January 22, 2008

Cell phones: Technology User Frustrations

We all know that computers and technology can be frustrating. But we also know that it can be exciting, and not only enhance our productivity, but significantly increase what we are capable of doing. Just as with other good tools, when technology works well, it can expand human capabilities. That is why I spend my life dealing with the reality of what sometimes seems like endless frustration – in an effort to make our lives with technology better. So, this is a time to look at what works and what doesn’t with technology. Let’s understand where your frustrations lie, and let’s also be sure to talk about what works well. Together, we can send a message to technology creators about the importance of addressing the “user experience”. This isn’t a helpdesk to solve particular problems, nor an advocacy center to get that vendor to deal with your lost data. But by bringing together our heads on where the problems lie, we can bring our voices together and push the industry forward.

Today's Topic: Cell Phones
What simple tasks on cell phones are harder than they should be?

Comment here, and I'll also post the concerns raised on today's Tech Tuesday radio show on WAMU.

5 comments:

Michael said...

This is really a broader question of Technology and social interaction. People blame technology, it's not necessary the technology, but the desire among companies to generate revenue. They would rather have you locked into a device than redesign it so it user friendly. Everything on Star Trek works together becuase it's designed to.

James Grosser said...

I listened to this program by podcasting it on my Blackberry. I have to take issue with the statement, made by Kojo and seconded by you, that the Blackberry is hard to use (other than email). I could not disagree more. My Blackberry 8800 is the best cell phone I've ever had. It's very easy to use. For example, to make call while driving I use the built-in voice recognition software, which works great. To make a call at other times, I use speed dial (every key on the keyboard can be assigned a speed dial number), the call list, or just type the name of the person I want to call from the home screen (the person's numbers are automatically retrieved). Just my 2 cents.

Ben Bederson said...

James: I actually agree with you regarding blackberry. On the show, I didn't have time to talk about the part of blackberry that drives me crazy - which are all the options. There are way too many of them, they are cryptic, and they are organized in such a fashion that I inevitably have to spend minutes looking for each one - sometimes having to use the web to figure out what option corresponds to what I actually want to do...

Bill said...

Way back in the early cell phone days (circa 1997), I had a Government cell phone account. This meant I had almost no minutes but only paid $7.50 per month for service. However, we did have the first incoming minute free so my wife and I learned to do the serial one minute call with me hanging up every minute and her calling me right back. This was aided by the cell phone’s “minute minder” feature that beeped at 50 seconds into the call and every minute after that, thus providing a nice warning of when I was about to spend another 30 cents. When I switched providers, I had to get a new phone (thanks, of course, to the lack of US standards). The new phone was an exact model replacement for my old phone but for the other provider so it also had a minute minder feature, but the beep occurred as the minute expired making it useless as a true minute minder. (I often commented that the sound should be changed to the sound of a cash register since it only told me I just gave the cell phone company another 30 cent). My brother-in-law happened to be working for the company that made the phone so I asked him if this was a design flaw based on a LACK OF UNDERSTANDING of how this feature is used. He told me that his company had been asked by the cell phone company to change the design so the warning did NOT occur before the minute, based on their CORRECT UNDERSTANDING of how the feature was used.

google said...

My phone beeps on the minute, not 10 seconds before to give me the heads-up to hang up before the minute expires. Thus the minute minder is absolutely useless, other than making an annoying beep every 60 seconds - so i just keep the minute-minder turned off. Another usesless tech feature that is misappropriated.