Friday, February 8, 2008

It's Easy to Love Apple

David Pogue has a great post up today, about the vagaries of industrial design. I'd actually read it, marveled over it, and dropped it this morning, all before nickd pinged me out of the blue. (As he is wont to do!) Same article. His reaction: "This is one of the most taut and well-reasoned summaries of industrial design that I've seen in years. And it came from a tech reviewer, not a designer or purported expert."

So true. And as I said at the time, "Something's very wrong with that picture. Or else, something's very right." Hard to deny that Pogue's onto something. Money quote from the article:

The only question, then, is why manufacturers don't actually bother doing what's right. I'm sure they have all kinds of excuses for compromise: "That would cost money," "That would set us back a month," "That would limit sales in Eastern Europe," whatever.

But you don't have to have an M.B.A. to understand that refusing to compromise on design, for any reason, can lead to fantastic commercial success. Look at Apple, Google, Sonos, R.I.M. (makers of the BlackBerry), or (in its glory days) Palm.

There's no excuse for bad design. Or rather: there are plenty of excuses, but none of them are worthwhile. I think this is abundantly clear when you look at web 2.0. Everyone starts with the same tool set (if not the same skill set) of available coding technologies. Bandwidth, server space, etc. are all pretty commoditized. So how do sites differentiate themselves?

Through design. Since it's easy to erase, start over, retract, and amend—especially for sites in Perpetual Beta—the best of them do exactly that. Yes, it's harder for companies who make physical products. But the incentives are clear. Intuitive design doesn't always make you the market leader (see: Apple), but it often makes you a consumer darling (see: Apple.) Good design leads to emotional connections with products. It leads to evangelization. Windows Mobile machines have, in some respects, fuller feature sets than iPhones. But few people care. Because with an iPhone, you know exactly what to do with it. It's a pleasure to poke around, play around, and discover. Without good design, this process of discovery ends up feeling more like an ordeal. And if there's one thing consumers aren't in the market for, it's an ordeal.

At any rate: very smart post from Pogue. Thanks to nickd for reading my mind! I'll be thinking about this for a long time to come.

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