From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

DEMO 07 Displays Products Designed to Dazzle, but What About Usability?

If “innovative” describes it best, then it was probably on display at DEMO 07 in Palm Desert, California, at the end of January. The show, now in its 17th year, prides itself on hand-selecting some 60-70 emerging technologies and new products that can be counted on to dazzle an audience of investors, executives and the media. But the consumers are the final arbiters. The products that win the biggest market share are likely to be the ones ergonomically-designed for usability as well as utility.

Usability factors have been overlooked in the design if, among other things, a product is awkward to use, a poor fit for the user and too complicated to install and operate.

Among the stars of DEMO 07 are the first video email and messaging service, a GPS product that allows users to control their vehicles wirelessly, a mobile printer promoted as “the ultimate,” software that tracks plagiarized blog content, online identity protection tools, a service that secures messages within images so that only the intended recipients can view the text, a collaboration site that allows musicians to “jam” in real time, more sophisticated data search technologies and a plethora of software for increasing cell phone options. Several of these options have created media buzz.

Bling Software, Inc, introduced a product that appears to have considered usability in the design. In a news release for the show, the company says its Ajax programming technique delivers web-like modules of “visually stunning and data-rich applications” to any phone with a browser on any wireless carrier’s network. It’s a first, according to the company. “We removed the barriers so virtually any content owner can provide the mobile consumer a superior user experience,” said Roy Satterthwaite, CEO and co-founder.

An Associated Press review of Ajax said the program speeds up web applications by calling snippets of data instead of entire web pages. The user interface is described as slicker than the text heavy menus that are more common on mobile phones.

A reviewer in the online technology publication, GigaOM, was impressed with GetMobio downloadable software and TeleFlip because of features that could increase the usability of the two products.

The GetMobio client offers 50 different web-based applications like OpenTable reservations and finding and purchasing movie tickets, according to the review. It describes the product as interesting because it’s an easy way for smaller web sites to go mobile, and “less sophisticated phones like the Motorola RAZR and Samsung BLADE can use the simple-enough data application.”

TeleFlip, according to the GigaOM reviewer, is hinging its service on text messages. It helps average phones without data connections send email and other text-based content to the Short Message Service (SMS) inbox. Similar to paging, SMS is a service for sending short text messages to mobile phones.

These three products appear to combine utility and usability, giving them a head start in the marketplace. The future could be very different for any exhibits at DEMO 07 with only utility to recommend them.

SOURCES: PR Newswire; Bling Software Inc; AP; Expo 07; GigaOM