I am often a technology early adopter – a love of gadgetry and a need to be on the bleeding edge of things keep me there. I have reaped many benefit from this inclination – and one major downfall – frustration.
I’ve had a reputation at work for being something of a hothead. One of my co-founders explained to me one of the most audible examples – ‘I will be sitting at my desk peacefully (on the other side of the office) and I suddenly start hearing a banging noise followed by expletives – wonder what Ben is banging his desk about this time.” Were anger management classes in order? Relaxation techniques? Nope – time for a new laptop. Every single instance of desk pounding I could trace back to my Windows XP HP laptop. It would lock up, spontaneously reboot, slow to a painful productivity-crushing crawl, and generally make my temperature rise. A regular dose of OS re-installs and anit-this-and-that software helped keep things from spiraling out of control – but was I really willing to let my laptop carry over into the way people felt about me at the office?
So I did what any sane person would do. I blew away Windows and installed Ubuntu Linux. Ok – so a sane person would have switched to a Mac (which I will NEVER do – topic for another post) – but to each his own. Magic behavior change ensued – no more desk pounding (and enhanced productivity to boot).
Technology should help our lives run more smoothly – offering convenient capabilities, more efficient use of time, and more entertainment options. Unfortunately people have come to expect frustration along with the mix. I now refuse to do so. If a technology is causing real frustration in my life I look for alternatives immediately.
I try to take this individual manifesto on technology use into product design as well. Zeo shall not frustrate. It’s a tough task – the front edge of technology is fraught with technical limitations, misunderstanding of customers needs, and brutally tight timelines. But if the technology you are introducing adds frustration to peoples’ lives it won’t last long.
Here are my tips for reducing frustration in your product:
- Test early and often with your customers in as close to the exact use-case that they the product will face in the wild as possible.
- Consider the whole product experience. Frustration isn’t limited to the actual use of the product – it can arise in the pre-purchase contemplation (where can I find the *&^%^%^ technical spec for this thing!) or customer support experience as well.
- Cut the bleeding edge features before cutting usability.
- For new product categories aim the guns first at customers who will be most tolerant of the inevitable frustrations that your first generation technology will pose – look for those in the most pain and those who are used to cutting-edge frustration (and even wear it as a badge of pride!).
In taking with the thou-shall-not-frustrate-me approach to technology – my slowest-Android-phone in the world – which is sometimes too slow to let me answer a call while I am doing something else with the phone (Samsung Intercept) is being replaced by a blazing fast new Android phone (Samsung Epic 4G). Down with frustration!