I agree, Beth. Companies try hard to get a product on store shelves as quickly as possible and might "update" an older user interface to force fit it to a new product in the interest of saving time. My story about the Samsung phone gets sadder by the day. Instead of trying the exasperating Bluetooth connection with my old phone I decided to enter my important contacts in the phone's directory manually. The phone has fields for First Name (Joe) and Last Name (Smith), and it combines these fields to display the name "Joe Smith" in the directory. Apparently the search "feature" looks only at the first name because a search for "Sm" cannot find "Joe Smith" in the directory. The software lacks the capability to list last names first. The user should have that choice, or the software should find a string of characters anywhere in name fields.
I admit some other search capability might exist, but if so, the user interface has it well hidden, as does the phone's instruction booklet.
Cell phones especially, go through rapid version changes. The 2-year contract that is normal with phones will likely put you three or four firmware versions behind by the time you get to upgrade again. The user interface has to change with the firmware (or else how will we dumb users know that something changed). The rapid pace means kludgy interfaces.
I'd really, really like to see that rate of change slow down, but that industry doesn't agree with me.
Jon, I think you have hit on one of the biggest issues and challenges today for companies producing products, even if they don't identify with the label of software developer. The cream of the crop of today's consumer devices have gotten consumers very used to a streamlined, intuitive user experience where they can nearly effortlessly navigate the device and be up and running in fairly short order.
I'll conceed there are still exceptions--much like your phone experience. But increasingly, that is not the norm and the expectation from consumers is that they should be able to go from zero to 60 on a device without a lot of handholding and definitely without having to read arcane technical documentation. Case in point: I can generally hand my tween-agers an app or a Web site that has me confounded and they can zero in on the proper navigation and cut to the chase in fairly short order.
The whole trend around consumer devices setting the expectation stage for the user experience for both business and personal products is not going away. Companies are going to have to step up to the plate if they want happy and engaged customers.
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