Why can't Everyone be like Apple and Other Nonsense
I recently stumbled on a post by David Pogue, a technology columnist for The New York Times, who wrote a scathing post on how manufacturers today are not “Designing What’s Right for Consumers“.
While I agree with some of his points, I can’t help coming away feeling that this post just gives the wrong impression. It is pretty obvious that Pogue spends a lot of time playing with products (check out the list of Apple How-to books!), but the news flash is (no pun intended), playing with products is a lot different from making them.
In his post, Pogue quotes an interview with Andrew Caffey. Which Pogue finds it absurd that Andrew laments that “Consumer electronics is a very difficult business. It’s difficult to get it right.” After that Pogue runs through a 10 point rant about how you can design better digital picture frames and concludes with this point:
The only question, then, is why manufacturers don’t actually bother doing what’s right. I’m sure they have all kinds of excuses for compromise: “That would cost money,” “That would set us back a month,” “That would limit sales in Eastern Europe,” whatever.
But you don’t have to have an M.B.A. to understand that refusing to compromise on design, for any reason, can lead to fantastic commercial success. Look at Apple, Google, Sonos, R.I.M. (makers of the BlackBerry), or (in its glory days) Palm.
I’m not making any excuses here, but I am sorry to say that yes, it is damn difficult to get consumer electronics right. It is not only just about locations of buttons, usability or ergonomics. There is a lot more factors involved in product development here, and is misleading to imply that by just focusing on a 10 point list of usability issues is all it takes to make a good product.
There is a whole host of other more strategic issues such as defining the right target markets, consumer behavior research, product strategy, branding, and marketing etc. that has to be considered as well. As such the problem here is words working out what is the right thing to make in the first place? Getting all these elements in place correctly is what I believe, Caffery is speaking about.
You see, product development is a huge-ass jigsaw puzzle that needs all the pieces to fall into place correctly for this so-called perfect product to appear. All it takes is just one piece to fall out of place and it all comes unraveled. Believe you me that even Apple/Google/Palm get it wrong, but the difference between Apple and the rest of the world is they get it right most of the time.
I think you can see now, that the amount of resources it takes to get a product done right. Unfortunately rightly or wrongly many companies do not, or are not willing to spend the money, time, talent, space, capacity etc. to get it right.
Let’s say, for arguments sake, what if everything is in place? Well not even that is enough as most companies still may lack the right leadership and vision. Do you think the large Industrial Design team at Creative can’t get anything right? Or do you think their radical ideas don’t get to see the light of day?
While it is correct to say that companies who don’t compromise on Design and Innovation will get ahead, asking why can’t anyone else follow their footsteps based on a few elements is absurd.
Via: Diana Kimball