We Can’t Afford to be Fan Boys

Posted 3 years ago by Trevor Connolly No Comments

How being brand loyal is holding us back

I’ve always been incredibly brand loyal. I find a product that fits my needs and provides a good experience and I’m a fan for life. Why? Because I now trust the brand. As an example, my favorite pair of shoes were Converse All-Stars I had a few years back. They were black and white, fit perfectly, and I could wear them with any outfit. Finally, as all shoes do with years of use, they gave out. I loved those shoes, and immediately sought out to buy another pair, exactly the same. But herein lies the problem: by so loving the shoes that I already had, I was missing out on shoes that were less expensive, more comfortable, and that would hold up longer. My brand loyalty had made me blind.

This is why you can’t afford to be a fan boy.

In the world of tech, we face this all the time. Apple vs. Microsoft. Facebook vs. Google. iOS vs. Android. And just as I missed out with my shoes, those of us who are site creators (UXers, designers, developers) all miss out on new experiences when we dedicate ourselves to only one possible provider of interactive solutions.

On March 18, 2014, Google posted a video demonstration of how Android will work on wearables, specifically on a wristwatch. As a guy who has employed iPhones and MacBooks as my personal devices of choice for the past decade, I admittedly am biased against Google and Android products and experiences. However, there are obviously some very smart people trying to figure out the evolution to wearables. Ignoring the experiences they develop is irresponsible. Wearables are obviously one of the next steps in the connected world, and as an interactive designer I need to be able to learn, experience, and test the new interactions that are being built into all innovative tech products. My loyalty is holding me back.

Of course, this is not a new idea. As a designer, you learn to test your designs on a variety of devices — specifically the ones that provide a less than optimal experience — in order to allow your design to accommodate all users. Responsive design practices have somehow alleviated some of the complication there, allowing content to scale to our device.

But as the world of connected tech grows — and as our allegiances to particular operating systems that connect all of our devices become more and more binding — we as consumers suffer again because of our loyalty.

What happens when I want the Google watch but I prefer an iPhone to all other smartphones? How does the communication between those competing devices suffer? And when a third company creates the best in-car operating system, how does that connect to my iPhone or sync to my Google watch? At SXSW Interactive, Peter Skillman of HERE spoke about building the optimal connected car interface, something HERE is trying to accomplish. One of the roadblocks he mentioned is the need for an interface that will recognize and adapt to the operating system of the user’s other devices, an interface that does not care what operating system it communicates with. Such an interface currently does not exist.

Ideally, our devices would not have a preference, but as we all know, compatibility isn’t a preference, it’s a setting. Compatibility is hard-coded into the software to optimize the experience when that device communicates with another device of the same operating system family. It also means that different operating systems will have constant issues. This more or less guarantees users will opt to stick with their current tech family rather than mixing-and-matching between many. You are coerced into being a fan boy.

Damn you, Loyalty.

The solution is not an easy one. As we build more and more “connected” products, the gap between separate operating systems grows wider. While the big contributors like Apple and Google obviously build wonderful experiences, there are many other companies that are doing equally important work that will help us progress into a smarter connected world. It is up to those companies, as well as those of us in the interaction industry, to foster an ecosystem that encourages compatibility rather than draws a line in the sand. And then, no one has to be a fan-boy.

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