May 10

The Perfect Grocery List Interface

Kottke says iPad.  I think there is an equally portable and user-friendly approach:  the pad and pencil.  If all it helps you do is walk around to make a list — not a plus.  If it, instead, organizes what shops, and route through the store, based on my list — now you’re talking.  If it tries to identify things I’m almost out of and haven’t listened — win.  Otherwise — paper and pen work…

May 10

Pickle Jar: Affordances and Innovation

Last night I had a rough time opening a jar of pickles.  I exerted quite a bit of effort to finally pop the lid.  It made me think of my grandmother (who passed a few years ago).  She lived alone for quite a while.  As she got older, and a little sicker, she seemed to eat less and less.  And I think her diet suffered quite a bit.

With the baby boomers aging into the retired and elderly phases of life I think about the pickle jar.  How many objects don’t have elderly-friendly affordances?  The old-time canning jar (and versions of it like the pickle, olive, etc) hasn’t progressed much.  They are innovating around refrigerator boxes of beer and soda, beer bottles that supposedly make the beer taste better, easy flow ketchup, etc.  But what about making it easier to for people who it isn’t easy for?

I bet my grandmother started to select food items at the grocery store she knew she could open.  As much as she loved pickles, I bet she stopped buying them.

As any parent knows, another big packaging issue is toys.  So many boxes are impossible to open (and this extends to many products that require knives to break through the plastic shell).  And then the toy itself is fastened with plastic coated metal twist ties.  Tens of them.  Not only is it a pain to open — you’ve got all these choke hazards lying around.

Instead of innovating around package design to either stand out or increase consumption — why not focus some effort on facilitating use in the first place.  Innovate around your product affordances… create them or make them better.

Jan 10

An Interface Approach to Innovation

When we release a product, we often want to talk about its power and versatility. Truth is, nobody else wants to hear about that. They want to know – in as simple a manner as possible – why something should matter to them.

I agree with this point of view.   However, my initial reaction was that the takeaway was you needed a simple (single-use) device to have it successfully adopted.  And, while I believe that wasn’t the aim of the article, I do want to talk a bit about that faulty assumption.

I think we’re not technologically constrained to a single-use device mantra for success.  And many other people agree with this (people who criticize the Kindle, the iPhone without a camera, etc).  However — the quote above applies — and is the downfall of the do-everything device.  Here’s the paradox.  I think we need do-everything devices, but they need to be task-oriented.

The key to this is to think of interfaces.  What is the purpose of an interface?  Let’s think about a reading interface.  The ideal reading interface has good enough resolution to display very dense tables/graphics, generates very little eye strain,  is large enough to provide enough words that  line breaks don’t become cumbersome, and allows for simple/fast/intuitive navigation (scrolling, page flipping, etc).  As an interface then, the Kindle suffices.

However, one missing piece is the form of the interface.  A paperback book as a reading interface is portable, light, small, durable, very long use, exchangeable/sharable, and usable without restriction (think airplanes and electronic restrictions).  Here the Kindle only provides portability and lightness.

Another missing piece is the content.  What information is exchanged/displayed in an interface?  Where the Kindle breaks down is the limiting format of the content.  While it’s very easy for me to get books, it’s harder to get other “printed” or text into the device.  Further, the content only lives on the device — I can’t sell or transfer the content — or utilize in a format outside of the Kindle.

So form and function live in the domain of the interface — while content and format live separately.  It reminds me of the whole HTML form/content debate.  Web 2.0 and beyond are all predicated on this separation.  Devices, especially mobile interfaces, are still up against this (mobile phone vs carrier, e-readers, streaming video content).  Without a content “standard” how can there be true innovation?  Interfaces, as versatile as they might be technologically, are constrained by the content formats they have access to.

Dec 08

The Next Step in Fantasy Football?

NFL’s Game Rewind could allow for a differentiated Fantasy Football platform.  Imagine a window for each of your fantasy starters.  Whenever they are in the red zone, or a “scoring” event happens (could be human tagged and then time delayed a few seconds),  imagine an alert and a focus around that window.  Lot’s of potential here.  I just don’t see many XP/user experience innovators as part of the organization though.  I doubt that kind of innovation will be realized.  Maybe ESPN can pull it off.