Design Makes Users More Forgiving


One of the benefits of good design is that it appears to have the effect of making users more forgiving of other problems with a product. I've come across a number of examples of this where customers accept a lower level of performance or reliability if the product's design was considered to be of a high quality. When customers fall in love with a product due to it's superior design, they tend to overlook other problems. An example of this that I've been experiencing has been the date and time settings on my iPod Touch. The problem occurs when I plug my iPod Touch into my computer and iTunes in order to sync it. If iTunes is already running, it causes the date and time on the Touch to get totally messed up. For example, I did a synch yesterday evening and the date was reset to Friday, June 27, 2008 and the time 4:41 a.m. This doesn't happen if iTunes isn't running when I plug the Touch into the computer. So, I can avoid the problem by making sure that iTunes isn't running (which it normally is on my computer) before I plug in the device. I put up with this problem largely because I really like using my Touch and figure that Apple will get around to fixing this sometime in the future. Every software update gets my hopes up that this problem will also be fixed but thus far those hopes have been dashed. I'm sure if I had that same type of problem with a product with a far inferior design, I would be much more upset. So, the lesson here is that design can have the effect of reducing calls to the help line and while you still need to fix problems with products but customers may be more patient in waiting for it.

iPhone Designs that Suck


The more I use the iPhone/Touch user interface with various apps, the more I appreciate the well-designed apps and get frustrated with the ones that are poorly designed. I get the impression that some people think that the superior design of the device itself makes it impossible to create bad designs. They're wrong. There are numerous instances of problematic designs. The example I'd like to provide here is one poor design within an app which I find to be otherwise fairly well designed. See the image to the right. It is the status update screen within the Facebook app. The problem with it is the placement of the primary action buttons "Cancel", "Clear", and most seriously "Post" which submits the update. The problem is that the button is placed right above the "O" and "P" keys, making it all too easy to hit the "Post" button in error. When you do hit it in error, you've then submitted your status update and it is sent out to everyone of your Facebook friends. The design that works much better is to have the primary action buttons placed above the entry field. This is just one of many instances like this where designers need to take into account the fact that users have to use their fingers which differ quite significantly in size from one user to another. Making an error such as hitting one alpha key instead of another while annoying can be easily corrected and often is by the software itself. However, the placement of buttons that yield direct actions which can't be undone should be examined very carefully. Only designers that have experience with Kiosks have had to deal with these types of problems in the past whereas now all designers of mobile apps have to take these sorts of issues into account.