A One-Word Explanation for Why Experience Design Is Important: iPhone

Jared Spool

July 1st, 2007

I want to talk about the significance of the iPhone. Not the technology, though that is pretty slick. Not how Apple has pulled another successful product launch out of wherever it is they pull them out of.

No, to me the most significant part of the iPhone is the way it’s going to impact practically every business going forward. The launch of the iPhone is probably the most important thing to happen in experience design in the last decade.

Yesterday I was at the Salem, NH Apple Store. Apparently, on Friday, the first person showed up to buy an iPhone the minute the mall opened at 7am. (He might’ve been there earlier, but mall security hadn’t unlocked the doors.) By 6pm, when the phone went on sale, there were 200 people in line. In Salem, New Hampshire. (To find Salem, draw a circle with a 35 mile radius to the north of Boston and write the word “NOWHERE” in the middle. Salem is right in the middle of NOWHERE.)

Of course, stories like this were repeated everywhere. Robert Scoble (seen below doing his Phillip Seymour Hoffman impression) showed up at 9:30 Thursday morning with his son Patrick to the Palo Alto store, just so they could be first in line. People camped out in front of the Fifth Avenue store in NYC for days.

Robert Scoble (separated at birth from his twin, Phillip Seymour Hoffman) (Photo found on Donna Bogatin's blog.)

The scene has been compared to a modern day Woodstock, JFK Assassination, or moon landing.

Thomas Hawk wrote about camping out in line with the Scoble clan:

What a great thing for a father to do with his son. Patrick was so proud to be #1 in line. They made a big deal about it when they let him into the store first. That’s a memory that he’ll have the rest of his life. What a great dad to make that happen.

It started months ago, with the announcement of the device at the January MacWorld Keynote. There’s been a tremendous amount of hype and buzz ever since then. In April, a survey of American mobile phone owners said 64% knew about the iPhone and its imminent launch. When was the last time 2/3rds of mobile phone owners knew anything about the products in that market?

If all this doesn’t point to an excellent example of what experience design is all about, I don’t know what does. Apple has done an amazing job of creating an experience to be marveled at. (How many people camped out for two days to get their Zune?)

Of course, all the hype and buzz put a great pressure on Apple. If the product was a flop out of the gates, it would’ve been considered the greatest crash-and-burn in modern technology history. And there have been hitches, primarily with what everybody agreed would be the weak link in the chain: AT&T’s service.

Yet, in general, here from the prospective of 48 hours after the launch, the new experience has lived up to the hype. (Some would say it’s even better than they imagined.)

People are reporting how the experience makes them an instant celebrity. Lane Becker twittered earlier today about a flight attendant escort to the cockpit, just to show off his phone.

Lane shows off his iPhone

When was the last time anybody got excited over your mobile phone?

The iPhone has changed the game. From now on, it’s going to be much easier to explain why experience design is important. In fact, Apple may have just given us a one-word explanation. (Though, I did like what Rob Riggles, “senior technology correspondent” for the Daily Show had to say about it: “The iPhone is going to do for phones what the iPod did for pods.”)

16 Responses to “A One-Word Explanation for Why Experience Design Is Important: iPhone”

  1. Eric Meyer Says:

    Waitaminute. Taken into the cockpit? Wasn’t that a violation of FAA/TSA/DHS rules? For a frickin’ cell phone?

  2. AlastairC Says:

    And aren’t cell phones supposed to be turned off on planes?!

    I just hope that we get a better provider if/when it gets to the UK.

  3. Daniel Szuc Says:

    Reminds me of scenes from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” when the Golden Tickets were announced. I have not seen anything like it …

  4. Jared Spool Says:

    Eric & Alastair, I’m going to bet this was in the period before takeoff while the passengers were still loading and the pilots were doing their flight prep. That would be the time when an attendant would notice Lane on the phone.

    Daniel, I had the exact same thought about Willy Wonka’s Golden Tickets on Friday.

  5. Marla Erwin Says:

    Reminds me of scenes from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” when the Golden Tickets were announced.

    I have no trouble picturing Steve Jobs in a top hat and burgundy frock coat.

  6. Benjamin Ho Says:

    Of course!! Now there’s an “in” for them so-called terrorists. Just have them buy an i-Phone to get to the cockpit!

  7. Compete on Usability Says:

    The Apple experience…

    When I started this blog, I expected to be writing about Google all the time. Today, though, it’s Apple that deserves the most praise for competing on usability. Apple, whose personal computer market share is single digits, and whose Web…

  8. Eric Meyer Says:

    I thought the cockpit was now off-limits to all civilians all the time, but maybe not.

  9. Daniel Szuc Says:

    “Invention, my dear friends, is 93% perspiration, 6% electricity, 4% evaporation, and 2% butterscotch ripple.” – Will Wonka

  10. P. Arora Says:

    Does anyone has insights on Apple’s design process? I hear things like Apple does not follow usability methods or usability tests, etc. yet I see products that amaze me.

    I was looking at the iPhone’s Guided Tour on Apple’s website and wander how much thought/work was put into getting IA and navigation right, as there is limited screen space, quite a bit of functionality embedded within each little widget (Calender, Address Book, etc.) and just one button to go to the home screen.

  11. blog.dsetia.com» Blog Archive » A One-Word Explanation for Why Experience Design Is Important: iPhone Says:

    […] The iPhone has changed the game. From now on, it’s going to be much easier to explain why experience design is important. In fact, Apple may have just given us a one-word explanation. Source: [Link] […]

  12. Daniel Szuc Says:

    “Does anyone has insights on Apple’s design process? I hear things like Apple does not follow usability methods or usability tests, etc. yet I see products that amaze me.”

    I don’t know …

    Seems that Apple dare to make the tough decisions around design and user experience then do everything possible to make sure that the technology comes to the party.

    Very often we see trade off, after trade off, after trade off in product dev – resulting in poor user experience or a product that has little value to begin with

    about applying the right tools and having a culture that encourages user centric thinking.

  13. Fresh - самая свежая информация » Blog Archive » Подборка статей, приуроченных к выходу долгожданного iPhone Says:

    […] Выход iPhone — по-видимому, самое важное событие в Experience Design за последний десяток лет. A One-Word Explanation for Why Experience Design Is Important: iPhone by Jared Spool […]

  14. What Happened to Apple TV? » UIE Brain Sparks Says:

    […] launch of the iPhone proved to be very important, at least from a user experience perspective. People lined up for hours to get a phone, only […]

  15. Compete on Usability Says:

    making The Switch, part 1…

    Today was Steve Jobs’s annual MacWorld conference keynote, a perfect opportunity to post about my experience with my new MacBook. Last year I needed to upgrade my old Dell, but I really wasn’t interested in upgrading to Windows Vista. The…

  16. lindsey Says:

    Great article. Many clients are simply not understanding the value of UX. My thoughts are that much of it has to do with mis education of producers and in turn, clients.

    Check out the thoughts here: http://www.wemultiply.com/blog/?p=5

    Why Not to cut UX from a project plan

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