I have an allergy. I’m not going to say to what in order to thwart any assassination attempts. From time to time, despite my best efforts, someone slips said allergen into a piece of food that I inevitably consume. This results in all sorts of hullabaloo that culminates with me laying in an ER, doped up on a cocktail of antihistamines surveying the room for cool design examples to pass the time.This happened recently and I found the above example. Not only is this the burse call button and channel changer for the tv, but it’s also the speaker for the tv. What a cool idea. This keeps the volume of whatever awful program I choose to watch constrained to my own personal entertainosphere. Obvious benefit, right? You might say yeah - you won’t bug your neighbor…and you would be right. But, I would also argue that another huge benefit is saving the overworked nurse from having to respond to calls from patients requesting her assistance as a volume moderator. ]]>
At what point has the bacon fad gone too far? I’ve seen bars in Chicago with “All You Can Eat Bacon” nights and Burger King has been on a crusade to see just how much swine it can stuff in a single bun…but baconnaise? That’s where I draw the line.]]>
Saw this place recently in the Minneapolis airport. Talk about appealing to the on-demand generation.]]>
I noticed this Arm & Hammer product recently that basically consists of a small bottle on cleaning fluid concentrate attached to an empty plastic bottle. You simply pour in the concentrate and fill the bottle with water to yield the final product. This saves on shipping costs and theoretically emissions by reducing the shipping weight. The problem is that now you’re shipping around all that air. Mayb they could have replaced the old school spray bottle with an innovative collapsible version. This is a step in the right direction, but there’s still room for improvement.]]>
This happens all the time where anomolies or “accidental features” are a byproduct of the development process. I don’t know the origin for sure, and I’m on the train and can’t research it right now, but this looks like one of the longer lasting accidents that ended up defining the product.
I noticed recently a subtle change in the typefaces used on various Google sites. You can see in the image above the subtle change I’m talking about. I wonder if this was the shade of blue that required testing of 41 different shades (page 3 of article) before it was approved (and that subsequently led to the departure of Google’s design lead)? Such a minor thing as this has to be maddening to the designers there, but it makes you wonder how much a small thing such as the subtle shade of a graphic can alter a user’s course on a web surfing journey.
All sites change over time as they gain market share, add features, improve usability, etc. Some changes are more pronounced. Others, like the one above, are very subtle. I wonder how many versions of the typeface and shade of the example above were tested? Afterall, Google Maps is one of Google’s ‘products’, just like the Accord is one of Honda’s. You can be sure that there are countless meetings to decide on the colors and shades of automobile line ups each year. You can’t make drastic changes without careful consideration - lest you scare off your users and lose all of those valuable clicks.
It can be somewhat abstract to think about websites as products, but as we shift to more and more virtual services, goods and experiences there is a changing tide between the physical economy and the digital economy. While this isn’t a ground breaking notion for most people to consider (especially for those of you reading this site), there are many citizens of the world that are not quite used to this idea. When someone moved in to the neighborhood in the good old days you would bake them an actual pie and give it to them face to face with a handshake and a conversation - you wouldn’t just post a cupcake on their wall on Facebook.]]>
I thought about this on a recent trip to San Francisco when I noticed that the cost to rent a Toyota Prius was more than double the rate for a comparable midsize sedan. Do people think that they will make up the difference on reduced fuel costs? Or is it just the reduced carbon footprint that intrinsically motivated them to shell out the extra cash?
Today I stumbled upon an interesting article from Wired Magazine discussing the rise of the gadget start-up culture. This is an interesting premise considering that most people instantly think of ‘virtual’ products along the lines of Twitter or the now ubiquitous Facebook. I say ‘virtual’ products because they are producing web based products and services that you can’t physically hold in your hand. Web based products have complexities of their own in database creation, scaling, interface design, etc. - but they don’t have the traditional manufacturing issues that physical products do.
When making a physical object you have many different items to deal with such as expensive injection molding tools, physical dimensional tolerances, potential safety and regulatory issues. On top of this you may also still have web based issues such as a site for your company, a web store, and maybe even software to interface with your device. Bigger companies generally have the advantage with all of this stuff because it takes lots of money and lots of resources (people) to manage all of it. The point of the Wired article is that many of those traditional barriers are starting to come down.
The article gives several examples of new companies striving to compete in the arena of consumer electronics such as Roku (makers of the Netflix movie streaming box), Pure Digital (makers of the Flip digital video recorder - just bought by Cisco for $590 million) and the cute and cuddly, yet slick Chumby that are up to similar things. There is also a cottage industry of smaller opensource hardware companies such as Sparkfun, Limor Fried’s Adafruit Industries, and former Make Magazine video producer Bre Pettis’ Makerbot Industries trying to make their way by offering you the tools to create your own hardware and perhaps give you the inspiration for your own gadget start-up.
One of the featured companies in the story was newcomer “Fitbit”. The Fitbit is a cool little widget with a remarkably open development process via the company blog. They give you some great insight to the various stages of the process they have gone through to make their product a reality. From initial concept renderings to vendor sourcing to hardware prototypes and all the way through to packaging design - you can see how it all came together via the blog and the company flickr stream. Very cool stuff.
I’m not going to say whether web based or physical products are harder to develop and get to market - I’m admittedly biased, having worked my entire career thus far in the physical product development world. But I think it’s safe to say that it is a much faster iteration cycle to make changes to a website than an injection molded part. It’s just exciting to see many of these barriers starting to fall so that independent hardware creators can start to move beyond the ‘hobbyist’ phase and start to compete with the big boys.
[Note: Sorry for the link overload today - gadgets are a topic near and dear to my heart and there are lots of people doing cool things out there that people should know about.]]]>
We recently procured a new projector at the office and I snapped the picture above to show the hilarious decrease in the footprint from the previous model that was included with the office suite. The small projector shown above is hardly the smallest on the market at the time of writing this post (this one might be), but it’s a good example of gadget evolution. The market is demanding smaller and smaller electronics to be introduced constantly these days as our lives become more mobile.
What many people don’t think about is the fact that while electronics manufacturers are trying to stay on the cutting edge of technology as a competitive strategy, they are also often forced to do so by the laws of supply and demand. For example, as people demand higher quantities of larger TVs the cost of the components to make those TVs will decrease (as long as supply is maintained), thus forcing other suppliers to go in that same direction with their new products. I was once involved in the development of a medical device with a touchscreen display that started out as a 10”, but eventually went to a 15” because it was much cheaper due to the increased demand for larger displays. Sometimes evolution is strategy, sometimes it’s necessity.