Thursday, November 26, 2009

'Just browsing' ain't easy on the web...

It's time to start thinking about getting ready for the holiday season, and that means picking out the remaining gifts that I need for family and friends.

It reminded me of the time when I was consulting full-time at various client sites in downtown San Francisco. I'd step out for lunch and frequently walk around just to get some fresh air. Frequently, I'd be walking down the street, see an interesting store window and say to myself: "Hah! That book [or piece of jewelry or...] would be perfect for my friend." and I'd drop in to take a closer look and frequently purchase just the right thing.

Now that I'm working more out of my office, I don't get out that much, so those opportunities don't present themselves as much as they used to. Making a point of going to a store and walking around with the intent of finding gifts somehow never gives quite the same feeling of getting that 'perfect' thing.

My local Starbucks barrista mentioned that it was a bit of a challenge to get what you wanted on the internet and it suddenly struck me that she was absolutely right: the internet is great for finding something when you know what you want, but it's not so good for casually looking around... for just browsing.

Stores are an organized jumble of different products from different companies all arranged higglety-pigglety according to the store's and the vendor's needs, and you walk from one aisle to another and you can go through a complete category change. Leather briefcases yield to belts and those to accessories and on to underwear... it's almost like a walk thru "The Medici Effect" in real-time with a corresponding unconscious effect on one's thinking about what to get for whom.

I wonder when someone will figure out how to implement 'just browsing' on the web?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hard drive versatility at USB 3.0 speeds....

For anyone who's had to copy/clone hard drives (something I occasionally have to deal with as an expert witness on a legal case), you know that it can be a pain. It's certainly not rocket science these days, but breaking open your system, finding an open bay with power, getting the right drive connectors, and then buttoning things back up can tedious, time-consuming work, not to mention backing everything out again when you're done. There are removable drives that have been available for some time, but they still have to be mounted in the correct housing...

Now there's a simple and fast solution: the SATA Quickport USB3.0 docking station from Sharkoon, a German company that focuses on various components and accessories. You plug in a naked SATA HDrive (either 2.5" or 3.5"), connect the USB and away you go at roughly 10 times the speed of a USB2.0 connection.

Everything USB reports that it should be available in about a week and sell for about $73.

Very nice!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

For mature audiences only...

You would think that with all the baby boomers retiring that companies could figure out how to solve some of the problems of the older generation. Often they solve one problem but introduce another one.

Case in point:

My friend's father lives on the East Coast in a retirement home. His dad is doing fairly well, but has some disabilities associated with his age. In particular, he's hard of hearing and so can't enjoy his music.  My friend bought him a set of headphones which did a great job of solving the hearing problem: his dad really liked the sound quality and wanted to get them.

Unfortunately, the remote controller that came with the device (which is important for folks like his dad who no longer are as spry as they used to be) had control buttons so small that it was completely unusable.

When are designers going to look at the whole picture, rather than taking a myopic view and introducing more problems? Reminds me of what Geoffrey Moore called the whole product in his landmark book, "Crossing the Chasm" or the idea of empathic design.