April 24, 2009

How the iPhone has changed how people see your product

The way your customers see your products has changed. Popular products such as the iPhone have raised the bar with customers now demanding more sophisticated, or at least more visually appealing user interfaces.

This became very clear to a client of ours recently previewing its new web site with two members of its board. Both liked the content but wanted it to look sexier. After some discussion of what that meant, the iPod was identified as the benchmark.

For a long time we have known that most screenshots of IT systems, although popular additions to marketing brochures and sales presentations, do little to increase the attractiveness of most solutions. There are three reasons;

  • Screen shots do more to communicate features rather than benefits
  • Most UI screenshots are not visually attractive and sometimes not even userfriendly
  • Most screen shots are not legible when they are reduced to fit onto a brochure, website or sales presenter

Something similar applies to demos. With so many expectations created in advance of the solution being demonstrated, displaying simplistic, or crude system user interfaces can be a letdown.

One of our clients recently demonstrated its new set top box entertainment system on a large plasma screen television recently. Impressive? Well not quite so. The icons used were more a kin to a BBC Micro, or Amstrad computer, than the iPod. So too was the on screen text and the layout. The client, disappointed by the lack of a wow reaction, explained that while the system’s functionality was rich, the graphics were limited by the hardware’s capacity. Again those watching pointed out that users would view the system on its appearance, long before being able to judge its functionality. Again, the iPod was identified as the standard to be achieved.

Who knows if the iPod is the best product on the market, but one thing is for sure it is both easy to use and nice to look at. In short it is sexy. It has set the standard for user interfaces, with intuitive and stylish, yet understated, icons and buttons.

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