Unbox, Connect, Enjoy

November 11, 2010

Unboxing a Partner by Stéfan Le Dû (CC-BY-NC-SA)

Being the (mild) technophile that I am, getting a new gadget is a special moment. I usually do quite a lot of research, compare loads of competing products, and read a bunch of reviews from different sources before reaching the point of actually purchasing a new gadget. At the moment I receive the shiny new package, I expect an ideal first boot experience comprising no more than 3 steps:

  1. Unbox
  2. Connect
  3. Enjoy

The “Connect” step might be either cable connection and/or network connection. Unfortunately, the first boot experience of many gadgets don’t follow this simple 3-step process. Some add more steps, others simply offer a lame first time experience. Here are some of the common mistakes.

Battery. Your new gadget has just arrived. You want to start playing with it as soon as possible, of course. You try to switch it on but nothing happens. You realize that you first need to charge your gadget. Epic. Fail. If your product runs on battery, it should be at least partially charged to be ready to use just after unboxing. Apparently, this a common mistake on mobile phones.

Connection. You unbox your new gadget, plugs it to power source, but then you realize you don’t have the cable to connect the gadget to your TV, or your laptop, or whatever. Uh-oh. Products should come with all necessary equipment for optimal experience. My current printer didn’t come with the necessary USB cable and my PlayStation 3 came with no HDMI cable. Very frustrating. Oh, and I’ve heard that the iPhone 4 doesn’t come with the bumper for optimal signal performance… Ok, never mind.

Defaults. The default layout, settings, and content on the gadget should give a strong clue on how cool the features are. Default settings should feel right. For example, if there’s a weather feature, it should show the weather for the user’s current location by default. You should be able to play with all features with default content or through a minimum setup. RSS reader should have a few in interesting feeds by default. A microblogging widget should have an über simple way to get started.

The underlying message from the defaults should be something like “Here’s how cool this device is, now it’s your turn, make it yours”. Galaxy S gets defaults totally wrong. It comes with 7 home screens (!?), either empty or with widgets using lame default content.

I’m pretty sure this list is much longer than that. Those mistakes might seem obvious but they still happen very often. The goal of any first boot experience should be to reduce the process between unboxing and enjoying the product to a minimum and engaging users from very first second they start using the device—with sane and compelling defaults.

The more the product requires just to get started, the more reasons you’re giving users to get frustrated. First impressions matter. A lot.

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