Enlightened Empathy

At the time AirBNB was so small, Joe Gebbia personally went to listers to photograph homes for the listings. In taking these photos…

“We got so close that we go to step into their shoes for a moment and see the world through their eyes, and really see the pain points that they were feeling,” says Gebbia. That’s the basis of innovation — you take an enlightened and empathetic point of view and combine it with your own unique point of view to create something new. In a short period of time, the quality of listings improved and number of options increased.

In the How I Built This with Guy Raz podcast, Gebbia calls this Enlightened Empathy.

While doing web design, we talked to the administrators for the department who wanted a site. In doing support for the sites, I would get to talk to users to understand what they were trying to accomplish and make tweaks or major re-designs to make that experience better.

There is a whole profession, User Experience Designer, built around the idea of engaging representative users to understand how they use technology to ensure the design reflects how people will use it.

Inconsistent Experiences

Lately I have been thinking about getting a new TV. An important vacuum I would like to fill is accessing content on the Internet through it. The want is mostly filled by my Wii, but the device is in a physical location that makes playing games inconvenient because of the limited space. So my idea is to move it to another room on the TV there and get another device just for watching content.

One option is a Roku or equivalent. A friend has a Roku I have used, but I found it cludgy to use compared to my Wii. It required frequent pauses and a reset to correctly behave. Overall, I was underwhelmed by the Roku. Another friend insisted these devices were the way to go, so I bought Netgear’s neoTV. It was cheap and reflects that price. More on it later.

The friend with a Roku Bought a TV with Internet apps. My experience with it has been very positive, so until I was talked ought of it, the way I thought I should go. I may be back to thinking that way.

At Mom’s house for Christmas, I played with her Bluray player which also has Internet apps.

The common app between all five devices (Wii, Roku, neoTV, smart TV, Bluray) and even my tablet Is Netflix. Somewhat surprising is the lack of consistency between these. The user interfaces look like using different services.

For the uninitiated, Netflix has a Watch Instantly feature that allows for the playing of movies and television shows over the Internet. The basic functionality is consistent. A queue of the shows I want to watch are presented to me. Suggestion categories are peer to the queue. Hit play to see the show. Pause, fast forward, rewind.

Each has quirks to their navigation. Like the Bluray goes to the queue and getting to suggestions requires up button to a tab and side arrow to find the category. Others are vertical scroll.

Some group all actions for a show in a list. Others have items off to the side or way above where not intuitive.

The neoTV has a neat feature when a show ends, it automatically plays the next after a 20 second delay. That was exciting and something I hope shows up on other devices. The others at least queue up the next episode. Though, when can be variable. On the Wii, neoTV, smart TV, and tablet I can stop around the credits and the next episode shows up ready to play. With the Bluray, that only happens if the show ends.

It surprises me there is not better user experience design so all of these approach behave the same way. Having two and soon three devices that navigate differently will get quickly very annoying.