On Brain Cells

Having just bought a new cell phone not a week ago, this rant hits particularly close to home:

Here’s why I’m afraid to turn off my cell phone: because I can’t always seem to muster the brain cells necessary to turn it back on.

I am a big advocate of usability studies and thinking about human factors in design. However, I have to disagree with the punchline to the rant. It’s primarily a nit-pick, I know, but it still bugs me. Why is that, you ask? Well, allow me retort.

It took me approximately 25 minutes from picking out a phone to walking out of the store. The phone and the box it came in were in my hands probably 20 of those 25 minutes while the cashier went through the rigmarole of transferring the SIM card, adjusting my service agreement, running my debit card, and so on. I’m guessing that Joel was so enamored by his new RAZR that he sat there and flipped through the menus and looked at the pretty colors and listened to the pretty sounds. Guess what I did during those 20 minutes?

I read the freakin’ manual.

Seriously. The phone stayed on the countertop and I didn’t even flip it open until I’d skimmed most of the manual. It wasn’t rocket science.

I agree that the RAZR using some abstract design on their power button instead of the universal power symbol was a dumb move. But still … I would think that learning how to turn on and off your new $100+ purchase would be, you know, something you’d want to know how to do. A bad interface is all too often used as an excuse for people being lazy and consciously remaining ignorant.

So, yeah. RTFM.

Speaking of which … the rest of the story for my getting my new phone is also pertinent.

I had actually gone into the store to see if they had any USB microphones, as the mic jack on my sound card has apparently fritzed out. They didn’t, but on a whim I asked the salesperson to show me their phones with Bluetooth earpieces, as the popjack on my old Nokia was also fritzing out and I was thinking of getting a new phone. I ended up getting a Bluespoon AX2 earpiece, which so far has not been too bad. While the salesperson was fiddling with the debit card and stuff, I popped open the 3-page instruction manual for the earpiece. Lo and behold the instructions said the earpiece could be used in VoIP apps, and therefore as a wireless mic, thus solving my initial reason for coming into the store.

If I hadn’t read the instructions, I would never have thought to try it. Funny how that works out.

By Rick Osborne

I am a web geek who has been doing this sort of thing entirely too long. I rant, I muse, I whine. That is, I am not at all atypical for my breed.