Cracks In The Experience

Jared Spool

April 17th, 2006

“.NET may be considered a stunning piece of development architecture but it is yet another API that has to be learned by the developer. And based on recent history there will be another API along in a couple of years so why bother with this one? You can argue all about managed code and the like but the fact remains that, as a developer, I’m tired of having to continually refresh my knowledge for little apparent benefit to me or my employers.”

“If people need to spend all their time learning they are not going to be doing and a lot of people hit that point a while ago. From a consumer point of view Office already does just about everything they want – write a letter, build a spreadsheet and make some slides – so there is no need to upgrade.”

“Look at what Vista promised and compare to what it says it will do when it eventually arrives. The same is happening with the Xbox. How many security patches have I had to install for Windows and IE? Not to mention all the viruses and spyware. The TV ads promise me all sorts of wonderful things I can do with MS products but I’m too busy running McAfee to get around to using them. This leaves customers feeling as if they have been hit with a bait-and-switch and that builds resentment.”

“The delay on Vista is not causing all this grief for MS, it’s due to a large number of factors which have been building for the last decade. By themselves they can all be considered spot fires but when they start running into each other a lot of people will get burned.”

These are sentiments left by a reader of a recent post on the Mini-Microsoft blog. What struck me about these remarks is they go beyond product features and talk directly about this software developer’s experience with Microsoft’s products and tools.

Experience involves all the touchpoints your organization has with your customers and clients, not just the individual functionality delivered in a single release of a product. It’s about how what you do fits into their total life.

Microsoft, for the most part, seems plagued by focusing on features, not experience. We see that time and time again.

Take, for instance, the recent demo of some new hardware supporting Microsoft’s recently announced UMPC (codenamed Origami) tiny PC technology. Here executives from Samsung, Microsoft Korea, and Intel Korea had the experience of trying to give their PowerPoint presentations from Samsung’s new Q1 machine running the UMPC operating system: (Thanks to Om Malik)

Kim Hun-soo, vice president of Samsung’s PC division first tried to start the PowerPoint presentation, which was saved in his Q1. But after introducing himself, he failed to turn to the second page while his staff nervously watched him. Kim later admitted that Q1 has three hours of battery life and two hours when watching a DVD, which is comparably short to other laptops.

Microsoft Korea’s president Yoo Jae-sung spent several minutes figuring out how to start the presentation file.

Lee Hee-sung, president of Intel Korea also failed to kick off his presentation by himself, and had to be helped by the staff.”

And it’s not just Microsoft that finds themselves in this fix. In yesterday’s Washington Post, we see a review of the new Nokia 770 Internet Tablet, packed with features, but missing the right experience for the user. Reviewer Rob Pegoraro wrote:

“It’s not as if the Nokia 770 will be the first portable gadget somebody buys. It’s going to have to earn its way into pockets, purses, bags and backpacks already occupied by phones, Palm or Pocket PC handhelds, iPods, Sony PSP or Nintendo DS game machines or laptops — often, more than one of those. With that competition, a 770 will probably land in a different place: the shelf.”

As it becomes easier and easier for designers to pack more features into the little boxes they want us to buy, it’s going to become more and more important to ask the questions about which features should be included and how will those features improve our lives. This is what experience design is all about. Now, all we have to do is figure out how to do it.

One Response to “Cracks In The Experience”

  1. Jeff Bridgforth » Experience Design Says:

    [...] This is part of a post by Jared Spool. I post it here mainly for myself. I found this helpful to think about for the future. I think about being part of team’s creating tools and features that will help make ministry happen on local campuses. I want to keep these two questions in mind: which features should be included and how will they improve the lives of those they are intended to help. [...]

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