Plug and Play Rules The Day

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Steve Jobs really did so many people a huge favour with his approach to the personal computer and the iconic range of consumer focused technology products with which he will forever be associated and ensure his legacy as great innovator. The back draft from his philosophy has lead not only to an obsession with aesthetics among industrial designers and product creators of all types, but the other strand to this is the now ingrained mantra it must be simple to use. Complexity is barrier to progress. Convenience and ease of use are the critical factors for products that are to succeed in mass ie non specialist consumer market places. Elegance is essential.

An absence of these characteristics leads to the classification of ‘failed product’ no matter what its actual merits are, the pedigree of the manufacturer, efficacy of the materials or manufacturing process if it cannot be immediately put to use (and do what it claims to) by the average, literate, able bodied person so authorised to use it, whether in a private domestic or professional capacity the product must be categorised as having failed.

Most notable among the beneficiaries of Job’s reality warping drive for perfection and general aestheticism are entrepreneurs. Few are they now among the entrepreneurial class who as they do exist in a paradigm of commoditised technology, show disregard for the user experience (UX) with respect to their products or services, with this seeing great care given to the materials, tactility and styling of physical items, and likewise colours, layout, iconography and elegance on the interfaces of digital services, which are often the only differentiators in a crowded market.

Being neither possessed of huge amounts of patience or an innate inclination towards the technical I more than most appreciate a smooth and seamless experience when engaging with new devices or utilising digital tools in the conduct of social or business related activities. Nothing raises my cortisol levels more than the infuriating occasions when one finds oneself staring at some mal or non functioning device with nothing more than some ineptly worded instructions document and a 2 hour wait on an obscure customer service helpline – assuming there is one – only to be met by someone whose grasp of English is so poor, one would be better off talking to a robot, which incidentally is increasingly the reality one is faced with in these scenarios.

My fury is even more palpable when left staring (which rapidly progresses to roaring) at the screen of an interface of an application that has failed to load or perform its core function, and the so-called Help section doesn’t facilitate immediate contact and in many cases treats the subject of customer support with such contempt it doesn’t warrant the term being applied.

There’s a not too widely held belief among those concerned with the introduction of new products or services to new or existing markets; that one of the best ways to go about testing an hypothesis as to the likelihood of success in the market is to seek to ‘scratch your own itch’, meaning that if you have a need and the product you are conceptualising would meet it, then there is a high chance that there are others out there who have the same issue and would therefore purchase the item were it available. Dependent on the size of the market and the margins on each sale, this would indicate your new business venture has a fair chance at success.

I subscribe fully to this approach to both market research and product/service design, viewing myself as I do as ‘customer number one’. This is by no means a cop out or in fact a complete departure from the traditional ‘research’ based methods of customer discovery and ascertaining customer demand, and in actual fact demands a higher degree of focus and integrity around the design and development process because much like the process of writing one is faced with the ever present truth of ones own judgement as to the validity of the end result.

The term ‘Plug and Play’ is actually anomalous and should actually state ‘plug in and play’ to denote the process of plugging in a device, logging on, signing in or up to a service and thereafter ‘playing’ by way of participating, transacting, communicating within the product, service or experiential platform made accessible by the prior action. Whatever the case it has, as is so often the case in common parlance defaulted to the term requiring least effort to remember or use.

Regardless of the efficacy of the terminology in use the activity it denotes commands both respect and attention. In both aspects I pay it it’s dues. I would urge you to do the same whether in tending to your own needs and equally if not more so those of others. In each instance conduct a quick internal audit asking yourself “is that to a standard fitting of me”?

It’s a great barometer in that it simultaneously ensures one stays present to ones own behaviour and impact, while remaining cognisant of the needs of others, critical when they constitute your existing or prospective patrons. You can be certain it is observed and adhered to during every stage of the design and development process of the products, services and events we (e2) create and co-create with you and our wider audience.

The outcome of this is that as the enterprise engine and the applications that comprise it become established features in their respective markets they will be clearly identifiable by their hallmark characteristics that make them, elegant, user friendly, effective, easy to plug into and a pleasure to play with.

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