Once upon a time, when the Think Blog was very young, we had a series of posts called “Gets It / Doesn’t Get It.” Our intention was to highlight exceptional experience design and to, conversely, call poor design to the mat. There were only a few official entries in the “Doesn’t Get It” canon, but two main things happened since that experiment that have recently led us to formally abandon it:
1. We Grew Up Think Brownstone’s brand expression has naturally evolved and solidified over time—providing us with a clearer sense of “who” the brand is as a sum of its parts. Though we always come from a place of “hate the design, not the designer,” we realized that it’s not really in our collective character to so overtly and publicly be negative. While it’s extremely important in our line of work to collect strong and weak examples, it’s also important to be mindful about how and when you share them (and how pointed one gets when naming names).
2. We Got The “Wrong” Kind Of Attention In any given time period, and with rare exception, our most popular blog post is about how tea emporium Teavana “Doesn’t Get It” (or at least they didn’t back when we posted the piece in September of 2010). I wrote that piece, I stand by what I wrote, and I don’t think much has changed since. But that’s fodder for my personal channels, not the company’s. More importantly, the type of responses the post generates does nothing to further our business goals. Worse, it falsely inflates our blog analytics and generates noise in our email inboxes.
We’re constantly cleaning up and tweaking our digital presence to stay aligned with our marketing and business goals, and to take advantage of new, validated trends and technologies. As part of that process, our first thought was to delete all of the “Doesn’t Get It” posts—revisionist history, I know, but all’s fair in bits and bytes. We subsequently discussed the honesty of removing it. We like to talk about how we have a new generation of thinking and have continued to add more smart people to our team, but some have noticed the post and asked, “what does this say about Think Brownstone?”
Ultimately we agreed that our blog is a record of our thinking and our evolution, and the answer to “what to do about it?” was an obvious one: we blog about it. I know, we’re SO self-conscious, right? Right. Like any good company!
Have you been faced with a similar dilemma? What was your course of action, and why? Looking forward to the conversation.
P.S. Starbucks/Teavana, your first Think Session is on us!
When I decided to buy a minivan, telling my other mom friends resulted in a lot of “I’d rather die than buy a minivan” comments. That’s kind of a shame, because when you get right down to it, the minivan is possibly the most practical vehicle a family can own. It’s designed for easy access to the interior for small kids (a remote push-button sliding door on both sides), has removable or stow-able seats for more cargo room, drives like a car, but you can fit the whole family (plus grandparents!) in it. From a user experience perspective it gets an A+ in my book…so why the mom-hate? Feels like it basically boils down to the (tired) cliché that a mini van is simply NOT cool.
If something is too “uncool” to use, can it still be considered an example of great user design (related see: bluetooth headsets)?
On the other side of that argument - look at Basecamp. Basecamp is a great looking web application, and often one of the first things someone will mention when you ask him/her to recommend project management software. But, in my opinion, it’s missing a lot of functionality and workflow that would make it a more useful application for project management. Its street cred and sleek design seem to help it overcome what, in reality, it lacks in functionality and practicality.
Have you come across other examples where coolness overcomes shortcomings in functional design? Or conversely, where lack of “coolness” renders an awesome user experience moot?
Where are the chalkboards? Remember those black slates where restaurateurs scribbled daily specials? In addition to whiteboards, we actually still use chalkboards at Think Brownstone to sketch and share timely information—but interestingly, more and more restaurants are forgoing paper and boards and using tablets for their menus and wine lists.
I was handed a tablet while dining at a restaurant recently. “Tap the edge of this page to switch screens. [pause] Oops,” the waiter said, “it went to the logo page. Just tap here to go back to the menu.” It was the first menu I’ve seen that required the waiter to give instructions.
“Thanks. How about the wine list?” I asked.
“Oh, that’s on a different tablet. Hold on while I get it.”
On a different tablet? We can forgo the cheeky/obvious metaphors here and just say: why use technology unless it improves the user experience?
As a foodie and wine lover, I would love a tablet to suggest wines in my price range that pair well with my tastes or specific menu items to my liking. Who needs a sommelier when I can have tasting notes and Robert Parker’s ratings at my fingertips? Even more, give me the calories, diet restrictions and the most popular items ordered plus a quick and non-invasive way to capture ratings. Better yet, let me send my orders straight to the bartender or kitchen so I don’t have to wait for the waiter to come back to my table. Wouldn’t it be cool to send a quick note to the runner for more salad dressing or water?
Some innovative restaurants are getting there – letting tablets practically replace the wait staff (other than to answer questions, but isn’t that’s what Google is for?). At Jade Eatery and Lounge in NY, customers use iPads to place orders, tally their bill and swipe credit card payments. As a result, this restaurant is improving the time for turning tables as well as improving customer satisfaction by giving diners more control over their experience and valuable time.
Similarly, I have to admit that I love designing my own sandwich, picking ingredients, and submitting my order on Wawa’s touch screen system. It’s fast and efficient to say the least—it just needs to take my credit card so I never have to wait in line.
Most of us at Think Brownstone still find ourselves starting the design process on dry-erase whiteboards and black chalkboards rather than using our fancy 60” interactive touch screen monitor or SketchBookPro on the iPad, though we eventually migrate there. No doubt, technology does make our lives more productive, but when it’s more about glitz than value and utility, sometimes the low-tech solution is still the best.