Can usability be cool?

My initial thought was of course, usable products must be cool because they are easy to use and if something is easy to use then lots of people will use it. Unfortunately the opposite seems to be the case.

According to a Forrester Research Report, consumer electronics companies will miss out on up to $3.8bn in revenue by 2010 because buyers are not able to use their devices properly. The report says that while digital products are selling at a record rate, they are not being adequately supported. According to Forrester there is a suggestion that there is major loss of revenue in failing to sell the additional products, services and content that bring the devices to life.

It seems that a well marketed product can exhibit extremely poor usability and cause a customer any number of frustrations, but as long as it is ‘cool’ in the eyes of their peers and the media then it will be guaranteed to sell.

Do we as humans buy in to the idea of a lifestyle rather than a product itself? If a movie star or pop star is even glimpsed with a product or gadget immediately there is a marketing boom and everyone wants that product. Is this marketing by association rather than marketing by ease of use and customer requirement.

Usability and accessibility legislation and standards are being used to make the most widely used technology more usable; the Internet. The requirements for web site design are increasing so why has this not been acknowledged and taken up by the rest of the technologically driven world, especially the consumer market.

Why does a mobile phone still come with a manual, when the basic feature that most people want to use is to call another person and talk?

Why are we driven to buying technological gadgets which even Einstein would not have a hope of exploiting the full range of features; are we sold by the marketing or the technology itself?

Will there ever be a technological product sold and marketed as being ‘cool’ on its usability and customer focus, rather than on its extended list of features complete with manual and its famous associations?

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