There is a big difference between a great user interface (UI) and a great user experience (UX).
Every week I see new product demos. Most of them are early in development so often the founders are just trying to show me the core functionality of their product.
But the next step is a hard one. And it’s not just about finding a great designer to make pretty pictures. A beautiful design is one thing. But a great user experience is something else.
Few examples to consider.
Take for instance the BMW iDrive system. The NYT has a story about this system today. The idea was to remove the majority of the buttons and dials of from the dashboard. That’s a good goal. And the design was a marvel. But the user experience was a step in the wrong direction.
I know some loyal BMW owners that simply stopped buying BMW’s because of the iDrive
I’ve been using Gmail a lot these days. Probably because of my new Android powered G1. I don’t care for the design at all. The screen seems crowded. There are even ads on the screen.
But the damn thing is so functional. It’s faster than anything. Email in a browser is faster than my Entourage client. Search is a joy. Integration with gcal is smooth. Filters and threading is so efficient. The UX is a breath of fresh air.
I think there a lot of lessons to take from just those two examples when building consumer products.