Why can’t you be more like the internet?
February 22nd 2010
Celebrating software as a service, wondering why other products can’t be more like it and enjoying seeing the web’s influence on print design.
I try not to subscribe to newsletters which I’m not going to read but there are a few in which I usually find something interesting or exciting to look at. Two of these appeared in my inbox this week. One from my online accounting application Freeagent and the other from an online shop I buy from occasionally called Nigel’s Eco Store.
Freeagent were writing to announce that they’ve released a new version of the application. I perhaps got a little over-excited about the features they’ve added. But the new functionality includes some things I’d specifically been waiting for, like linking an expense to a project without ‘rebilling’ it (useful if you charge a flat rate). In one way you could say that these features are things that always should have been there, but you know what it is like when you design things for the first time. You don’t always get it right.
Like my kettle. I bought one of these Eco Kettles last year. I was seduced by the promise that you can measure exactly now much water you need to boil. I always found with a regular kettle that I’d boil at least twice as much water as I need and that seems like a big waste of energy. Not to mention the impact on our electricity bill, considering how many cups of tea we make in a week, with 2 of us working from home every day.
Anyway it turns out that although the kettle does indeed let you only boil as little as 200ml water (and is probably saving a tonne of energy), it has some annoying little ‘bugs’: you can never get the last bit of water into the boiling chamber; the lid leaks and its a bit of an effort to push the button down (not such a biggy for me, but for elderly or arthritic users I’d say this is a major usability flaw). And it isn’t particularly attractive now, is it?
So you won’t be surprised to hear that when I saw they were promoting a “New Eco Kettle“ in Nigel’s Eco Store newsletter this week my first thought was ‘Damn! they’ve fixed it!’. Unlike with my SAS Freeagent, when they come out with a new release of a product like this, existing users don’t benefit. That leaves us feeling a little sore. I feel a bit ‘used’ – like I was a beta tester but now I don’t get to try out the alpha product. I guess that is what you get for being an early adopter – a feeling which all you buyers of the 1st generation iPhones will know well.
I was going to go on a big rant about how product manufacturers need to be more like SAS but I’ve been mulling over the idea this weekend and I just can’t make a real good argument. I can’t see us paying for kettles on a monthly subscription and I don’t like to think about the impact us tossing out our kettles everytime an new version comes out would have on our landfill sites (or lack thereof).
I can conclude by siting a completely unrelated example of where an offline product has taken something from the online world and put it to good use.