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Technology should simplify things

But Simon Clayton finds it often makes things more difficultWe like tech, we like gadgets and we have come to expect that as technology marches on, our everyday items will include more tech features, have more functionality and be able to do even more whizzy things for us that will make our lives easier.

Cars can now have all sorts of gizmos and gadgetry, from radar cruise control and heads up displays to apps which allow you to put the back seats down remotely and even use your phone to lock and unlock your car from miles away (as long as phone and car have an internet connection).

As the years progress, we have come to expect more bells and whistles, we get excited by them and they definitely influence our purchasing decisions.

I think there’s some interesting psychology at work here. The sales and marketing departments have brainwashed us into thinking that we really do need that upgrade, because although our current model works well, the shiny new features of the latest version will enable us to have more time, be better people or be better at attracting the opposite sex (or whatever the latest marketing message is). Quite simply, their message is: ‘More tech is good.’ But is it?

The Samsung Galaxy Note smart phones come with a pen to use with the touch screen. I’ve had several of these phones and the only time I ever used the pen was to show people that it had a pen! Everyone gathers round to stare and coo but then the pen gets put away and is never seen again, because for me it was always completely useless.

An app can put the back seats of your car down remotely, but what happens if you’ve left anything – such as a bottle of water – on the seat? My own car has electrically folding rear seats, but when I raise the seats back up, the seatbelts get trapped behind the seats and I have to manually fix that anyway. It was easier when you did it all manually!

There is a thin line between useful technology and over-complication. And it’s a line that often gets crossed, as the marketing department pushes for more and more seemingly important features, because they want them in order to convince Joe Public that it *needs* this new shiny gadgetry.

We launched an event app last month. It is simple and uncomplicated and it was written to combat the common problems that delegates have whilst at events; seeing which sessions and speakers are on next, managing appointments and helping them to find their way around a conference or exhibition hall. At first a few people were a little cautious – they looked and thought it was a bit basic, a bit simple. That it wasn’t as bursting with ‘features’ as some of the other apps they have seen or used. But then they actually tried it. They used it and it was easy, uncomplicated and it worked. It didn’t have the bells and whistles that they initially thought were missing. But then they realised that our approach gave a better user experience because the other stuff didn’t get in the way.

Over-complicated doesn’t equal better. As Confucius said: ‘Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.’

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