My parents just bought a new digital camera, ya know, to capture life’s precious moments. It has a button for every feature and believe me when i say it is a feature packed camera. Panorama, video, 3D, red eye, etc. There are so many “easy to use buttons” to enable and disable features that the nimblest of fingers have difficulty picking out the right ones. That is assuming you can decipher the iconic diagrams which “clearly indicate” the purpose of each button.

This product has been focus grouped to death.

I don’t know if you have ever taken part in consumer research surveys, but let me give you a little idea of how they go.

How important is the easy access of the following features on a 1 (low) to 5 (high) scale:

1 2 3 4 5 - Red eye reduction
1 2 3 4 5 - Flash toggle
1 2 3 4 5 - White balance adjust
1 2 3 4 5 - Sport mode
1 2 3 4 5 - 3D
1 2 3 4 5 - Video
1 2 3 4 5 - ...

and the list goes on.

To today’s consumer almost all of these buzzword loaded features seem important, so of course we will see a majority of 4s and 5s. Apparently somewhere in the translation of the survey “easy access” becomes “has its own button.”

A perfect example of innovative thought and engineering is Apple’s iPod. The first thing they did was eliminate a button by realizing that play and pause are mutually exclusive. Meaning you can either play music or pause music, never both, thus the buttons were combined to a play/pause button. Years later there are still devices coming out with separate play and pause buttons.

The camera industry needs to take a hint from the other truly innovative companies out there. Simplify, more buttons does not mean easier to use. And please stop asking the consumer what they want, they don’t know! Take some chances and innovate, give us products that we didn’t know we needed until you made them.



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Published

04 May 2006

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