Bad Apple - The chink in the Armour (How the iPhone 4S failed)

Apple launched a great product on 4th October 2011 - a new iPhone, the 4s, faster processor, hugely improved camera, better battery life, better global inter-operability, new iOS (previously announced), more memory - and so the list goes on.

And yet the overwhelming feeling I've seen (and have myself) is one of great underwhelm-ment. How so? Isn't this a great device?

Yes, it is. But you have to remember how high Apple traditionally sets the bar. Rumours abounded about a new iPhone 5 with lush new looks and a bigger screen. In light of this, surveys were suggesting that almost 70% of existing iPhone users were looking to upgrade - an astonshing figure representing pent-up demand. If Apple could have translated this into action, it would have blown the sales figures sky high. 

Will Apple translate this into conversions? I doubt it.

So what went wrong?

Two things.

First, they broke one of Steve Jobs' cardinal rules. He's quoted as saying "We made the buttons on the screen look so good you’ll want to lick them". That's right, designs so good you want to lick them.

Apple failed spectacularly here by launching a phone with identical looks and form factor to the iPhone 4. Sure, it was good enough to lick when it was first launched 16 months earlier, but expectations have moved on. A whole generation of iPhone and non-iPhone new users want to proudly display and caress their new swish (and expensive) pocket companion. Think I'm exaggerating? People actually seem to love their smartphones.

Apple totally let them down. It's almost inconceivable how they managed to. Design is everything at Apple, and yet what Apple did yesterday was play with features. Features. Features, in fact, that users are not even sure they need, want or know how to use: like the Siri speech recognition. Who was aching for this? (I was aching for features that simplified clumsy workflows, such as rotating and cropping photos - totally basic stuff that was missing onboard - thankfully they delivered on that).

Second, they didn't fully tap into the user ownership experience. This needs careful definition. The user experience of the iPhone is wonderful. World class, world leading. From an interface point of view it is the slickest out there. And clearly Apple hoped to slap a bit more slickery onto it with the speech recognition, improvements in iOS 5 (such as the message centre) and so on. All good. All very good.

But what it didn't do was tap into the emotional part of how that experience manifests for users - what it feels like to own one. Their joy, passion, advocacy for the product that comes from using and adoring it. In recent years Apple has been the leading technology company that's melded all the aspects of good design, good service, good marketing, good experience into one happy melting pot of customer enjoyment of, and enthusiasm for, the products and the Apple experience. It's a tough feat to pull off, but Apple had licked it. (Licking is a recurring theme. )

It failed on this yesterday by calling the iPhone 4S the iPhone 4S. The hopes and aspirations of would-be iPhone 5 users were dashed. Something as simple as the chosen name communicated to the world: we didn't do so much this time; we're not being revolutionary any more. Apple, not being revolutionary? That used to be pretty much Steve Jobs' mantra.

The choice of name communicated so much more than any feature list could ever hope to do.

So, what we have here, is a world class product that failed to connect with its users. For me, that suddenly shines a light on a chink in Apple's armour.



User-Led Innovation Can't Create Breakthroughs; Just Ask Apple and Ikea

The user is king. It’s a phrase that’s repeated over and over again as a mantra: Companies must become user-centric. But there’s a problem: It doesn’t work. Here’s the truth: Great brands lead users, not the other way around.

The Apple and IKEA way

Take Apple. One evening, well into the night, we asked some of our friends on the Apple design team about their view of user-centric design. Their answer? “It’s all bullshit and hot air created to sell consulting projects and to give insecure managers a false sense of security. At Apple, we don’t waste our time asking users, we build our brand through creating great products we believe people will love."

[read more]

Design for the customers you don't have

I think the sentiment below applies in most channels and domains, not just the web. Indeed, when I look at a contact centre, I'm always keen to ask whether non-telephony channels are on the plan later down the line (e.g. social media). You always need to be looking ahead. Nik.

When doing any sort of redesign work on the web, you want to keep your existing customers in mind. You have no doubt done countless hours of research and user testing to get your business and website to where it is today. It is probably even safe to say that you have a very good understand of your customers and who they are.

Thats all fine and dandy. Great even.

But, to me it seems flawed to only take into account your current customers when doing any sort of research, planning, or designing. If you only ever take your current customers into account, how can you ever plan on growing your business?

Yes, if you understand your current customer and build for them, your company will most likely grow at a steady rate. Again, this is fine if its the way you want to do things. But, most business owners I know are constantly looking to the future and how they can grow their business.

By growing a business, one would assumes you are looking to acquire customers that are different from the ones you currently have. These new customers may be fairly similar to the ones your currently have or the may be extremely different. So do yourself a favor, when doing your research and user testing, get feedback from people outside of your customer profile.

Getting feedback from people outside of your typical customer profile will help give you valuable insights on how to grow your business to appeal to a wider variety of people.

[full article source at Outlaw Design]

iTalkSpeech becomes getDesign(in)

Everything evolves and I'm finally getting round to deprecating my iTalkSpeech blog in favour of getDesign(in). Quite simply, this more accurately represents my interests, activities and skills. There'll be more on the choice of name later. 

It previously made a lot more sense to focus on the speech/voice world, since that aligned more with the bulk of my work.

However, not only did that align less well with everything I do outside of work, but that was a while a ago. It no longer really makes sense to be so narrowly focussed on the speech industry specifically, given that I'm looking at the wider picture of businesstechnology and experiences for customers; and really, always have done.  

For the sake of the search engines and the old content (which has been preserved), here's the old intro:

The speech technology blog: news, views and reviews of the speech recognition market, speech technology industry, voiceXML landscape and world of IVR and voice self-service; with a smattering of interaction, gadgetry and social media.

Moving forward, I'm looking to say and highlight much more about the world of interaction and design in all its various forms, from beautiful technology that delights us, to the dysfunction of huge corporate processes that destroy us. I hope you'll join me at