Amen! I absolutely love what you're saying! It echos my sentiments wholeheartedly!
I read an article the other day, on how technology that is supposed to be fun and easy to use, is not accessible by the general public, because they couldn't understand all the complicated menus, and all the other stuff the devices had.
For example, I get overwhelmed when people start saying this recorder has this many gigabytes, or it can't compress a file, or it won't record in MP3 mode without doing something else to it first, huh?
I consider myself to be reasonably intelligent, but the design of some of these machines is just too difficult to figure out, especially when there isn't someone around who can explain it in English, rather than in tech language.
I also understand that technology needs to be compatible with all sorts of people, so as you said, it needs to be easy enough for beginners, and configurable for experienced users.
I think people buy so many tech gadgets, bring them home, then find out they can't use them, then they rush out and purchase the same product, but a different model, hoping it will work more efficiently and be easier to understand than the last one they had. They are once again disappointed to discover that they can't figure out this one either. It gets rather frustrating to say the least!
I think engineers who build and design technology have forgotten about us average people who don't have a clue about tech stuff.
Well, thanks for letting me join my comments to yours. You said it perfectly!
Sincerely, Jamie D.
----- Original Message ----- From: "Debee Norling" <debee@xxxxxxxx>
Sent: Wednesday, March 08, 2006 9:36 PM
Subject: [bct] Re: Hey Larry and Rob, what about developing a recorder?
I work with learning disabled students. The question I am asked most is
about digital recorders. These are people who can see fine, but they have
difficulty often with sequencing. Intelligence isn't a problem, many people
with LD have above-average intelligence, but following a series of steps is
Anyway, they think that because I'm blind and open about my disability that
I have all the answers and they want to know which digital recorder is the
best. My answer is None. I tell them to run to the nearest flea market with
some cassettes and a supply of batteries and buy a few old cassette
recorders for $5. If you have recent vision loss, ADHD, short-term memory
loss or any similarly befuddling disability, most digital recorders won't
work out for you.
Deaf people also use recorders to be sure they don't miss out, even when a session is interpreted. Typically, they need reliability over simplicity because they can't check that it's really recording.
So if APH, or someone else were to design a high-quality digital recorder, it would appeal to a wide range of disabled provided it was reliable and above all, easy.
For every vision-impaired student I serve, there are ten with learning
disabilities. People under-estimate the numbers in this under-served market.
But most geeks, in their ivory towers can't market to them either. For
example, the Book Courier was supposed to be for the LD market but it's not
easy for technophobes to master.
The problem with these devices is that you can tap a button, hold a button
for a second, hold it down for a long time, hold it in conjunction with
another button, and accomplish different things doing these machinations. Or
you get tons of menus, and on those tiny screens their messages are cryptic.
My MD recorder has "Rset", "Tset", "Rmode" and similarly terse
When I worked at TeleSensory, they tried to design a portable reading
machine that was very easy to compete with Vera. But they kept adding
features because they were way too concerned about the competition. But they
were too cheap to add extra buttons to match the extra features so they
instead added extra modes. It never got past the prototyping stage; it
wasn't reliable and it was complicated. Focus groups thought it was
difficult to use.
And while I'm ranting, what happened to the OFF button anyway. The Braille
'N Speak had a genuine Off switch. Now everything goes in to "standby" mode
after you issue some complex keystroke. Why can't those darned engineers put
a big Off switch on things anymoore!
Anyone thinking of designing a recorder for real people, rather than just
for geeks, needs to read Alan Cooper's excellent "The Inmates are running
the Asylum" about user interface design. And I will be happy to provide you
an OCR'D copy.
I agree with Neil in the recorders for the blind thread, that it needs a
display, but we must be careful about complexity and feature creep. My
husband says his new digital camera has more icons than Windows and he's
busy memorizing what they all symbolize. This camera is marketed for geeks
just like him, but there is no way my Mom, in her seventies, could use this
camera. She used to be an accountant, she has normal vision, but she doesn't
know electronics the way she used to know tax law. She's on her fourth
digital camera now, desperately trying to find one that is just point and
To appeal to the broadest range of consumers, blind, low-vision, brain injured, LD, deaf, ADHD, seniors, etc. the GigaCorder needs to be simple. And it needs to be heavily marketed as truly easy to use.
Companies, even APH, seem to feel that features make a product. If the answering machine has ten modes and the competitor gets a roommate mode, then suddenly all machines get a roomate mode. But eleven modes makes even the lowly answering machine overly complicated.
So, a device that differentiated itself as being simple would appeal to those vast numbers of consumers who feel most electronic devices are too complex.
So this thing should be as simple as the old cassette recorder, with record,
erase, stop, play, rewind and forward. No excessive buttons, no modes, no
menus. Each button does one single thing only. Don't give it a calendar, a
stopwatch, a calculator, a thermometer and a roommate mode!
Instead, give it A USB port and a settings file in built-in flash. This
would let the sophisticated user tailor it for his needs without burdening
the beginner with menus and choices. Instead of menus to set the time, it
should automatically set the time when connected to the computer via USB. A
user shouldn't have to put it in to charge mode; it should start charging
when connected to USB or AC power, and it should be smart enough to stop
charging when the batteries are full. Don't make the user hold button A
while pressing button B to erase, instead, just give it an erase button.
Advanced users can configure it to do intelligent things, like erase
anything older than a month, or erase the entire memory when it's held down.
Instead of files and folders as on the modern memo recorder, let the user
create folders only if he's connected to a computer so the folder-impaired
won't get lost. Instead of modes to configure things like stereo/mono,
prompt verbosity, record level, display brightness and the audio quality,
let a simple ASCII-based .ini file handle all configurations. An
intermediate user can run a program on his PC to configure the settings; an
advanced user can edit the .ini file directly and the beginner doesn't need
to worry about settings in the first place.
If you start out with a user-centered design and you don't drift towards a marketing-based design, if you avoid trying to put in more features than your competitors, and you chant the mantra "less is more" I'm positive you'll actually increase sales with a truly must-have product!
P.S. Any programmers out there want to tackle this as an open-source
project? My husband designed an MP3 player with an open-source schematic.
and I ported the firmware to an open-source compiler. One of those honey-do
projects that is finally over. You can examine/modify our code which is
Perhaps a group of us could turn this into the GigaCorder!