However, Mr Jobs was probably misunderstood. It is pointless hosting a focus group on a product that doesn’t yet exist but Apple, like any successful company, is keenly aware of customer feedback on products that do exist.
Feedback loop: Nokia's Lumia 800 has port protection, but despite the practicalities, just about everyone complained
You might want to believe that these behemoth corporations don’t listen but they do. Their aggravating silence is either a delaying tactic (one that Apple employs for dealing with every manufacturing cock-up) or that your feedback is not as important as you think it is.
What worries me is not the dismissal of focus groups when developing new products but the apparent lack of basic, real-world testing before launching stuff that doesn’t quite work properly. Famous examples are easy to list: Apple’s iPhone 4 signal drop-out problem, for example, or the idiot at Asus who allowed the otherwise brilliant Eee Pad Transformer Prime to go into production in a solid metal case that disabled its own GPS function.
I’ve always wondered whether the world of IT was too fashion-conscious and not focused enough on practicality. In fact, I’ve made a career out of this: I’m a nit-picking, contrary IT journalist. And let me tell you, the fashion industry is not one that any other should follow, given that it’s evidently run by someone with arms like a gorilla and who’s spent the last 40 years trying to shift several warehouses of mustard-coloured flares.
So next time you wonder why I’m ‘ranting’ or ‘whining’ about something as insignificant as port covers, hopefully you’ll understand why I think this stuff matters. I don’t mind if manufacturers prefer not to evaluate the market by putting their finger in the wind, but without more real-world thinking put into product design, they’re just pissing in it. ®
Alistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling IT journalism, editorial training and digital publishing. Please feel free to share your invaluable opinion on this rant by joining our comments discussion here. You can read more whining at the hashtag #sftws.
Ask and ye shall receive
It's not just focus groups, sending documents out for review is just as bad.
Possibly the worst aspect of "processes" in business is the number of people who wish to review, approve or be FYI'd on documents that are, essentially, none of their dam' business. Mostly it's just to pad out their days (shades of: "why don't estate agents look out the window in the morning? Then they'd have nothing to do in the afternoon") with the illusion of activity.
However, once these people get a copy of a document, they feel the need to suggest changes - whether they know anything about the subject or not. One boss I had made it his policy to require at least one change to every circuit diagram he reviewed - just to show that he'd examined it. This was a long, long time before Dilbert and PHBs. After all these induhviduals have suggested their changes (none of which are returned until the deadline), there then follows a period of argumentation regarding why you chose to ignore their "input" and the inevitable politicking if you happened to point out an error in one of their documents - expect the favour to be returned in spades.
I now adopt a policy of NOT circulating proposals, papers or designs whenever possible and everyone seems happier for it (though not as busy as they'd like to appear). I reckon focus groups act the same way - if they always said "yup, that's fine" there would be a feeling that their time had been wasted - that they hadn't exercised their "right" to an opinion. Maybe the secret is in the questions they are asked. If instead of open-ended critiques, focus groups or approvers were asked specific, if diversionary, questions about particular aspects: do you prefer X or Y? then it would be easier to obsfucate the responses and come up with exactly what you intended to in the first place.
After all: you can't please everyone, so you've got to please yourself.
Re: I think the cover on the Lumia 800
>on the othe hand 6 or 7 times? how do charge your phone then?
He's only had it one day, give him a chance. That's a pretty good battery life for a smartphone.
Why I attended focus groups...
1. Free food and drink
3. To figure out who the client was and to mess with the results.
Re: is the bloody thing solving a users problem ?
You make the classic mistake of assuming that most of this kit is designed to be used. It's not. It's designed to be sold.
I think the cover on the Lumia 800
is pretty good and can't see what ll the fuss is about. I've only opened and closed it maybe 6 or seven times, so it's hardly going to wear out and when it is open I just take care not to break it. When it is closed it keeps the crap out and covers what it is supposed to cover. I hate he rubber bungs that some devices have and thought that Nokia had come up with a good design.
Their crowd source design experiment a couple of years back was a bit silly though as it just gave 3 designs that they used anyway and obviously people picked the newest one. As others have said, as long as it does what it says on the tin, I'm happy.