I blame myself

You can classify products into two distinct buckets* by asking the following question: How do you feel when you don’t end up using the product that much?

Some products you don’t use, and you blame the product. (“I bought this book and read a quarter of it – it was so bad. Do not get this book.”) Other products you don’t use, and you blame yourself. (“I got a treadmill but I never use it…I really need to get on that.” “I got this electronics kit and have been meaning to use it, but just haven’t gotten the time.”)

What is up with this?  Do you want the “user experience failure mode” to end with the user blaming himself, not your product?

Can you design in this failure mode? In engineering, you design for graceful degradation. If something goes wrong, you don’t want an explosion. You want a nice, clean exit. In product design, is there an equivalent? Can you design in an emotional reaction to your product’s failure to click with the user that doesn’t result in the user blaming you?

I’d argue that designing for failure modes is stupid – just make your thing good. 

That said. I suspect there could be a core nugget about how products emotionally engage that is somehow related to these two distinct failure modes. I’m not sure what this nugget is yet, but if I figure it out — I’ll write it down here.

*Obviously good products get used. I’m talking about what happens when a product doesn’t get used.

Dilate your eyes

Last week I got LASIK surgery – my eyesight was not horrible, but it was not great. Without glasses I could not drive, for example.

The morning before the surgery, the doc checked my eyes, and put some dilating solution in them. The dilation effect lasted a while, and I couldn’t see anything up close for an afternoon. This meant no computers, no reading.

I returned to work after the pre-op unable to sit at my desk and do anything useful. Instead I spent the day talking to people.

Minor epiphany.

I got updates on what they were doing, had short discussions I had intended to have but never had time to have. I watched people work from a distance. I listened to their conversations with each other. With my dilated eyes, I was able to get a feel for what was going on at Sifteo in a way my inbox could never tell me. My near-sightedness was gone; the only things I could see clearly were far away.

Holy metaphors, batman.