Monday, October 08, 2007

User requirements

I am constantly faced with situations where a product is missing some little tweak that would have made it much better for the particular context I am in. It usually is something that would have a very low cost in development and in added interface complexity. I wonder why the company didn't see the need. Is it the method they use to identify needs? Are they not looking at a broad set of contexts?

For example, almost everyone has a cell phone now. Cell phones have easy to use clocks. Since we are carrying cell phones everywhere we go, we don't need watches anymore. I don't know how many people have given up watches (especially since they are also a fashion statement), but I imagine there are at least tens of thousands. I am one of them.

So when I travel by plane, and the announcement comes on that I have to turn off my electronic devices, I suddenly am without a clock. Sometimes, I just want to know the time because I am impatient. But last week, I needed to take some medication at a particular time. Wouldn't it be pretty easy to design the phone with an "airplane mode" in which the communication parts are turned off, but you can still access the rest (clock, alarm, games, etc). I bet there are lots of features people would like to use in the plane. Is this enough to get people to choose one phone over another? Or at least to be more satisfied with their current phone and less likely to jump?

One I am less sure about is to have the clock on your computer persistent even when Powerpoint is on slideshow mode. It would be helpful if you could see the clock on the screen when giving a presentation so you don't have to look at your watch (or phone) to see how much time you have left. Its not very big, so I suspect it wouldn't change the slide appearance much. Maybe it could be something you could add to the Slide Master.