Today was a bad day. Unrelated, gadgets were misbehaving. Someone had to pay for it.
I was rushing off to meet with Owen from Valleywag, and I was late. I forgot that a surfboard on my roof was not tied down on my roof rack and as I stopped for a stop sign at the bottom of a steep hill, it just slid off and jammed itself under a car. Thank god no one was hurt. As I strapped it back on, carefully, some guy in a teal benz rolled down his window and said “nice pahking jaab!”, to which I shook my fist and made a giant “errrrrrr” sound. I was a little annoyed, since the board belonged to a friend and is now scratched up.
Through this angry, angry lens, every gadget’s flaw is amplified 1000 fold. It has nothing to do with how much they deserves the scorn. Sharp edges and obtuse design bother me more when in a wicked state because I’ve become more sensitive to their design hiccups and less patient.
I got back in my car and drove a block, now really late for my meeting. I tried to call to say I would be late, but the call dropped. And I was angry, so I did that thing where you try redialing 20 times in a row, pushing the buttons really hard. Then I noticed that I couldn’t get my car’s GPS to simply route to an intersection without clicking through two dozen buttons presses. And later on, every moment my phone hung while going through apps felt like an eternity. My rage built upon itself, one red wave after another, driving my ability to see clearly down deeper and deeper.*
Once, I crossed a line with my gadget-rage. I was trying to install a music player on a new notebook, and, as many of you know, sometimes wireless settings do not stick. It doesn’t matter who makes the operating system here, that’s not the point. What happened was that I was having a pretty frustrating day for various reasons, and after an hour of setting it repeatedly and having it reset repeatedly, I ended up discus throwing it onto a couch and punching in the keyboard. Ridiculous, I know. I am guilty of ridiculous things, often. But I never would have been this incensed on a machine that worked flawlessly.
The point is, I wonder how many gadget companies test user experiences when users are rushing, focusing on other things, stressed out about work, or plain pissed off. Maybe they should, because I bet they’d find such a test—a super user experience test—to be most useful for their designs for gadgets to be used in the real world.
Just like phones that can withstand drops from table height without shattering, and militarized solid state drive laptops that are dust and moisture proof, I would bet that testing gadgets to be smooth and invisible during user experiences where the users are in less than ideal states of mind would probably go a long ways towards making them better for all users. Angry or calm as monks.
*To feel better, I spend time with my dogs or hang out in the water.