Home > Uncategorized > Change hurts – but is usually for the better…

Change hurts – but is usually for the better…

November 28, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

A USB MINI A-B cable showing the shape differe...

A USB MINI A-B cable showing the shape difference (a=rounded b=square) and the additional plastic insert in the mini A. The mini-A plug is white; the mini-B plug is black. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes Change hurts – but Sometimes it makes a lot of sense….

Change – something we always have to deal with these days – has always been a challenge for most of us I suspect.  Disregarding the myriad emotions and side effects of change that are most times very difficult to calculate and forecast – change is more often than not for the better and drives ‘betterment’ of an industry, business, organization or person.

While I’m not going to spend time on iphone vs. android and other facets of the mobile business – I will pick out a very specific ‘change’ to the industry that has been an interesting event to watch.  Apples’ introduction of the lightening adapter for the newest generations of their devices has been revered, complained about and flamed to pretty deep levels.  However, an interesting ‘benefit’ of the change here is the macro-sized effect that Apple has on the industry and the correction of (from my perspective) a very flawed design point that has lasted the better part of a decade now.

Even before Apple’s proprietary connector type (30 pin Doc Connector) – the USB connector was (and still is) the defacto ‘open’ connector standard.  The old style had a keyed mechanism that forced users to insert their connector in a specific way only – leaving the user to guess if the ‘logo up’, or ‘logo down’ is the way to connect device.

English: A typical USB connector.

English: A typical USB connector. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I never understood why the designers (or as I suspect – perhaps engineers did the design without design/usability specific input) felt that a keyed approach with a visual indicator – that is completely and utterly useless in the dark or without visible reference (think fiddling in your car to plug in your phone) – would be sufficient.  I have watched many people jam those poor connectors together (myself included many times) sometimes to ruin their equipment – or minimally swear and curse at the situation.

Granted, perhaps the original team didn’t expect their standard to be so ubiquitous worldwide.  But then we see the same ‘design consideration’ (or flaw from my perspective) in the mini-usb connector.   Its keyed.  It’s even smaller.  However, the visual keyed approach – making visual representation of up/down – less important helps somewhat.   Of course, in the dark or under your desk – you can’t tell which is up or down.  Still fried gear sometimes when you’ve really jammed the connector into the socket – I’ve seen it really!

iPad mini 5W power adapter and lightning cord

iPad mini 5W power adapter and lightning cord (Photo credit: brownpau)

The new lightening adapter – putting aside cost implications and end user frustration with ‘useless’ connectors now – fixes one major component of device connectivity – being able to be used up or down – it works.

Simple really.  Difficult to do.  Success is variable and subject to many external forces.

(Good example of past ‘design choices’ added up over time – nasty!  http://www.cultofmac.com/190779/apple-vs-samsung-a-decade-of-proprietary-connectors-humor/ )

Will Apple be successful?  I leave that to others – but I will say that taking the old norms, breaking with tradition and doing ‘good change’ is something I think most of us strive for on a regular basis.  Speaking for myself, I try to approach old problems with updated questions, challenge historic design decisions and re-ask the questions to stakeholders – in the hopes of introducing positive, lasting, valuable and leading change.

Thanks for reading!

NB:  Adding to my list of ‘stupid things that should work in any orientation’ include:

-          Parking machines that issue stubs with mag stripes one way, then expect you to insert it a week later at the airport ‘the correct’ way.

-          Credit card readers of all stripes and sizes – I get you need to read the mag stripe – but why not have a reader on both sides?

-          Hotel room key systems – does the reader mechanism really cost that much to have on both sides?  My math says the reader is less than $0.30 to include – so really?  I mean Really?

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