Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Apple did what?

For a company who's touted as having nailed user experience through simplicity, Apple's new set of iPod features are very confusing.  Here's a list of things we never wanted in our iPod, and the exclusion of which made the iPod so successful during it's early days:

- voice recording on the Nano
- 10 different colors to choose from
- "Shake to Shuffle"
- lots and lots of different price points

The voice recording is specifically weird.  Apple's been praised by numerous analysts specifically for NOT including that feature.  

The most recent place I read about this was in Subject to Change - Adaptive Path's book / video on building user experience design into your company's process and culture.  The iPod and iPhone are case studies in simplicity - in being late to market, and beating your competition by offering fewer features in better integrated systems.

I guess Apple's moved out of the "user experience" stage into the "repeat buyer" stage - they've come to dominate the market, and now they need a new gimmick to get all of their existing iPod customers to buy another.  I'm sorry, Steve - the new colors are cool and all, but at the end of the day the features I really care about haven't changed.  I don't need another one.


RJ said...

All this being said, the burnt-orange, black and grey nanos are totally sweet looking.

Ryan said...

Actually, I see a lot of the added features (including one you didn't mention but was on ArsTechnica, voice menus) potentially improving the nano's usefulness in situations where you can't or don't want to spend a lot of time looking at the thing and fingering the buttons. Think driving in the car for example, or jogging and trying to avoid traffic.

The addition of voice recording to the nano and not other lines like the iPhone is a bit odd, though. (I'm assuming they haven't added it to the iPhone).

And I don't know about all the price and color options.

RJ said...

I didn't see that one - voice control is totally great, and has many different applications as you point out. Maybe voice recording is just something you get "for free" after that...I still think it's a little odd though.

The color options just seem a little superfluous - having just a few was a big simplicity marketing point before. But I do think they all look good. :)

Bob Walton said...

Simplicity was more important when the ipod was introduced. The target buyer had no context for the interface paradigms and even some of the features of a digital music player. It was a completely new kind of device, yet it was simple enough to know how to use in five minutes. That's what made it a hit.

Now that the target buyer is thoroughly familiar with the UI paradigms and has almost certainly used their own iPod or a friend's iPod, Apple can add more features and users will still understand how the device works in five minutes.

Also, the voice recording feature in past ipods was well integrated and at the very least, didn't get in the way of using the core functionality. It was just another line on a menu somewhere. That's hardly a burden.

So in a way, the experience is just as simple.

Personally, I think the shake feature is great because you can do a common task without accessing a menu or even pressing a button, and it's totally fun!

Isn't that what good user experience is all about?

Justin said...

Agree on the shake feature- clicking back five menus to toggle this has always been annoying, especially when going back and forth between music and podcasts. The history of Rome is harder to digest non-sequentially...

John Wilker said...

I'm waiting for reports of people shuffling their iPods, and sending them through the screen of the their big flat screen TV. a la the Wiimote.

Next will be jab to the left or right to skip prev/next track. I know some one made something like that for the MBPs.. shake up or down to lower the volume, We're all gonna look like we have tourette Syndrome, walking around shaking and talking out loud to interact with our iPods.

RJ said...

Yeah...I'm not thrilled about this feature mostly because I rarely use shuffle. I like listening to albums rather than songs. I'm kinda worried I'd bump my ipod and wind up accidentally in shuffle mode all the time.