Saturday, June 02, 2007

Whither Usability?

Man makes progress by leaps and bounds. Wonders never cease.

That HDTV I've been coveting has dropped prices by almost 30% over the past six months, meaning I can finally buy it without breaking the bank. Moore's law has been relentless in its march towards infinite processing power. Broadband has been increasing speeds for the same price for a while now.

Why then, can't we ever get the small things right? Is it because no one cares anymore? That's not true. If customers care and are irritated, it should matter, right?

Consider the case of packaging. Electronic goodies like say, audio cable or a USB thumb drive come packaged in this special packaging. You know what I'm talking about? The clear, hard plastic clamped on all sides with a hole on top for hanging in retail stores?

To put it mildly, it's a b%$tch to remove. I've been in grave danger of decapitating myself (OK, at least losing a thumb or two) while trying to open this packaging. Over the past four years, every single piece of thingamajig I've bought or have been gifted has followed the exact same story. Sharp knife, awkwardness, lots of cursing and even more frustration.

Another grouse is stickers. With the amount of R & D going into chemicals, I'm sure they'd have discovered better quality adhesive for price stickers. Why should I buy a CD and then spend fifteen minutes trying to clean the muck off the CD case? That's exactly what I do, especially with used CDs. For new CDs, the challenge is different. It involves the use of long nails or a sharp knife to get the plastic wrapping off.

And there's of course the quality of CD cases. Considering I'm actually spending money to buy CDs, versus downloading this music for free off the 'net, it'd be reasonable to expect the CD cases to be good enough. But they seem to crack at the slightest whim.

Even as I get off my soapbox, let me say that it's not all bad.

Assembling IKEA furniture is right up there when it comes to easy experiences. As was opening my l33t Dell desktop at work to put in the fancy new display card and extra hard drive.


thedq said...

Yea i know that feeling too.

Can you turn word verification off on your blog? Its not needed anymore methinks.

Ajay said...

Why? I'm not sure bots are less of a problem now...