This morning I went to the train station to acquire a monthly traveler's card from DSB (public Danish transportation) The last time I needed this, was ten years ago when I went to college. At that time you would have to bring a photo of yourself to the card personal. Not a problem! I had tons of those small photos of myself I got from the school photographer. Today however, ten years later, I don't have any photos of myself lying around - well except maybe for a few of the ones back from college.
Luckily, I thought, this is 2010 and DSB can't possibly be using the same procedure as they did in the analogue 90's. By now, they will for sure have a small handy camera attached to their computer, ready to snap my picture. It was with great disappointment I found out that this was not the case. The nice lady behind the counter asked me for a photo the same way she did in '99.
When I go to Tivoli they have an automated system for taking headshots. The same goes for the gym. And the university. And the library. And the local pool club. And the…
The number of members in these kinds of institutions is nothing compared to how many people are using DSB's traveler's card on a daily basis.
If you live in Denmark, you will know that complaining about trains arriving late, is as common as talking about the weather. In fact, it's a perfectly reasonable subject for a conversation with a stranger - and just for perspective; conversations with strangers in Denmark are the last thing that defines our cultural code.
I can imagine that it's no easy task to manage thousands of departures and arrivals each day and have them all be precise to the minute. DSB has always struggled with the goodwill of the public, and perhaps paying a bit more attention to the easy fixes would help the amount of goodwill go in the right direction.
I ended up buying an unpersonalized traveler's card - a rather expensive solution, but my options were to spend money in a photo booth, and that would have set me back even further.
I'm one of those actually appreciative for the existence of the public transportation, and I can live with the bus or the train being late by 5 minutes. But honestly DSB, look at the calendar year and wake yourself up before you go-go!
I’m not going to lie. I am an iPhone user, and I do love it. So why bother to hobnob with the enemy? Two reasons:
1. My boss was pulling his hair trying to fix his voicemail, so he left the phone on my desk.
2. Well – how can you truly appreciate what you have, before knowing if something better is out there?
iPhone and HTC Desire side by side
HTC Desire’s interface fades in comparison to the extremely intuitive and user-friendly one of the iPhone. iPhone does everything you’d expect it to do, and has only one main navigational button. Desire has several buttons with various and unclear functions.
Already after trying to accomplish just a few fairly simple tasks, I felt a bit stupid. I’m sure that a lot of well-meaning developers have spent a lot of time making this a user-friendly phone, but it’s like they had a big bucket of logic and just stuffed it in there, hoping for the best.
I did manage to complete the tasks I had in mind, but I didn’t quite understand the process until it was actually done.
Logic should be conceived before, and not after completing a task!
A tailored suit
HTC Desire provides a lot of opportunities for personalization, and this will definitely increase the ease of use, in the long run for the individual user. This is one of the major downsides to the iPhone; the degree to which you can customize it. HTC Desire (and other Android phones) are different.
Whereas iPhone is the Swiss knife - a slick multi-tool with great and diverse functionality – HTC Desire is a whole toolbox. You get to decide exactly which tools you carry and exactly how big your hammer is. It might be a big mess in there, but you can always find a screwdriver bit that fits if you look hard enough.
I see this as a huge advantage for the power user, but probably more of a distraction to the user who just wants to make calls, browse and listen to music.
Although logic may not be Desire’s trademark, I stumbled across one thing that it does way better than the iPhone; the browser automatically re-shapes text, according to the width, when zooming. This means that you only have to scroll one way while reading. This is very valuable, since browsing is one of the core features of these kinds of phones.
I probably wouldn’t even have noticed this, if it wasn’t because I’m used to the double-scrolling on my iPhone. And this is what great usability is all about; making things so easy that you wouldn’t even consider it to be “a solved issue”.
By default, HTC Desire comes with seven different home scenes. Seven! Quite intimidating when you’re first trying to figure out what’s going on. I like iPhone’s approach better, where you create screens as you go along.
As I mentioned in the beginning, Desire has several navigational buttons – real physical buttons outside the screen. In my opinion this creates more confusion than value to the user. One of the things I love about touch-screen phones is that the navigation is contextual. This creates instant comprehension of your options because buttons are labeled exactly to the given situation, and not with a generic icon. Introducing five permanent buttons like HTC has done with Desire, simply breaks this great convention.
A specific example of where this can end wrong is when you have to scroll down to find the button you’re looking for. You might not even get to the scrolling part because you are unaware of the fact that the screen holds more information. Left with a bunch of buttons to push, you might end up loosing all the info you’ve just typed in, because you choose to push the button with the sweet little icon, which is actually the home button. By keeping the navigation strictly on-screen and strictly contextual, this will never occur.
