Jan 28, 2010

It's about the little things

I just downloaded a PDF file containing scanned documents -- needed to copy some information off it. The page I was reading was rotated 90 degrees to the left. I was about to start the usual series of menu clicks to rotate the page when I realized I could do a multi-touch gesture on my touchpad. So I put two fingers and twisted to the right, and the image rotated.

Being able to do that gave me lots of joy. In Pinoy, we would call it, "mababaw ang kaligayahan" (closest interpretation: "too easy to please"). But recoiling from my guilty pleasure, I realized that this is what design thinking should be about. It's the little things that matter.

When I switched to a Mac, this became a mantra for me. "It's the little things." Tortured by complicated steps and commands in Windows (apart from the fact that I had to scan for trojans and malware every night), it was the little things that made the difference in the end.

Little things like having to answer ridiculous technical questions in Windows whenever I needed to install a new program (in Mac, you mostly just drag and drop a new app into the Applications folder); needing an Uninstall program to remove an application I no longer needed (in Mac, you just drag the offending application into the waste basket); and being bugged by pesky pop-up screens asking you to confirm this or that action.

I realized later that these little things added up to a painful experience I was not even aware I was going through! I was so used to being a forgiving Windows user (being Filipino added to this resilience) that I only felt the difference when I started using the Mac.

It was only then that I realized the care that went into designing the hardware and operating system of the Mac. The Mac seemed difficult to use at the start of my switch, but that was just my Windows-soaked persona struggling to compete against a much better way of doing things. Guess which side won out in the end?

It's a little thing, being able to rotate an image on my screen using a gesture that is closer to reality than clicking a series of menus. It is "mababaw ang kaligayahan". But it's the little things like these that will be difficult to explain to others until they experience it for themselves.

Design thinking, like all great art, has a way of not calling attention to itself. Like a great and unassuming artist, the design thinker works hard to evoke a certain emotion and then steps back to get out of the way to let the users enjoy.

Jan 25, 2010

Blenz Cafe Experience

I'm at Blenz Cafe, second floor of SM Megamall. This cafe is thoughtfully designed to encourage nomadic (aka "mobile") workers and entrepreneurs. Since it's in Megamall, wifi is free. But Blenz also offers its own free wifi service, whose password is printed on the receipt.

Blenz has plenty of electric outlets located near the tables, so no jostling for tables like in Starbucks. The sockets are also universal -- they can accept any type of plugs. Lighting and music is subdued, for a relaxed atmosphere that's great for non-sensitive meetings. The coffee and tea here is also good.

The design of the cafe itself makes things more efficient. Since the wifi password is printed on the receipt, the cashier simply encircles it. No need to spell it out and make mistakes. The electric outlets are obvious. You don't have to hunt for them (and cause traffic) and no need to ask the staff. There's nothing else to do in terms of customer experience when the basic structure itself already works.

Try it out, next time you wish to meet with clients, or just need to check email and you're running out of battery charge.