Monday, January 21, 2008

PC designers take aim at feel, usability

Hardware manufacturers focus on UI and UX ...

"Computer makers have been jazzing up their consumer products with laptops in colors such as "flamingo pink" and "arctic bloom" and other design features. But beyond the cosmetics they are also coming up with more subtle touches that add substance — what the industry calls the "user experience" to the style.

All of these additions could have an important effect on how consumers feel about their computers, long after the buzz of the hip new color fades. And they could make a difference in the fight for the next computer purchase.

"You can't do one or the other," said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD Techworld. "You have to have a really good experience, but that doesn't give you license to sell somebody a brick. Design and eye candy have to be a piece of it, because that's the world we live in."

But with so many computers that "look pretty good now," he said, the features that improve a user's experience will separate one brand from another.

Apple Inc. wrote the playbook on this approach by combining sleek style with usable software and easy interaction between all those hip gadgets.

Apple's success hasn't been lost on competitors. Though the colors and exterior designs of their latest models drew most of the attention, Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and other Windows-PC makers have put a renewed focus on usability, reliability and the full experience.

"We call that experience design," said Michael Tatelman, Dell's vice president of consumer sales and marketing. "It's not just design. The marriage of that digital experience to the physical experience is really important."

Dell and H-P have reshaped their design operations in recent years, combining once-separate teams. The changes have resulted in some clever touches to the hardware but also different software features designed to help differentiate their systems from other Windows-based computers.

"There are so many companies that do design to catch the eye or attention, and then it's gimmicky and short-lived," said Satjiv Chahil, senior vice president for global marketing at H-P. "The next step you take, you're left high and dry. (They're) small details, but all advance the usability, the usefulness, and that creates a long-term relationship with the customer."    (Continued via Statesman)    [Usability Resources]

Proximity feature engineered into the panel that lights up the buttons only when a user's hand is nearby. - Usability, User Interface Design

Proximity feature engineered into the panel that lights up the buttons only when a user's hand is nearby.


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