Surprise and Delight

January 4, 2011 | 
surprise-and-delight0 reads

Designing for discovery instead of explication leads users to gradually build a deep relationship with your product… an iPhone vs. Outlook comparison.

I’ve been an iPhone user for 3 years, and although I’ve got all the same complaints about the network support that everyone else has, it’s by far the best phone I’ve ever owned. The new Android devices are closing the gap in shiny-ness, but I’m gradually becoming a dedicated fan of the mobile magic from Cupertino.

This morning I had an experience that reminded me why, put Microsoft Outlook in even starker relief, and set the bar still higher for Yesware. This morning I had a call scheduled, and had embedded the number in my Google calendar entry. I was driving to another appointment. It was early enough that I just didn’t feel like putting the number in my short term memory for long enough to close the calendar, open the phone, and type it in. I had used the Cut and Paste feature before, of course, but not in this use-case.

Thought I’d try…

  1. Edit the calendar entry
  2. Double-touch the start of the number in the mobile web version of Google calendar. Drag  to the end. Worked!
  3. Adjust the copy area with the cute little blue dots.
  4. Press Copy

Cut Copy and Paste from the iPhone

(All this at a stop light by the way). So far, so good. It worked in this context just like copying text in notes, emails, etc. I wish I didn’t have to click Edit at the start, but that’s not too bad. By the way… when did Apple ever train me on their approach to Cut and Paste? They never did. I found it after the software update while I was doing something else. I didn’t pay any more for it. The UI itself told me how to use it, and it’s never in the way when I don’t need it.

Now the surprise and delight part:

  1. Press the Home button
  2. Press the phone icon

iphone3gs keypad

See the blank space on top of the softpad?

  1. Touched it. The Paste icon shows up!
  2. Touch Paste and Call!

This is just one small example. And that’s the point. I wasn’t trained on this feature. I learned it on my own. It worked so simply that I used it again and again in familiar contexts (email, notes) where word-processing behavior was to be expected (except on a phone until recently). With that experience as a foundation, I had the freedom to explore how else the feature could work. And it did!

The designers and testers had been there before me! It was like I was on safari, had crossed virgin terrain, and arrived to find my camp all set up and dinner roasting. Now it’s got me curious… what other little experiences have been built in for me to find? In comparison, Microsoft Outlook 2010 has taken the opposite approach. Their desire for consistency across the Office suite and the need for touch interface support in Outlook has been to bring the Office “Ribbon” UI over to Outlook. It’s a mess:

outlook ribbon annontated

Their design solution seems to have been “When in doubt… add more buttons.” There are more awesome examples here, because the ribbon icons change as you change between Mail, Contacts, Notes, Calendar, etc. Gentlemen (and yes, I’m pretty sure you are men), just because you have a big screen, does not mean you have to fill it up.

There is nothing to explore here. There’s no sense of discovery. The user experience is just wading through buttons and labels. In an effort to make Outlook easier to use, Microsoft has put a fat new wall of icons between the start of the app (at the top) and the useful part (where you type your email).

In building Yesware, this is our challenge: What can we take out? What can we avoid putting in? Can we provide a little magic? And how the hell can we get so far ahead of users that when they go exploring in our app, we can be there to welcome them like old friends?

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