Excellent User Experience: Hammered
"Today, we celebrate the first glorious anniversary of the Information Purification Directives. We have created, for the first time in all history, a garden of pure ideology -- where each worker may bloom, secure from the pests purveying contradictory truths. Our Unification of Thoughts is more powerful a weapon than any fleet or army on earth. We are one people, with one will, one resolve, one cause. Our enemies shall talk themselves to death, and we will bury them with their own confusion. We shall prevail!"
Remember that? It was from Apple Computer's groundbreaking 1984 Super Bowl ad introducing Macintosh to the world. It was the speech shown on a giant screen to the subjects of a hypothetical Orwellian dystopia. The climax occurs when a hammer is hurled through the air by a heroic woman as she's chased by security, shattering the screen -- and ushering in the new world of choice. Luckily, the leader's speech wasn't presented using Flash or Java, or those monochromatic minions would have seen this: "Thanks for trying to access Flash Player. Unfortunately it is not available for your device because of restrictions that Apple has put in place. Click here to see a wide array of the latest smartphones and tablets that do support Adobe's Flash Player."
That's what this minion sees -- a lot. And so do a lot of my tech-friendly friends. What's even sadder, is that I bought one of those first Macs (a 128k that booted up with a system disk), and almost every model since, mostly because of the ease of access and use the brand consistently provided.
If you haven't already guessed, this diatribe has a lot to do with my new iPad2. I can't understand how a device that doesn't allow the user to access all moving image Web content (including certain Facebook features and our own emmytvlegends.org site) is thriving. Even worse, to make our website work for what is now millions of iPads in play, we've had to reprogram our site at great cost -- how many other nonprofits like ours, with unique video content, are in the same boat regarding Apple's obstinacy? How much amazing content will be forever lost in the shuffle?
Here's a pretty good ad from Motorola that plays on Apple's change-of-heart: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndhuEUX1kIU.
But Apple is not the only source of frustration for consumers. I can read Amazon Kindle books on my iPad, yet my colleague cannot yet access Kindle on her Blackberry PlayBook (but it can play Flash video, so we're even).
Which brings us to Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, who recently announced the soon-to-be-launched Potterworld site. One of the promised features will be the availability of Harry Potter e-books, something that Rowling had not allowed because of the convoluted proprietary digital rights management rules out there. News sources say that her books will be widely available, and the move may even force Amazon to reconsider its closed access to ePub and other book formats on its Kindle. We certainly hope that in the spirit of openness, Rowling's new site won't prematurely dump Flash and Java.
Even Hulu has made what could be a colossal mistake when it comes to their bottom line. Why, when allowing users to access tons of free content on their desktops, do mobile users have to subscribe to Hulu Plus paid service to see any content? Wouldn't it be better to tease upscale mobile users with the same video available on all platforms, and then lure them into a subscription model? Netflix always had the streaming rights. Subscribers can access content from almost any device with ease and no additional charge. It makes their recent price increase easier to swallow.
On this current battlefield for dominance of both platforms and devices, it seems that the big guns in digital have turned into their own worst enemies when it comes to creating a frustration-less user experience. It's time to stop taking a "too big to fail" approach, burying customers with their own confusion, and provide seamless ease of access -- before it comes full circle, and hammers really start flying....