20.1.06

Lessons To Use The Blissfully Usable iPod, from Selfridges

Despite being one of the most celebrated gadgets in modern times and having been (almost) universally championed for its intuitive usability, the iPod is apparently still baffling to some.

I was astonished, as a recent purchaser of a Nano, to discover that there are people out there who would consider handing £60+ to Selfridges to be shown how to use one (The Register and MacWorld all have articles on this). This despite the fact that Apple stores operate a free Genius Bar (just down the road in London) where you can be shown the product by the company that makes it. Never mind the fact that the device is practically child’s play.

iPod and iTunes Workshop
Learn how iPod does much more than play music. Use it as a portable hard drive, store important info with the Notes Reader, or sync your contacts. Find out how its seamless integration with iTunes and the iTunes Music Store make iPod the world’s best digital music player.[Source: www.apple.com/uk]

It goes back to the idea, perhaps, that “All Users Are Stupid” … or does it just say more about the gullibility of the public and the skill of the marketers to shout loudly that people just need this stuff.

I normally consider myself to be an early adopter of technology but held off on the iPod front because they were expensive and bulky. The Nano is still expensive and under-specified in terms of capacity, but its sheer design quality (physical and interactive) was so overwhelmingly high that I had to have one.

What I wasn’t considering was how it would pervade my life. The blissful simplicity of synchronising tracks, rating favourites and creating playlists meant I was an expert within days. A vast user community (everyone’s got one!) meant there’s no shortage of people to ask about things like:

- Does my play count in iTunes take into account the play frequency on the iPod?
- Can I use two iPods with the same copy of iTunes?
- How do I rate tracks on the iPod?


It says so much about Apple’s confidence (even arrogance) in the interface that there is no printed manual supplied. In fact, the clickwheel does have its problems (sensitivity mainly) but it’s widely accepted that the device overall does its job effortlessly.

I should admit one thing, I seriously took my time in doing things right when installing my iPod … purely because I’m a bit anally retentive and wanted it to be filled with only the best tunes, to synch first time every time and to avoid cluttering up my laptop or iPod with anything unnecessary. I know, however, that if I’d wanted to be running tunes on it in three minutes I could have been.

My final admission is that, ironically, I have had to swathe the iPod in layers of iSkin to protect its screen and body from even the most minute damage. Completely undermining the quality of manufacture, I just want it to look brand new for ever. They might as well have made it with a bomb-proof silicon case.

Anyway, back to the point, why on earth moneyed individuals feel they should part with cash about how to learn to use their new toy remains beyond me but fortunately this says far more about an individuals’ susceptibility to marketing initiatives than it does to the quality of product from Cupertino.

Links (also in article above)
http://kaedrin.com/weblog/archive/000994.html iPod Usability
http://www.unc.edu/~bretd/222ipodusecritique.htm Bret Dougherty’s Usability Critique
http://www.gizmodo.com/gadgets/portable/frog-design-mind-124912.php Physical design and perception of cleanliness.

Articles:
http://www.vnu.co.uk/vnunet/news/2148636/selfridges-offers-ipod-survival
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/01/16/selfridges_ipod_tutorials/
http://www.macworld.co.uk/news/index.cfm?home&NewsID=13599

1 comment:

smorgasbord-design said...

Interesting articles on why Apple's usability provides a business advantage:

Apple's Usability Advantage

How Apple Could Mess Up, Again