The Flip Side of Technology
I recently bought a new Flip video camera like the one pictured here. It's great for capturing videos of my kids. And while I like it a lot, when it comes to the quality of the videos it captures, it's certainly not the best camera on the market. But it fits in my pocket, is super easy to use and cost half of what a "real" video camera would cost. It's a perfect camera for a generation of Youtubers who want a simple way to capture and share videos - not make "movies."
What amazed me about the product was how simple it is to use. I never even opened the manual and yet in less than 5 minutes I figured out how to do everything I needed to do. It has a simple, minimalist interface, with just a few buttons. Point and shoot. Its iPod-ish looks and ease-of-use makes me think it's the video camera that Apple would build. (iCamera anyone?)
Okay, so why do I bring this up... It turns out the Flip has captured 13% of the market for video cameras. Just as everyone was moving high tech and high definition, and getting super-sophisticated, along comes simple. A product with good usability can win out over a superior product that is a negative experience to use.
Something magical happens when products make out lives simpler and easy. When you can make my music portable you get the Walkman. When you can make watching and recording taped shows easy, you get TiVo. Make it easy for me to load and unload the film from my camera, you get the Kodak Instamatic.
Many of the web's most successful sites are successful because they make our lives easier in some way. They help save us money or make it easy to order books. They help us find things or help us all stay in touch with our friends. Again, many of these sites are not the most beautifully-designed nor are they the most technologically advanced. (Think Craigslist and eBay.)
It just goes to show that when it comes to humans interacting with technology, you can often be more successful by focusing on the humans more than the technology.