Tuesday, September 25, 2007

iThinking About iPods

Looking at ROI "Return On Interactions" ...

"Soon after the introduction of the new, iPhone-inspired iPod nano, I visited my local Apple store. There I saw a line of customers definitely not enjoying Apple's typical feel-good experience. They were there to collect Steve Jobs' announced but not-yet-released iPhone rebate and they were irate. The staff was literally hiding behind the store's genius bar to avoid their wrath. As I took in the queue snaking its way to the register I noticed an iPod display that was both the same, and different.

The box was small, thin, and glowing—like previous iPod packaging. But the iPod nano itself had gotten fleshier; it had gone from Twiggy to J-Lo. I picked it up to look more closely for other changes, and with a flick of the thumbwheel I noted the interface updates. For instance, the subtle zooming effect of album covers to the right of the album selection list, or images that jump in coordinated, Ninja-like fashion. With its flowing graphic treatments and assorted "look at me" visual acrobatics, my original nano suddenly seemed so 2006.

In my book, The Law of Simplicity, I define a few key attributes of simplicity in design, and include a series of laws for designers and business people to consider when coming up with new product offerings. One of these laws concerns time: When you feel like you're not wasting time while performing some task, you may also feel that the task is simpler.

The New ROI: Return on Interaction

Designers can tackle the time challenge in two different ways: by making the wait shorter or by making the wait more enjoyable. In either case, the solution must boost the instant gratification by making the task more instantaneous, on the one hand, and delivering "gratification" a thousand times the value of the time used. I like to think of this in terms of ROI: return on interaction.

With the new iPod nano—or any MP3-playing device, for that matter—ROI is increasing in importance. That's because the challenge is no longer to increase the speed of the bits as they lift off the internal disk or RAM and transform into the music delivered to your ears. The technology works perfectly, with delays measured in microseconds. Rather, the challenge is to design the entire experience of delivery.

Which brings me back to Apple's new iPod interface, which allows the owner to savor the time spent using it. With a smooth dissolving wipe of the screen or a graceful rotation of a photo, its design sophistication melts on your visual taste buds. In car terms, it's heated leather seats as opposed to damp canvas coverings."    (Continued via BusinessWeek)    [Usability Resources]


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