Good Experiences and Bad

Mark Hurst on the overuse of the word experience:

Funny. That brings to mind… just today I was in the men’s section of Bloomingdale’s with my husband and one of those perfume attack people accosted him as he was about to get on the down escalator, and said, “Would you like the Hugo Boss experience?” He didn’t respond and kept walking, but I felt like going up to her and saying…

Do you mean that if you spray some small bit of that men’s cologne on my husband, suddenly Hugo Boss will appear and perhaps discuss the history of his clothing and product line, his childhood, his personal life, what books he reads, where he vacations, how he spends his time relaxing, his company practices, his work ethic, what it’s like to be a clothing designer, how his ideas about designing are formed, and what he eats for lunch?

And maybe music will start playing throughout the store and suddenly a bunch of models will appear from both the down & up escalators, and they will strut around in the latest Hugo Boss clothes, and then the lights will dim and on the white wall behind them a montage will feature images from meaningful times and milestones in Hugo Boss’s life – then it will slowly fade to black, the models will go back to the escalators, the music will end, Hugo Boss will slowly disappear into the crowd and the only thing my husband will be left with will be a faint odor of the cologne that you sprayed on him, and forevermore whenever that scent hits his nasal passages this Hugo Boss encounter will come to his mind?

Hurst writes some more about the subject. I’ve read and blogged about some other essays on customer and user experience. He also edits/runs the This is Broken weblog.

From Hurst I find this interesting article about the trend toward greater simplicity as products grow more complicated.

Wharton marketing professor Robert J. Meyer has been studying the ramifications of product enhancement and replacement since the 1980s. In a new paper, Meyer — along with Shenghui Zhao of Wharton and Jin Han of Singapore Management University — discuss what they call the “paradox of enhancement” in decisions by consumers to adopt new products. The paradox is this: When people are considering buying next-generation products, they find the bells and whistles attractive and decide to make the purchase, but when they acquire the products, they find the complexity of the new features overwhelming and end up using only the products’ basic features.

“At the time of purchase, people tend to focus on the positive and begin to imagine all the great uses they will get from these new features,” Meyer says. “But they fail to foresee all the things that will cause them not to use them, such as the difficulty of learning.”

I’ll be a little bit of a naysayer and say the failure to use new features of a product is simply a function of time. It took me a good 6 months to get my PDA to a point where it was functioning well (a process no doubt complicated by the fact that Dell was releasing firmware updates every three months, and even a major upgrade). To learn things, you need time to play around, and the only people who have this sort of time are students, retired people and the unemployed.

When using my PC (and soon my laptop), I’ve usually dealing with something in disarray. I haven’t upgraded some things or done thorough backups to media or had time to update things. But give me a free day, and I’ll be fine. (With linux, it’s slightly more complicated; sometimes getting help depends on posting questions on bulletin boards or searching for threads by people with similar problems).

Still, I understand how upgrading to a different class of items entails all sorts of consequences, both mental and financial. I put off upgrading a TV for a long time, but once I bought an HDTV (two weeks ago) that implied that I would need to buy/upgrade several other things. The same happened with my camcorder (that in fact led to the decision to buy the HDTV).

Here’s a list of some ways new technology have simplified my life:

  1. feedreader (bloglines) makes it easier to keep track of blogs.
  2. delicious (lets me access bookmarks in several places)
  3. Pocket Outlook on my PDA helped me manage appointments, calendar and To Do’s.
  4. ewallet, a password storage program on the PDA
  5. online library checkout and online banking–saved me oodles of time!
  6. wishlists and shopbots. Caused me to do a lot of shopping at home, but with better consumer information
  7. forum thread subscriber. Great time-saver for important posts.
  8. Windows backup. I haven’t had to restore backups from Windows, but I like how invisible it is and how it seems to work.
  9. spreadsheets (for book inventory and budgets). Really helped to organize my personal belongings.
  10. weblog for recording personal things. I keep a running list of books I’ve read and movies I’ve watched. Great.
  11. PDA synchronization with Pocket PC. Buggy, but generally worked. Just made my life sweeter.
  12. ebook reader. The only annoying thing is managing all my blackmask downloads, but generally it is painless.

Here are some things I still need help on:

  1. recipes/shopping. That still is inefficient. I don’t have the time to synchronize or collect information. I have recipes, but I leave them at home (or I don’t have time to plan in advance). What happens is that I often plan for recipes and realize I have forgotten things.
  2. bill deadlines. Pocket Outlook really helped me on that by letting me put reminders for datedues, but as you use more credit cards and financing offers, even a day late can incur massive penalties. I need a failsafe way to remind myself of these important items.
  3. archiving and backing up on multiple machines. I have one windows machine and one linux laptop, and the slowness of my DVD burner makes it cumbersome to make archival copies.
  4. keeping paper reciepts/car receipts. Perhaps this is merely a matter of finding the time to organize myself, but I can’t tell how many times I’ve misplaced a receipt that I needed for returning an item or obtaining a rebate.
  5. Keeping inventory on my creative work. I have notes everywhere, both on paper and on PC. I’ve come nowhere close to having an adequate count of the ideas or stories I have. I have them all over the house and in boxes, and it always seems to require time to retrieve these things.
  6. Making my content retrievable. While preparing for a will, I realize that none of my family members would have any idea about how to preserve or reconstruct the content from my websites or computer. They don’t even have a password. If you have a loved one or spouse who would probably look after your stuff afterwards, tell them this one important thing: If I should die, the first thing to do is contact my webhosting company and make sure the bills have been paid!
  7. Batteries. I am drowning in battery chargers, AC adaptors and old batteries. Somebody needs a more uniform way of charging batteries, so consumers don’t have a different adaptor for every conceivable device they buy.