March 29, 2010

User Interfaces and Self-Esteem

The Bloomberg Terminal and Self-Psychology
An article at UX Magazine that appeared a few days ago deals with the – unmastered – challenge of redesigning the Bloomberg Terminal. One central argument that is brought forward regarding the reason why the interface will not be redesigned any time soon, is that “users take pride and find highly rewarding to handle a painful interface“, with the reward consisting in „feeling and looking like a hard-core professional”.

Norman’s thoughts regarding the “reflective level” of design come to mind [PDF]. But of course, he is not the first to describe how objects and activities that are relevant to us affect our (psychological) selves. Take, e.g., this description of “selfobjects”, a concept brought forward by Heinz Kohut:

„Selfobjects are external objects that function as part of the "self machinery." In other words, they are persons, objects or activities that "complete" the self, and which are necessary for normal functioning. Observing the patient's selfobject connections is a fundamental part of self-psychology. For instance, a person's particular habits, choice of education and work, taste in life partners, may fill a selfobject-function for that particular individual.”

March 11, 2010

What's The Name of Success?

Quick! Name three types of Apple MP3 players!

That was easy, wasn't it?

Now you might wonder what the sense of this exercise was. - Well, during this year's CeBIT I visited 3M's booth to check out their new multi touch LCD monitor. Afterwards, I browsed their website to get some more information - I had to browse because I could not remember the name of the monitor to search for it. It turned out that it's called "M2256PW" - sexy, isn't it? Other 3M touch screens are called "M1500SS", "M1700SS", "C1500SS" and "C1700SS".

The first experience we have concerning a product is often its name, e.g., when friends tell us about it.
When I was referring to my visit at 3M's booth, I always had to say that I had a look at "this new touch screen that 3M presented" or simply "the touch screen" - not very catchy. Which is kind of sad because the screen is not bad, and a catchy name would make referring to it in conversations much easier.

Now, I'm not saying that the name of a product is THE factor for success, but it certainly is a factor that should not be neglected. If you spent considerable effort on designing a product or service that shall provide the optimal user experience, you should give it a name that is unique and easy to remember in order to also provide an easy way of talking about it, because talking about a product or service is part of the "extended user experience" - and you want to make it easy for people to spread the word.

To sum it up: good usability makes the memory of interacting with the product stick in a good way. A catchy name makes it easier for the storys user tell about your product to stick, too. 

(Oh, and keep the name short, so people can tweet about it easily.)