May 17, 2009 7 Comments
For years, I read about Skype, and enjoyed the concept, though I didn’t use it. Didn’t have the need for free point-to-point Voice-over-IP, given my calling patterns and calling plans. It meant a little bit of trouble – hooking up a mic/headset, calling through my computer – not hard, but it was a few steps I didn’t feel like taking.
The quality of VOIP kept improving, however, and many people signed up for Skype accounts. Then they added video. Now that’s interesting – but again, it meant hooking up a webcam, doing an initial setup, taking some steps to use it – a change in workflow. Nah.
After managing to spill some coffee on my laptop keyboard, I had to buy a replacement Dell, and this model had something new to me – a built-in webcam and a built-in mic/audio system of reasonable quality. Finally, I re-considered Skype, because it had crossed the Threshold of Easy – a quick download, and it just worked. Plus it gave me something new: on-demand and free video calls.
I’m not tech-shy, but I’m not a first-adopter – I don’t chase gadgetry and spend lots of time doing configuration and troubleshooting. I want stuff to offer me some kind of benefit and at the same time, delight me with ease of use. That’s why I was so relieved to get rid of my cell phone and become an iPhone fan – it not only works, it leaps over the threshold of easy. By and large, the Tivo experience has been that way as well.
Over the years, I’ve had a chance to use, and sell, lots of products. Most suffered from a distinct lack of ease of use. Software interfaces designed by engineers who care only about functionality have been a particular grief. If you’re making my life harder instead of easier, you’ve already failed. Go back to the drawing board, and include a creative usability person in the ground-level design process.
If you’re going to create a product or service, put an awful lot of effort into crossing that threshold. It may well be the difference between something that garners a few percentage points, and something that’s a smash hit. Make it, not just able to do things, but EASY.
What are you a fan of that crossed the threshold of easy for you?