Success Anchored in Function AND Beauty

Just a saying from Dr. Ferry Porsche (as in Porsche cars) that I liked:


“It has always been a principal of our company that function and beauty are inseparable.”


If you can make something useful and attractive–you have a real winner!


Companies like Porsche and Apple get it (many, many others are clueless).ย ย 


Product development is both art and science and therein lay the foundations of their success or failure. ๐Ÿ˜‰


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Wheelchair Complexity

Wheelchair Complexity

So my approach to enterprise architecture, product design, and customer service, as many of you know, is plan and simple, User-centric!

Innovating, building things, servicing customers, and communicating needs to be done in a way that is useful and usable–not overly complex and ridiculous.

The other day, I saw a good example of a product that was not very user-centric.

It was a type of wheelchair, pictured here in blue.

And as you can see it is taking 2 men and a lady quite a bit of effort to manipulate this chair.

This little girl standing off to the side is sort of watching amusingly and in amazement.

What is ironic is that the wheelchair is supposed to be made for helping disabled people.

Yet, here the wheelchair can’t even be simply opened/closed without a handful of healthy people pulling and pushing on the various bars, levers, and other pieces.

If only Apple could build a wheelchair–it would be simple and intuitive and only take one finger to do everything, including play iTunes in the background. ๐Ÿ˜‰

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Go Simple!

Go Simple!

Two interesting recent articles discuss the importance of building in simplicity to product design to make things more useful to people.

Contrary to popular belief, simple is not easy. Mat Mohan in Wired Magazine (Feb. 2013) says that “simplicity is about subtraction,” and “subtraction is the hardest math in product design.”

Two of the best recent examples of simplicity through subtraction is what Apple was able to achieve with the iPod, iPhone, iPad, and iTunes, and what Google did through its “sparse search page.”

Unfortunately, too many companies think that “quality is associated with more,” instead of less, and so they pack on options, menus, and buttons until their darn devices are virtually useless.

Similarly, an article in the Wall Street Journal (29 March 2013) advocates that “simplicity is the solution,” and rails against the delays, frustration, and confusion caused by complexity.

How many gadgets can’t we use, how many instructions can’t we follow, and how many forms can’t we decipher–because of complexity?

The WSJ gives examples of 800,000 apps in the Apple store, 240+ choices on the menu for the Cheesecake Factory (I’d like to try each and every one), and 135 mascaras, 437 lotions, and 1,992 fragrances at the Sephora website.

With all this complexity, it’s no wonder then that so many people suffer from migraines and other ailments these days.

I remember my father telling me that you should never give consumers too many choices, because people just won’t know what to choose. Instead, if you simply give them a few good choices, then you’ll make the sale.

Unfortunately, too many technologists and engineers develop ridiculously complex products, and too many lawyers, legislators, and regulators insist on and prepare long and complex documents that people aren’t able to read and cannot readily understand.

For example, in 2010, the tax code was almost 72,000 pages long, the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is about 2,700 pages, and the typical credit card contract now runs to 20,000 words.

Even the brightest among us, and those with a lot of time on their hands, would be challenged to keep up with this.

While rewriting and tax code is a welcome topic of discussion these days, it befuddles the mind why most of the time, we simply add on new laws, rules, regulations, amendments, and exclusions, rather than just fix it–plain and simple.

But that’s sort of the point, it’s easier for organizations to just throw more stuff out there and put the onus on the end-users to figure it out–so what is it then that we pay these people for?

The plain language movement has gotten traction in recent years to try and improve communications and make things simpler and easier to understand.

Using Apple as an example again (yes, when it comes to design–they are that good), it is amazing how their products do not even come with operating instructions–unlike the big confusing manuals in minuscule print and numerous languages that used to accompany most electronic products. And that’s the point with Apple–you don’t need instructions–the products are so simple and intuitive–just the way they are supposed to be, thank you Apple!

The journal offers three ways to make products simpler:

– Empathy–have a genuine feel for other people’s needs and expectations.

– Distill–reduce products to their essence, getting rid of the unneeded bells and whistles.

– Clarify–make things easier to understand and use.

These are really the foundations for User-Centric Enterprise Architecture, which seeks to create useful and usable planning products and governance services–the point is to provide a simple and clear roadmap for the organization, not a Rorschach test for guessing the plan, model, and picture du-jour.

Keeping it simple is hard work–because you just can’t throw crap out there and expect people to make sense of it–but rather you have to roll up your sleeves and provide something that actually makes sense, is easy to use, and makes people’s lives better and not a living product-design hell. ๐Ÿ˜‰

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)

The Bottle Revolution


How many of you feel sort of disgusting every time you take out the trash with bottles and containers?


According to Earth911, only 27% of plastic and 25% of glass ends up getting recycled, with the majority ending up instead in landfills.ย 


This is one reason that I really like the new eco.bottles made by Ecologic, a sustainable (i.e. green) packaging company.


The containers are made of two parts:


– The inner plastic pouch that holds the liquid and snaps into the second part.
– The outer shell made of 100% recycled cardboard and newspaper (and in turn is 100% recycable again).ย 


These containers result is a net 70% plastic reduction!


Yet, they have the same strength and functionality of plastic containers, with comparable results in drop, ship, and moisture tests.


And companies like,ย Seventh Generation, a leader in sustaibable cleaning, paper, and personal care products have signed on and is using eco.bottles, and they have seen sales increase 19% with it.ย 


In a Bloomberg BusinessWeekย (25 October 2012) article, the chief operating officer of The Winning Combination states: “The minute you look at it, you get it. This is a bottle that’s good for the planet.”


Like these eco.bottles, we need more of our decisions to be driven by what is good for us long-term, so this is not just a revolutionary green bottle, but perhaps a true sustainable evolution in our thinking and behaving all around.ย 

Security Advisory For Architecture Drawings

Blueprint

Dark Reading (21 June 2012) came out with security news of a AutoCAD Worm called ACAD/Medre.A that targets design documents.

I also found warnings about this vulnerability at PC magazine (24 June 2012).

This malware was discovered by computer security firm ESET.

This is a serious exploitation in the industry leader for computer-aided design and drafting that is used to create most of our architectural blueprints.

Approximately 10,000 machines are said to have been affected in Peru and vicinity, with documents being siphoned off to email accounts in China.

With information on our architectural structure and designs for skyscrapers, government building, military installations, bridges, power plants, dams, communication hubs, transportation facilities, and more, our critical infrastructure would be seriously jeopardized.

This can even be used to steal intellectual property such as designs for innovations or even products pending patents.

This new malware is another example of how cyber espionage is a scary new reality that can leave us completely exposed from the inside out.

Need any more reason to “air gap” sensitive information and systems?

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Wade Rockett)

The H2O Coat

Awesome coat called the Raincatchthat catches/stores rainwater and purifies it for drinking.

Designed by students at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design (CIID).

The collar of the coat catches the rainwater.

The water passes through a charcoal and chemical filtration system.

Purified water is then stored around the hips of the coat where it can be distributed and easily carried.

A straw is built in and provided for easy drinking.

I like this for its functionality as survival gear and its practicality as a user-centric product.

One thing I would add is a place to put the Coca-Cola syrup to give it a little extra pick me up. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Very cool–good job!