Can Consumers Keep Up?
Last week I posted about the new Metro user interface in Windows 8. The article had quite a few comments and started a healthy discussion around the integration of Metro alongside classic Desktop mode and questions regarding Microsoft’s user interface strategy. But this got me thinking—for a community of professionals, this debate is natural. Within the web and mobile industry there is a desire to iterate faster to keep ahead of competition and to sure that your platform, device or technology is at the forefront of the industry. When we consider the fast evolving state of HTML5, mobile platforms and frameworks that ease the developer’s effort to publish to new targets, there is a constant demand we place on the design and development community to consider where to make investments in training and education to provide the best skills to our clients, companies and products.
But has anyone asked if the consumers of these technologies are ready for them? How can the ordinary consumer keep up?
iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPad 1, iPad 2 iPad 3, Snow Leopard, Lion, Mountain Lion, Windows 8, 3G, 4G, LTE, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich, Jelly Bean, Key Lime Pie—the list is long—and it is getting longer.
As professionals in this organization we are able to adapt to these changes and evolutions, but when it comes to the consumer that is going to adopt hardware and software—are they really ready for it?
Consider when you are in a room with hundreds of people talking. There is a natural desire to find chaos within the noise and make a connection. The consumer is within this room, with Microsoft, Google, Apple, Adobe, Amazon and tons of other companies all talking at once. Through their desire to find a single voice that they can focus on and filter out the background noise, the consumer has largely opted to listen to Apple. They speak directly to the consumer in a way that other companies can’t, either through empathy or to provide simple solutions to how their combination of products and services can help them.
Because of this, Apple’s competitors have decided to raise their voice, and to attempt to be the new singular voice that a consumer will focus on—but as a result, it has made the room harder to hear anyone—let alone a single company trying to evangelize their solution.
It is even harder when companies like Google, who are iterating at an amazing rate, position their latest Android mobile platform, Ice Cream Sandwich, as a great solution for customers—but at the same time the number of devices that actually run it and are accessible to them are in the single digits. Behind this, with the knowledge that Jelly Bean and Key Lime Pie are not far behind, when do we ask ourselves if technology needs to settle before moving forward too much?
A family member recently wanted to get a tablet. She vacations away from home often, and she is not a heavy computer user, but she loves to read which led me to getting her an Amazon Kindle Fire. She asked why I didn’t get her an iPad—and the conclusion was that her love of reading and the desire to have tons of books available within an easy to use and understand device that was not more than it needed to be led me to that choice. She is very happy with her Kindle and uses it every day, but she would never have found that on her own.
With sales incentives, lack of knowledge of product roadmaps and sales associates that are motivated to push specific product due to partnerships, it is hard for the ordinary consumer to know where to go. Couple this with the nature of online shopping, the ability to ask—”What is the right device for me?” is difficult to answer unless you know someone that can assist. Let alone if they are able to make the purchase and they need to keep up with the user interface and functionality changes that come with software updates and operating system upgrades.
As hardware manufacturers consider the evolution of their product roadmap, they must take into consideration the saturation level of their customers. Offering promotion or marketing is only going to address the issue slightly. Ask your customer: Are you ready for something new?
With so many technology choices out there…it is a question that we need to ask more.