Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Apple and the myth of working beautifully

The myth of Apple = everything working beautifully, was soundly debunked on 3G Iphone Friday.
The fabulous 9838 error was just one among manifold user experience issues: queues, crashing systems, restricted supply etc etc.

Ipod's are less than intuitive ('I've forgotten how to switch it on', moaned my wife when she last picked hers up). And is it wise that there's no lock function (to prevent unwanted button-strikes) for something that often sits in your pocket? (that's fixed on the 3G Iphone)
Itunes is clunky and slow. Macs require their own suite of software.

I'm picking on Apple for a reason. They are among the very best at delivering delightful user experiences. So good at it that Jemima Kiss yearns for an Apple eBay (just watch a newby try to work out what to do with eBay and you'll get her drift).

And yet Apple still gives us iphone Friday.

There is headroom for better. Much better.

And it's worth going after. There is a large and cash-rich segment of the world's population who are not geeks, not prepared to fiddle, not prepared to kill two-three hours of their lives upgrading with new software, not prepared to learn their way around...

They want satnavs as easy to use as a book of maps, mobile phones and computers that transfer calendars, address books and applications from their old ones to the new (in a PAC-code, cloud-ready world why shouldn't your next mobile be pre-loaded, charged-up and ready to roll when it arrives?), they want search to find what they're looking for, digital cameras to upload, store and share without the need to get to a computer, peripherals with the software built-in rather than awaiting their attention on a CD etc etc.

Briefly: They want things to work, beautifully, intuitively, first time.

You can tell these people until you are blue in the face that if they master this or that they'll save loads more time (it's one of the stumbling blocks to getting more people to blog, for example).

But they need more than a promise of future time savings (in adspeak, selling the benefits just doesn't do it).

The experience, right from the start matters. Show by your actions. You need to act, not talk.

How easy/delightful is it to find out about the product or service?
How easy/delightful is it to buy?
How easy/delightful is it to use (from the box)?

The first and second hurdles are easily as important as the last.


  1. I really enjoyed this post David. There is such a long way to go isn't there? Phrased more positively, what a lot of opportunity is out there.

  2. "And yet Apple still gives us iphone Friday."

    Strictly speaking, I think it was O2 that gave us iPhone Friday. I'm looking forward to iPhone Wednesday...

  3. Yep it truly is an opportunity for those who really strive to take it. Is the beta world a negative in this context? Food for thought.
    CitizenDave honestly, I think the collapse of systems was on apple's side. 02 had contingencies in place (painful and paperwork intensive, ande involving staff in long, hard hours of catch-up). I'm told Apple stores did not have the same contingency plan.
    Any apple staff wanting to put their side are of course welcome.

    Though this is not apple bashing - as I've said apple are among the best at this stuff, they are an exemplar - even they can get it wrong.

    I say this cos I'm about to post again about apple. sorry.

  4. How could the collapse be on Apple's side? Their job is pretty much done when the hardware arrives in the shops, which it did (assuming cynically that the limited supply was deliberate).

    Creating the account and activating the phone is O2's job, whichever name is on the shop. It's no more Apple's problem than it would be Nokia's for a mere mortal phone. Perhaps Apple's mistake was assuming that their partner's system would work, while O2 knew it would probably die and made alternative plans.

  5. Steve, apple has sought to control a good deal of the user experience. My point is not whose fault the collapse is or isn't (and it depends on who you talk to , to be honest - blame apportioning usually does), my point is that this is a key part of the user experience and it hasn't been considered as carefully as the rest.



The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?