Engineering Experience vs. User Experience

I had the most bizarre user experience today. After the last service, my Toyota Altis came back with the clock reset. It was showing a diff of 2hr 15min. For about a month I went along lazily with it. I would not have bothered to fix it but the 15 min calculation was getting on my nerves. If it was a square 2 hrs, I probably would never have touched it.

Anyways, here I was, waiting at a traffic light trying to fix it. Unlike other cars, Altis’ clock shows up next to odometer (along with bunch of other information). There is a black knob next to it and when you press it it rotates the info display. Ah, now I know how to do it – I just have to press and hold the knob and the clock should start blinking and I turn the knob to change the time. I tried but it didn’t work. After many failed attempts, I gave up and called Toyota service. The service supervisor, after making couple of intelligent guesses, gave up and told me that he will refer the manual and call me back (BTW, I am yet to get his call).

I felt the dare. I have to figure this out. After many attempts I found out the most bizarre user experience. Here is the solution:

You need both hands for this. First you hold the knob down with one hand while pressing another button somewhere else. Then the clock starts blinking. Now release both the knob and the button and press the knob to change the time.

The only way I figured this out is because I thought “what would the engineer do”. When I was a product manager this is how I too thought. For me, changing the clock is a “feature” – not an “experience”. I would look at specing the feature, implementing the feature, handling boundary conditions etc. For me, as long it works and I can put it on the brochure, I did my job and I was satisfied.

That’s not the world we live in today. Apple and Google has changed it. If things don’t work the first time, your product doesn’t have a chance. No one is going to refer your manuals. I may suffer through it because I may not have a choice right now, but the next time I am in the market for your product, I am going to remember my experience today.

I love Toyota. The car does a fine job and I may still buy it because reliability is more important in cars than user experience. But not for long. That’s becoming table stakes. Next time I look at a car, I expect it to automatically set its time using wifi. The product world is more competitive and demanding than ever before. And entrepreneurs and organizations need to wake up to it faster.

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