The Customer Is
Always Sometimes Right
I love the Nintendo Wii (apart from the silly name).
What I love about it is that it takes the user experience to a whole other level with it’s real-world to virtual-world controllers.
For those of you not in the know, the Wii’s controllers contain a series of gyroscopes that monitor the X,Y,Z coordinates of the controller in space. So when you move the controller (which looks like a TV remote) left, your character moves left. The graphics are even simple – SHOCK HORROR! – it won’t even output HD (High Definition) like all it’s competitors. It’s just Simple™.
And that’s the beauty of the thing, it’s simplicity. It’s the most natural interaction behaviour you could have with a gaming console. I think the proof of this is that we already do this subconsciously – I do it personally when playing a romping game of PGR (Project Gotham Raceing) with friends; leaning hard into the corners, teeth clenched, the controller on a 90° angle urging the car to make that corner just a little bit tighter.
Meanwhile, the Wii’s competitors have been evolving their products. The XBOX360 and PS3 are next generation machines, with high definition graphics and capabilities. They’ve simply asked their customers what they want in a new generation gaming console and gone ahead and built it.
But Nintendo took a different approach. They went right back to the drawing board, to base principals, ignored the customer’s requests and built what the customer really wanted (it’s just that they didn’t know they wanted it).
The problem with asking the customer what they want is that they’ll only ever tell you what they can imagine easily. It’s the designers (game, web, whatever) role to imagine the unimaginable and fulfill the real wants and needs of the customer.
This phenomenon (for lack of a better word) is highlighted again with a recent WSJ post. The WSJ asked their customers what they wanted in a newspaper web-site in 10 years time… a lot of their answers are things that already exist today.
So UCD (User Centered Design) isn’t so much about fulfilling the users requests, it’s about fulfilling their needs and wants that they themselves can’t identify. I think that’s something that big design agencies can miss sometimes.
I want to be like Nintendo and just throw out the func-spec sheet. Wii…