I just read a blog that indicated that people would rather make their electronic devices easier to use than to have their feature sets constantly expanded. Ya think?

To me, this is not an astounding revelation. For years I have been promoting ease of use as one of the top (if not the top) reason consumers buy one camera, cell phone, or DVR over another, even at a price premium. Let’s face it – most of us don’t use half the features on our digital cameras and I know that even as I take advantage of so many of the features of my iPhone, I realize that there are several I haven’t even considered. And I, for one, always read the evaluations on the Web of new products I am considering buying, especially the reviews of how easy it is to use those products.

Speaking of the iPhone, this is a prime example of a manufacturer – Apple – getting it right. When first introduced almost two years ago, the virtual keyboard, lack of “real” buttons and intuitive nature of the command hierarchy on the iPhone put other cell phone manufacturers to shame. The result now is that several of these other cell phone vendors are duplicating many of the iPhone’s features for their own products. This points out what I consider a big problem in the consumer electronics product arena – the push for product feature-set enhancement over the ability to learn and use the product quickly and easily.

The need to make products easier to learn and use transcends the consumer marketing place. A few years ago, some EDA vendors realized the value of developing and selling design tools that did not need several days of training to use and several more months of use to gain proficiency in their use. While not pervasive throughout the industry, the ease-of-use concept has gained a foothold in the EDA community, both on the development and the buyer side. Similarly, semiconductor IP vendors, at least the good ones, realize that the easier it is to implement their products in chips, the more attractive they are to IP integrators. Having a good service component to your company also is very valuable to companies selling products such as EDA tools and IP.

Vendors of consumer electronic products need to change their way of thinking from “I need more whiz-bang features than my competitor” to “my product needs to be easier to use compared to that of the competition.” This is particularly true as the consumer electronics marketplace expands globally and includes a broader range of potential customers with a more diverse set of educational backgrounds. Right now, learning to use your new MP3 player makes setting the clock on the old VHS recorder seem like child’s play. No, wait – kids could always do a better job at that than most adults.

Posted by admin, filed under Uncategorized. Date: January 5, 2009, 6:57 pm | No Comments »