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"The Rest of Us Are Irrelevant"

From a story in USA Today:

[A]s the gadget-buying population of the USA grays and the rush to miniaturization accelerates, the disconnect sometimes seems to be widening between what designers believe we want and what we find we can comfortably use.

Take the Palm PDA, which later this year will appear on the screen of a Fossil watch. The $199 time tool will push the limits of the human eye. People who may have strained to check appointments, addresses and directions on a standard 2 1/4-inch square Palm display will face a 1-inch screen.

The concept "shows total contempt for the majority of consumers," says usability guru Jakob Nielsen of the consulting firm Nielsen Norman Group. "They have these young, hotshot engineers and designers; they don't have vision problems and don't believe anyone does. To them, all that matters is cool teenagers, and the rest of us are irrelevant."

Nielsen says people believe that the vision problem lies with them. "The fact is, everybody, like clockwork, when they reach 40, gets this way. We have to demand that technology adapt to human biology, not the other way around."

Having just turned 40, I definitely find myself struggling with this. When I'm wearing my contact lenses, very small type becomes difficult to resolve. It's hard even to use my regular-size Palm PDA, because much of the text is small and can't be easily changed. In poor lighting, phone numbers displayed within the Palm Contacts application can sometimes be difficult to see properly. It's frustrating, and as the article notes, the trend seems to be towards more type that is smaller and smaller.

Via Roland Piquepaille.


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Maybe I'm missing something, but why should consumer products be targeted towards the least common denominator. I want companies to produce items for niche markets, especially when I'm part of that market.

Good point. The rise of niche markets would seem to indicate that oppotunity awaits companies who serve them. Perhaps the problem is that volumes for consumer electronics are low (by traditional standards) to begin with, and serving niche markets (say, with larger, lower-resolution displays) would reduce the volumes to the point where the products would be too expensive.

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