Much like iPhone’s Spotlight, Desire has an internal search function as well. To me, Spotlight has proven to be one of the most powerful and fast ways to navigate. By typing just a few characters, you are able to find contacts, emails, songs, calendar posts and much more. Desire has extended their search function to include suggested web searches. In my opinion, this decreases the efficiency because it broadens the search so much that you have to type at least twice the amount of characters to find what you’re looking for.
With a great name comes great responsibility
As stated in the dictionary: ”Android = a robot resembling a human being”.
We can all agree that even the most advanced cell phone on the market is far from being human. Nonetheless, Google has chosen to name their mobile operating system as if it is exactly this. Overkill? I actually think Android is quite a clever name. It passes through the message well, that this system has more to it than just standard cell phone capabilities.
The problem is, that if I should put a head on the human being, whom the system resembles, and hence HTC Desire, it would be a software developer. Considering it is in direct competition with the iPhone, a slightly broader target group seems appropriate.
There’s no real right and wrong here. It all breaks down to your specific needs. A good example is the way it works together with Google. If you are a Google user, you will benefit greatly from the integrated synchronization features, if you’re not, it’s just more noise on the line.
I think HTC Desire is a great phone, and I would recommend it anytime – but only to the right persons.
Personally I’m going to stick with my iPhone. It has the functionality I need, and it lets me access it quick and easy. And it still is, the sweetest piece of eye candy out there.
Before I started working at FatDUX, I didn’t know of such terms as ”user experience” or ”usability”. Of course I had had both good and bad experiences with both – I just wasn’t aware of the fact that I was dealing with stuff that people actually write books about. But more importantly, neither did I know that a large group of people was lacking this knowledge, and because of that, caused me countless moments of frustration and hair pulling. I do have very healthy hair, but I see now, that it is most likely just due to good genes, and definitely not thanks to bad designers.
What I quickly discovered though was, that the “not knowing” part in most cases really is the criteria of success. “Don’t make me think” by Steve Krug made this very clear to me, and I can only give my best recommendations to newcomers in the field.
One of the things I love most about being a part of all this, is that my dread for failing as I use new stuff, is completely vanished. The worry I sometimes had, looking stupid not knowing which button to push or which way to go, has been replaced with this new feeling of being enlightened.
I conceive myself as rather competent when it comes to logic and common sense, and even though, all kinds of stuff from websites to electronics to road signs, have left me feeling slow and incompetent numerous times. I’m pretty sure I will never stop pulling my hair in aggravation every once in a while, but instead of feeling stupid, I’m merely intrigued – intrigued and urging to pinpoint the wrongdoings and suggest a better solution.
There is however a downside to this as well: as much as I hated being the laughee
– an easy victim for not knowing how to use a specific item - just as much did I love being the laugher
. I could of course give a rat’s ass and just keep demeaning my friends anyway, but nobody likes the double standards-guy.
Ignorance is bliss
Our job here at FatDUX is to design great user experiences. Sometimes we do this from scratch, and sometimes we correct other’s mistakes. Correcting mistakes is a discipline that requires a targeted search for errors, and this is done by using your error-goggles – goggles it’s crucial for you to take off at the end of the day. Because wearing these in your everyday life will surely cause your brain to overload.
Let me try to exemplify this in a different context:
Besides from being an intern here at FatDUX, I work as a bartender. What I have discovered along the way is that my standards and expectations have increased in step with my expertise. That means that I’m quite likely to be a mean critic when I’m out for cocktails myself. Sometimes ignorance really is
bliss! If I hadn’t developed a taste for expensive whisky, I might as well pay 10€ instead of 20€ for a manhattan.
An expert of all things
I guess what I’m trying to point out is true for most occupations, but working in the field of user experience must be one of the most extreme cases. I mean, as a bartender, I can at least limit my criticism to the cocktail bar. UX has no perimeter. Weather you are using the toilet, drugs, a hat or Windows Vista, you are being a victim of a user experience. Anything can apply to the term. A very overwelming thought given the fact that certain people are experts.
I, myself, am no near being an expert as far as UX goes, and that’s what scares me the most; I’ve only just looked through the peephole, and yet, the analyzing-everything-era of my life has already begun. I fear ending up a grumpy old hind sighted man.
On the other hand, I know my boss Eric Reiss pretty well by now. He is no grumpy old man, but an expert indeed. I guess he has found a way to balance out these things – I sure hope I will too.