Earlier this month Nokia Conversations posted a poll for the most important feature in a web browsing device and the results are in from 461 respondents. No surprise, the ‘all of the above’ choice was the top-rated feature, but following that were ‘big screen,’ and ‘high speed connectivity.’
I flew on Lufthansa during a recent trip to Europe. Not only was it one of the nicest flying experiences that I have ever had, but it also turned out to be an opportunity to experience a very well-done interactive experience. Despite some shortcomings, Lufthansa’s touch screen entertainment application was a prime case study in good user experience design. I have seen and used other in-flight applications on other airlines, but they were always clunky, often confusing, and not very enjoyable to use. Lufthansa’s application (pictured below), on the other hand, was elegant, simple, intuitive, and did everything that a typical passenger would likely need without mucking up the experience with useless features.
I witnessed something that was a true testament to the entertainment application’s outstanding design. Even before I had a chance to play with it, I looked over across the aisle where an elderly woman in about her seventies ventured to use the touch screen application. She poked the touch screen with resolute force and very intently examined the screen. From having done a number of usability studies, I guessed that she was a rather novice computer user, and I got excited to witness her use the application. From past usability studies with inexperienced participants, I anticipated that she would quickly get lost, confused, frustrated, and would abandon her task. To my astonishment, she prodigiously navigated through the application, browsed TV programs and movies to watch and ultimately played a movie on the touch screen in front of her. Needless to say, I was completely astounded by how easy to use and intuitive the application was even to a computer novice.
After studying my unaware participant, I quickly took out my camera and examined Lufthansa’s in-flight touch screen entertainment program. Below are my observations. I draw on some particular screens to illustrate certain points, and all of the ones that I photographed can be seen in the gallery at the end of the post.
This year’s batch of nominees for the Oops Award for Bad Product Design are truly exemplary. I highly encourage the reader to feast your eyes on some of the world’s biggest product design disasters. While most of the nominees have earned their spot in these echelons for aesthetic reasons, there are also some that are clearly included for their utter lack of utility—see below.
The Web is abuzz with news that Google finally took its office suite, including Gmail, out of beta. Initially launched on April 1, 2004 as an invitation-only release, over five years have passed before Gmail finally graduated to a fully mature product. I would love to know the reasoning behind such an uncommonly long beta period, especially since many have considered it fully-baked for quite some time now.
LG ARENA won the IF Communication Design Award for the 3D S-Class User Interface featured on its latest handset, LG ARENA, which was awarded Gold in the Product Interfaces category. The interface, which won over all graphic user interfaces in several product categories, is used on LG’s other high-end phones, namely: Viewty Smart (LG-GC900), LG-GM730 and LG-GD900 Crystal.
On a recent trip, I was reminded of the illogical separation of the international and domestic terminals in airports. I, like many, have been confused as to where to go when flying overseas; if you have a stop-over in your origin country, do you go to the domestic terminal or to the international one? Why does the separation exist really? It seems like an antiquated system that no one has bothered to rethink. Furthermore, there has been little room to grow with this separation. In the San Francisco International Airport, for instance, JetBlue has been relegated to the international airport because there was simply no more room in the domestic area. You can see how this begins to further complicate matters for airport patrons.
Here are a few quotes that should provide some mid-week inspiration. Some are fairly familiar and other are new gems:
“It’s the total experience that matters. And that starts from when you first hear about a product… experience is more based upon memory than reality. If your memory of the product is wonderful, you will excuse all sorts of incidental things.”
– Don Norman, 2008
“You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.”
– Steve Jobs
“Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.”
– Charles Mingus
Colleen Jones at UX Magazine published a poignant article today entitled, Using Content to Grow Customer Relationships. She speaks about the value of enhancing communication, sometimes in lieu of features, to nuture customer relationships. In so doing, companies can create richer experiences by improving the business-human connection. She advocates for focusing on messaging not only for customer acquisition, but very importantly for retention and loyalty.
“Because your site’s content mediates customer relationships, it offers an opportunity to deepen those relationship,”
“… content that supports customer relationships is not merely documentation or filler or marketing blast or user interface. It is an extension of a company’s best people. Viewing content in this way implies that content should, among other things
- sound human, not machine-like
- be helpful
- have an appropriate tone
- reflect social norms such as politeness
- represent the company’s personality and values”
The article gives various examples of delighting users through content to enrich the customer’s experience. Finally, Jones encourages us to “… view content less as a means of transacting relationships and more as an opportunity to make them flourish.”
Extending the conversation around its “blood, sweat and tears” process, Nokia’s design team tells the story of the making of its upcoming N97 homescreen. Discovering at the outset that, “of the total time you spend using your mobile phone, on average 85 per cent of that time is spent on your homescreen,” the team went through a robust three step process that consisted of:
- Observation and data gathering on a global scale on perspectives of personalization.
- Exploration of concepts and prototypes, including free-form design from customers.
- Validation and testing of the proposed homescreen.