Below is my reply to Bruce Nussbaum’s Design blog about the Kindle titled “Amazon’s Kindle Is A Success–Hooray For Designer Bob Brunner.” I’ve modified my post below a bit so it makes sense without reading Bruce’s post and the readers comments.
Does good design make a product “successful”? Does bad design kill the chances of success? From the replies above, we have a UI and Experience professional saying the ergonomics of the Kindle are bad. Walt Mossberg also confirms this in his review. We’ve also got someone pointing out that “ecosystem” is what is making this successful. And finally, the host of this column (Bruce) says its Oprah and Bob’s great design work, which once again, some folks aren’t happy with. And now we can go back to the start and continue to debate the Kindle’s success. But let’s not.
What also makes this interesting is that we’ve got some very qualified folks speaking to the pros and cons of this device. Of course, they probably haven’t debated in person on this topic, but all present a different POV on the product’s success. So what is the missing component here in this dialog of design? According to Amazon’s figures, its the 240,000 consumers who have bought this thing. What I wonder is, how many of these consumers are “design saavy or qualified” like the blogger and the responders here? And, as Rob (a responder) points out, I’ll bet that those 240,000 people trust Oprah more than any of us qualified “designers”.
I’m a product designer as well, I know Andy and Bob and they both do great work. On a similar, yet off path…What I’ve always wondered about is the Designer/Consumer taste barometer, that is when the consumer wants something that most designers don’t. Like fake wood grain for instance, the designers fight it, “oh my god, there is no way I’ll put fake wood grain on a product”. Yet, somehow, with all those designers fighting it, that fake wood still gets out in the market!
I guess the other question is, is a commercially successful product, always well designed? Seems like, not.