Friday, June 08, 2007

Experience is the Product: Why designers will never succeed in product design by simply doing product design

Looking at UX from an historical perspective ...

"You press the button, we do the rest."

In 1888, an inventor named George Eastman designed, manufactured, and marketed a camera that changed not only photography, but consumer products—forever.Four years earlier, Eastman invented a new kind of film, roll film, that was much easier to handle than fragile photographic plates. Now, had Eastman taken a typical engineering approach to designing a camera that used roll film, he would have copied the typical camera of the time, just on a smaller scale, providing an incremental improvement on his predecessors. Instead, he focused on the experience he wanted to deliver, captured in his advertising slogan, "You press the button, we do the rest."

Thanks to this new film, the new camera's functioning was extremely simple. Unlike earlier cameras, the user never needed to open this camera, and there were only three steps to take a picture: Pull the Cord (to prepare the shutter), Turn the Key (to advance the film), and Press the Button (to release the shutter). After 100 exposures were used, you sent the camera (or just the film roll) into Eastman, waited a while, and had your film professionally developed and printed for you.

This level of accessibility began the consumer revolution in photography, and this camera, the Kodak, became one of the first consumer technology brands. By approaching design with the customer in mind, and not simply as a collection of functional requirements, Eastman arrived at a radically different result.

Take another look at that phrase—"You press the button, we do the rest." Eastman marketed the camera based on this promise of experience. But in order to achieve that result, Eastman couldn't just design a simpler product. That would only address the first half of the phrase.

On its own, a simple camera is meaningless, because the entire photographic process (loading a camera, exposing the light-sensitive material, removing that material, processing the material, printing images from that material) could not get any simpler. Eastman's genius was in designing his system so customers could do what mattered most to them—capturing the image ("You press the button"). Eastman located other functions elsewhere in the system ("We do the rest"), allowing the Kodak camera to be remarkably straightforward to use.

In order to meet his goals for delivering the desired experience, Eastman developed relationships with his customers that ensured they remained satisfied. He couldn't think of Kodak as a product, but as a service. This necessitated a factory unlike any seen before, one that could handle complex processing and printing capabilities. Investing in such an operation was an immense risk, but necessary if Eastman were to deliver on his promise to "Do the rest."    (Continued via Core77)    [Usability Resources]

Kodak Camera, circa 1890's - Usability, User Interface Design

Kodak Camera, circa 1890's

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