31 Aug Am I spoiled if I expect well-designed mobile devices?
Wow! The readers of this bog are a tough crowd. I got pummeled this week in comments and e-mails for recent posts about the Cingular 8125 mobile device that I just can’t call a phone, and I’m sure that’s going to engender more good feelings.
Angus H., whose e-mail domain at shutupanddrive.org makes his position clear, took me to task for comments that implied, if not actually confessed, that I do, indeed, talk on my mobile phone while driving. Angus is correct and I am contrite. His admonition has sent me to the manual to explore the voice-activated dialing and other hands-free capabilities of the 8125.
Further, I will state for the record that certain activities – such as number look up, dialing, and wildly gesticulating – are dangerous when practiced behind the wheel of a moving automobile. I neither recommend or advocate such behavior and will endeavor to change my ways.
In the further interest of public safety, let it be known that when I do commute via car, I drive the 101 corridor between San Francisco and Redwood City at approximately 6:30 p.m. I’m in the blue Saab station wagon resisting the urge to pass the time in traffic by returning the day’s phone calls. You have been warned.
While Angus gave me a well-deserved spanking, I’m still trying to figure out how I went so terribly wrong with Sherry R., whose e-mail carried the subject line “What is wrong with you!” Sherry likes her 8125 and is thrilled that she is “finally able to get all [her] e-mails plus open documents… with very little effort.” I’m glad for her. She is happy with the mobile device she carries and she is, in my estimation, willing to put up with its limitations because she gets the wonderful benefit of mobile e-mail and portable documents.
Sherry went on to suggest that I might believe “the rest of we women” are dullards. I certainly do not. I am a woman. I am not a dullard. Therefore, I cannot assume “the rest of we” are dullards, either. I do, however, believe that Sherry, in her zeal to defend her mobile device, did not read my column carefully and thus leaped to the conclusion that I was somehow demeaning women. I would not for a moment suggest that “the rest of we women” made this error. Just Sherry.
More troubling, though, was Sherry’s alternate conclusion: that I was “spoiled.” Perhaps I am. I refuse to drink cheap bourbon, and I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect good service in a restaurant that offers cloth napkins.
But, I don’t think that’s what she means.
I think she means that I am spoiled because I expect the technology products for which I spend upwards of $400, plus a two-year service contract, to be well designed and highly designed and highly usable. If that is spoiled, then indeed I am spoiled.
And that’s what’s so troubling to me. Somehow, the rest of us (we people) have let ourselves be convinced that it is our job to adapt to poor product interface and lousy software design. Technology, apparently, is supposed to be difficult, complex, and confusing. We excuse the product designer and embrace the responsibility for a steep learning curve.
If a product is difficult to use, it must be that we expect too much or just don’t understand. It is my fault, not the fault of the software engineer, that phone numbers in SMS and e-mail messages aren’t clickable. How silly of me to expect that kind of usability! How spoiled!
Our willingness to forgive poor design only propagates more bad design. More technology consumers need to become more spoiled if our technology-rich lives are going to become less complex.
So, yes, Sherry, I am spoiled. And while I’m delighted that you are pleased with your mobile device choice, I can’t share your joy. I expect more, and I think you should, too. We all should.
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