Book Me For A Speech

My Writing and Ranting

Press Room

Good Books

« You Better Start Treating Your People Right, Or The Best Will Be Leaving Soon | Main | Civilian Friends vs Police Friends: From Captain Nick Gottuso »


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Kevin Horn

I noticed this the first time I went shopping at IKEA. I kept thinking "man it sure would be cool if they had this right here...", and a second later, I would see it, right where I expected it to be. Or I'd be thinking "I wonder where X is..." and I'd look up or turn around and see a sign that said "This way to X ->". I've never been that impressed by a retail outlet...before or since.


The comments seem to be focussed on computers, which I think is unfortunate. In marketing, we talk about unacceptable, expected, desired, and the wow experience. I do think that I notice good teachers and good management. One of those experiences was a one-hour videotape of my teaching supervisor in grad school - the only experience I had watching her teach, but it changed completely my view of what was possible. I also noticed a seamless admin assistant. And a manager who I disagreed with regularly but whose style left me impressed. I even notice the rare occasion when I deal well with a difficult situation. I think a lot of maturity comes from this process of watching others, trial and error.

It's really amazing how people notice things and don't care (problems or "frictions" with VISTA, MS-Word ... and everybody continue to use these softwares) and care about things they don't notice (Macs just work, OpenOffice is a very good and painless alternative to Word ...).
I perfectly agree with your point, and I think that we should focus on producing services/products/applications that just get unnoticed. Being unnoticed is a sign of quality and efficiency.
Personnaly that's why I use only Linux because I notice that I don't notice any problem Windows users have : security issues, need to defrag my disk, need to wait untill next year to have a new version of my OS that will supposedly solve all the troublesin the world ...

I will definitely reuse "noticing that I don't notice"

Thanks again :)

Wally Bock

When Aeschines spoke, they said, 'How well he speaks', but when Demosthenes spoke, they said 'Let us march against Philip.'

Whether it is a speaker or a designer or a supervisor, the best artifice is invisible. The best speech or design or supervision concentrates the mind on the content, not the method.

I always had a swearing metric to measure software usability (# of swear words in inverse correlation to usability - MS Word scores *high*).

I design e-Learning, and one of the goals is to make the interface as invisible as possible -- you have pretty concrete limitations on cognitive load, and you want the learners expending their resources on the content rather than the interface. Maybe what you are describing is similar? Being able to fully engage in the experience because you aren't fettered by the mechanics?


Meanwhile you need work-arounds. First wait until Win7 comes out and get some help with migration. Then, preferably, get a new clean box to start with and migrate your files.
Next partition you HD into sub-drives where C:=OS, D:=applications, E:=your working files or data or F:=e-mail, large downloads, etc.
This is voodoo programming and was supposedly unnecessary but has saved my bacon time after time (I experience none of the problems you list and haven't since 1991 when IBM forced me to switch off Macs).


So now you're going to be a customer service guru? :) Go for it. Aside from logistics it's the biggest black hole of under-developed opportunity in the corporate world. We've known for almost three decades, going back to Bud LaLonde's initial and seminal work, that improving total customer service is the path to greater profitability. Yet, after study after study, it's almost as if most companies not only treat it as an after-thought and cost center but deliberately choose to make it bad. This is, imho and experience, because most companies make internal functional decisions and don't think it thru from their customers perspective. Years ago when talking about app design my exemplar of choice was Quicken - which made home finance comprehensible by presenting an interface that people understood - their check register. There's your basic paradigm - make service look and act like what people are comfortable with.

John Nai

Bob, the idea of "friction" in transactions was studied by economist Ronald Coase starting back in the 30's and since then. Your post is spot on on what we don't notice. As an iPhone user with everything at my fingertips there is no friction. I am likely to buy a Mac soon as a result of the iPhone experience. Apparently lots of folks have done that. Apple's share of the PC market has nearly doubled in the last few years AND - 91% of PC's sold at retail for $1000+ are Macs....lack of friction is a wonderful thing worth paying for..

T Sarkka

I think you brought a really important topic here: how many hours are lost every day with bad experiences using gadgets, software, computers. The real value of that wasted, annoying time must be more than the value of all of those IT-stuff.

The most annoying thing for me is to try to do some very simple task and not being able to do that (or that the fundamental thing is buried somewhere). I know what I want, it would/should take only a minute to do, but I cannot do that, how hard I try.

Time is money. Maybe that's why badly designed systems feel valuable: you have invested your time to use them and nobody wants to do bad investing, all the time. After all, we are not stupid?

Jack Hughes

The chances are the reason why you notice less friction on the iPhone is because what you are trying to achieve on it are inherently less complex tasks. Phoning, texting and emailing are not complex activities. Whilst you then do your more complex tasks on your PC and notice the friction more. So perhaps it is the task you are performing that manifests the friction not the device?

If you try to use the map application on the iPhone I think you might start to notice some friction... I certainly have. ;)


The same observation applies to the process of change in organizations. If a change agent, manager or CEO is successful in his/her task of changing an organization, the employees will think: "we did it ourselves".

Joe Waytula

90% of the time when Microsoft trys to guess what I want to do, they get it wrong and I waste five times as much time undoing their guess than it would have taken if they would have let me do it myself the first time. I usually make unkind comments about some of the richest people in the world when I have to do this.

Tony Thekkekara

I work with software development and most of my objectives are centered around making processes unnoticeable. I think that is what most of the technology today is really intended for, but somewhere along the line the convenience has turned into complexity. Especially features that have been put into software to auto-correct or manage user input, in some cases makes life so much more difficult.

Bret Simmons

I have Vista, so I notice everyday that Microsoft sucks. I also notice everyday how much I hate my Blackberry because I have to manually erase all my e-mails and my calendar synch software does not work. I can't wait to dump it. But I love my 10 year old Jeep Cherokee because I get to ignore (that the same as not noticing?) all those annoying speed bumps in the parking lot - my Jeep goes over them at 20 mph as if they were not there. I also don't notice the peanut butter on the store shelves. I spent three weeks in Spain this summer and much to my suprise, peanut butter was very hard to find!

I believe its all relative. Customers are so accustom to bad service or experiences that they actually expect them (in certain markets). When a customer doesn't experience the negative aspects of the interaction they are surprised and actually take note. I know this is slightly different than what you're talking about, but some comparisons can be drawn. I'm sure we'd all love obvious positive experiences, but I'll settle for "not noticing".

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Asshole Survival

Scaling Up

Good Boss Bad Boss

No Asshole Rule

Hard Facts

Weird Ideas

Knowing -Doing Gap

The No Asshole Rule:Articles and Stories