KC Lemson

By KC Lemson [MS]

Waiting for my kindle...

Waiting for my kindle...

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I ordered it a few weeks ago, but they're behind on production, so it took until yesterday to ship (and supposedly is arriving today - hurrah for online up-to-the-minute package tracking!).

At first, I was cynical and gave a lot of weight to the negative reviews of the Kindle... DRM, usability problems with handling the device and accidentally switching pages, lack of selection, etc. But then as I thought more about my scenarios as a user, I realized that although I wish there wasn't DRM, it probably not affect my ability to use the device to meet my needs and desires as a user - the only person i've loaned a good book to recently is my husband, and fortunately he happens to live in the same house :-). Even with my paper books I often accidentally go to the wrong page, and it's never bothered me. I looked through the selection and found that many of the books on my wishlist (as well as many of my old standy favorites, like Terry Pratchett) were available - and wireless reading of wikipedia? Bonus. I also trust Amazon to continue to increase the Kindle-available books, and they are doing what they do best there, taking advantage of their vast database and integrating a friendly little "nag":

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All they need to do after that is provide a one-click option "Would you like this book on the kindle? Vote for it here, and we'll pass along your feedback to the publisher"... and I wouldn't be surprised if they're already hard at work on that.

But really, what won me over and finally helped me make the decision to buy was observing how much Amazon seems to have thought about the full end-to-end user experience. The pre-paid wireless, built into the cost of the device. There's the ease of purchasing, and even try-before-you-buy:

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So yeah, Amazon annoyed a bunch of customers by not delivering their expected pet feature on the Kindle. The important thing is - are the ones they did ship complete, end-to-end? Did they think through not just the usability of the device and reading on it, but how items get to the device, how you buy them, how you keep track of what you bought? And most importantly, do you trust them to continue to evolve the Kindle in the right direction?

It's a great lesson for us and anyone else developing software or hardware... it's far better to ship a single full scenario than two half-way ones. Cutting is a necessary evil in product development, if we never cut then we'd never ship. "Shaving" is a way of trimming a feature bit by bit, supposedly to cut out the extra fat to get the feature lean and shippable. But sometimes you risk shaving off the tastiest part of the meat, or you shave off a flavor that was nothing by itself, but played a pivotal role in the complex flavor of the entire dish, such that you would have been better off to cut out the entire dish vs serve it to your customers without that key piece.

This may seem obvious, but building user trust is so incredibly important to the success of a product or service. It's difficult to do, but fortunately I don't think there's only one way to build it. What can Microsoft, and Exchange/Outlook in particular, do better in order to increase user trust? According to this report, Apple is the most trusted brand with young consumers. Should we follow Apple's disclosure model of "Don't say anything until it's in the stores", so that we never disappoint anyone when we end up cutting or shaving something after we mentioned it? What are we doing today that is eroding user trust? What do we need to do differently to build trust with end users, as opposed to IT pros? A lot of interesting questions in this area, more thoughts on them later when I'm not at home sick slavishly being loyal to Amazon...

Comments
  • For me, trusting software developers goes along with the attention to detail and focus on usability.

    I'm a regular user of both Outlook 2003 (on my work PC) and both Entourage and Apple's Address Book and iCal (on my home Mac) and while I can get Microsoft's software to work, the little smartnesses in Apple's software makes me trust them more when it comes to solving my real-time small problems.

    Examples:

    I sync my mobile phone with both Outlook/Exchange (using Sony Ericsson's software) and iCal/Address Book (using Apple's iSync).

    For some reason the PC synching creates address book duplicates every now and then.

    Apple's Address Book has a specific cure for this: Select a number of entries and choose "Merge entries". Nice. Easy to implement (I'm a software developer). Solves a recurring problem.

    The Outlook 2003 "Contacts" view doesn't even support typeahead search. Sometimes I wonder if there have ever been any usability studies performed on the Outlook client. It can't even figure out the difference between a meeting room and a participant unless I tell it (maybe that's cured with Exchange 2007?).

  • Pelle - I know that at least outlook 2007 (and I swear this feature goes back many years, but don't know for sure) has contact disambiguation, when I right click a recipient on an email and say 'add to contacts', if I already have the person in my contacts it prompts me to just update that existing contact. The problem you mention could very well be a problem in Sony's software, it's hard to say without knowing more about your workflow.

    For meeting rooms and participants, that's fixed with e2k7 and ol2k7. There's a new attribute in the schema that says whether or not it's a resource, and then it gets treated differently than a participant. OWA and Outlook treat resources slightly differently though, we weren't able to get the exact same UX for a variety of reasons.

    I wasn't involved in UX years ago so I don't know about usability at that time, but I can tell you that for as long as I've been in UX (since 2006), Outlook has had a dedicated usability engineer. But Outlook is a very large product and so like many people, he has to pick and choose his time wisely in what he's going to invest in. If I had my druthers we'd have 2 or 3 times as many researchers and designers in each product but I'm a bit biased :-)

  • Yeah I know Outlook is a large product and I really hope that Outlook 2007 (the ol2k7 nomiker didn't really appeal to me...) has improved in the oft-used portions which to me is viewing, composing mail (I heard somewhere that only the Word html+rtf editor is available now - is that true? If so I hope it emits better html and rtf than word 2003...) and working with meetings & notes. I know - very old stuff that's been in there forever.

    Do you and the outlook UX staff work with personas? If so it'd be great if you could share them with the world. That would mean a lot toward understanding how the UX has evolved...

  • Correct, only word is available for email authoring. See if http://blogs.technet.com/kclemson/archive/2003/12/11/42830.aspx is helpful for that.

    Yes, both outlook & exchange have a set of personas that we use to inform our designs. Interesting point about publishing them... In most cases we didn't author them, so I am not sure it it would be OK for us to publish them. But I think a general post around who we are designing around would be a good idea, even if it doesn't get to the level of detail of a persona. Thanks for the thought, i'll take this up with nino.

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