mobile strategy for my current employer and thought I would share some of the more interesting resources that I found:

 

Ferrari Configurator!

As with their cars, Ferrari has created a really fantastic experience with their 458 configurator. Not only is the 458 gorgeous, but it’s a technological marvel with a seemingly endless number of options. The configurator will keep even the most critical desk jockey occupied for an entire lunch break. 

Overall, the configurator looks terrific, but it could use more contrast; viewing in my bright office made reading the text sometimes an eye-squinting affair. And while offering decent, and obvious, points of navigation—which is an important interaction that not all configurators do well—if I had to pick some nits, I would like the sections—both parent and child—to be more visually distinct from one another. As they are now, it’s not immediately obvious where a section begins and ends. Also, when clicked, a parent section expands horizontally to expose its children but in doing so the following parent section label is moved. Not a deal breaker, but not awesome.

As far as that red slider thingy at the bottom of the UI goes, besides being made taller, I’m not sold on the idea that it’s really necessary at all. I understand that it’s marking where the user is located within the work-flow, but since the user is able to navigate to any point in the flow at any time, an indicator of progress is not valid here.

Other than these small issues—that are easily ignored—the configurator is tons of fun, which after all is the real goal of these kinds of things. And for those of us who don’t quite (yet) have the scratch for the real thing, it’s nice that Ferrari throws us a bone with some cool online eye candy to kill some time until we do.

Related articles: Autopilot

Don’t just make it better

Every once in a while I need to remind myself that interaction design is not just about making a new thing better than an old thing. It’s ensuring that the thing—new or old—provides a great experience in comparison to nothing other than itself. It’s either good or it isn’t. Judging that something is working well for your users based on how it’s better than it used to be is no guarantee that your design is any good.

When looking for a new home, do you think that it’s reasonable to make your selection based on the current home’s condition as compared to its old condition? What if it’s a dump but the agent tells you that it also used to be a crack house? Would you buy it because a dump is better than a crack house? Of course not. So, if you, your colleagues, or clients claim that the existing experience is good because it’s better than it used to be, please stop. You’re doing yourself—and, most importantly, all your users—a disservice.

Instead rely on user testing and heuristic evaluations that will provide you the concrete data you need to ensure that what you have created is truly great and not just better than it used to be.

Oh, the irony

Several days ago, while checking email on her phone (natch), my wife received the above email from Microsoft. It seemed reasonable enough until she clicked the iPhone link within the “improved methods to get Hotmail on your smartphone” section. She received the following in response to her apparently misguided action:

Really? It’s hard to tell what Microsoft’s intention was here. Did they assume that since she wanted to read about using a smartphone to read her email that she would be using a PC to read the email? Considering that 27% of the word’s population (that’s 1.08 Billion for those who are counting) has a smartphone and is on it nearly constantly, it would seem that Microsoft would have made the connection between clicking on a link about smartphones and smartphone usage. They did not.

It should come as no surprise to anyone, especially Microsoft, that she was reading the email on her phone considering that they created a massive infographic that goes into ad naseum-detail about the subject of smartphone usage. According to them, not only is she the most active demographic but she spends twice as much time on her phone than she does eating. So, I have to wonder what they were thinking when they thought it was totally fine to tell her that she can’t use her phone to view information about using her phone. To Microsoft’s credit mobile phone usage won’t officially take over PC usage until 2014 so they can sit back a relax until then.

There’s a reason irony only works in books and movies.