Monday, May 13, 2013

Funkafied Technology Or How the User Experience Dictates Function



I realized the other day, I have no idea where our iPad is.

It’s first generation (damned early adopters) and when we got it, we could barely put it down. It was always on the coffee table ready for game playing, email checking or Googling some weird fact or question we had about something we saw on television.


And then it quietly kind of disappeared. At least that’s what I thought. 


The truth is, it became my daughter’s television. Sure, there’s a rule in our house: no TVs in bedrooms. We have one television in the living room we still watch together (thank goodness since she’s almost 14 and I figured I would have lost this battle long ago). But the iPad snuck in and grabbed the role of bedroom TV because she could stream Netflix - and approved programming without advertising - and I didn’t have a fit. In fact, she would clean her room if she could watch the iPad.
The fact that I didn’t miss it made me think about all the devices we have adopted lately and how the individual user experience of each is really dictating the functionality of each item. Here’s a quick run down.

The aforementioned iPad. 
Now a streaming TV that lives plugged into a speaker stand in the kid’s room. It doesn’t really do anything except stream video. Why not other things? Let’s face it, games are klunky on the iPad. It’s kind of big to hold and a little heavy and other than read a book on it (which I still kind of like but I started getting library books instead because, well, they are free), there’s not a lot to do on an iPad that you can’t do on an iPhone.

The iPhone. 
It’s probably our go to device for both me and the kid. I play games on it, check email (must look present), my calendar, weather and text. But I hate texting. My most hated application of all time. Sure I do it, but I don’t like it. The teen, on the other hand, texts almost exclusively. I pointed out to her that a phone call would take one tenth the time of these persistent, evening-long texting sessions. She said she agreed, but calling was “too hard.” I can’t get her to use it for her calendar - I guess her life just hasn't gotten complicated enough - and she bites my head off for sending email. But every night I send her a text that say, “go to bed.” Ahh technology.

The Kindle.
I’m not sure I know where that is either. It was super awesome at first. My daughter loved it. She could carry three books to school on one device. But when the novelty wore off and she realized she had to “shop” for books to read (early on she had recommendations), she lost interest. Shopping online was too hard. It was easier to go to the library (see don’t read on iPad above). Funny how something so old school is such an easier user experience; there’s nothing better than picking up a book and reading the flap to see if it’s interesting. Now if they could just carry around instant star ratings so I know if you thought it was a good read.

The Chromebook. 
This almost immediately replaced our MacBook Air for one simple reason: the glass on our first MacBook cracked for no apparent reason and when I bought a replacement, neither of us ever wanted to touch it for fear of breaking another expensive machine. Enter the Chromebook. At $249 this thing sizzles (can you tell, I am using it right now!). We have desktop computers for actual computing; but for writing, surfing, checking email and Facebook, the Chromebook is proving to be our go to device. In fact, we occasionally fight over it. The biggest constraint is access to wi-fi but after that, it’s so easy to use. I honestly hesitated to buy one and now I am considering a second. 

For us, the user experience absolutely dictates the functionality of our devices. I’d love to hear if you have had similar experiences. What’s your iPad doing? Let me know!

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