I completely agree. I’d much rather use a native app vs. a Web app, but most of the apps I used would be useless without web services.
A lot of my favorite objects have something in common and that’s something that is fairly recent. As far as I remember it probably really started with the launch of the first iPhone: software updates. Before the iPhone, your computer and some of your apps had free software updates to fix bugs and paid updates for new versions with new features. Since the iPhone, your phone can get software updates that also bring you new features, and since the launch of App Store all your applications can do this. And I bet you love this and are pretty excited when you get software updates (I know I am!)
More and more companies are using both Hardware and Software to make great products, which means that more and more products can benefits from these updates. And these are some of my favorite products! One company particularly understands this: Nest. The Nest is a learning thermostat that is connected and can get new features via software updates. Their co-founder recently explained in an interview that they don’t expect their users to update their thermostat every year but that the company will make their products better by providing software updates over the years. Their entire product is designed with this in mind.
Another example of product that recently had a software update: the Jambox, a bluetooth speaker with no screen and no UI. Their latest updates fixed some issues and added completely new features like Liveaudio which made the sound quality a lot better! A lot of products now offer updates: cameras, cars, watches, TVs… and it is just the beginning!
Your products can instantly evolve, have new features and simply be better just with a software update. Knowing that when you buy a product it can evolve over time and deliver surprise and value over time is quite fascinating. As a user, I think that the “unknown” of not knowing how your product will evolve over time is pretty magical. As product designers, not only your product is more flexible but you can delight and make your users more loyal without having to convince them to buy a new version of your product, so why not take advantage of it? I think it’s a great thing to think about when designing products and can it be a great competitive advantage. As technology gets smaller and smaller and internet gets everywhere, I can only imagine what kind of connected objects of the everyday life will offer these kind of updates in the future.
I moved twice last year. Once within San Francisco from SOMA to the great Mission district, and just a couple months after I moved across the country to Columbus, Ohio where I now live. This made me think a lot about my possessions, how useful each one of them were and how much I liked them. Were they worth the move? We’re they useful enough so that I would actually regret them if anything had happened during the move?
When I read this article from Dustin Curtis I realized how much of that I had done during my move and how useful this process has been to me. I got rid of a lot of objects that I didn’t use all that much anymore reducing the amount of things I actually owned and also replaced some by better alternatives. I started research a lot more about the products that I was considering buying, for pleasure, to learn about them, their history, how they are made, what makes them special and what would be the best that I could afford in this category. I’m sure I’m not the only one to do this and I actually think that a lot of people from my generation probably think the same way. My quality standards for products changed a lot when I started using an Apple computers and I am happy to see that a lot of other companies are now striving for that level of quality.
Things that are easy to use survive, regardless of what is fashionable, and people want to use them forever. But if things are created merely for a passing vogue and not for a purpose, people soon get bored with them and throw them away. The fundamental problem is that many products are created to be sold, not used. — Sori Yanagi
I now own a lot less and I am a lot happier when using the fewer objects I now own. A lot of them are also cheaper than a lot of other alternatives of objects I used to own in the past. For example, I am in love with my coffee thermos from MUJI (I wish I had bought multiple!), with my Braun watch, my iPad mini, my Smartwool socks and so on. A few weeks ago, I started learning about Chairs and especially office chairs. Their history, what studies were done on them, how chairs influence on your posture and what were the best chair designers. I usually read a lot online, sometimes read books and watch documentaries around this and I am learning a lot.
“The best” isn’t necessarily a product or thing. It’s the reward for winning the battle fought between patience, obsession, and desire. It’s better to have a few fantastic things designed for you than to have many untrustworthy things poorly designed to please everyone. The result–being able to blindly trust the things you own–is intensely liberating. — Dustin Curtis
I also started to apply this way of thinking to various things, like apps on my iPhone, services that I use (online or offline), things I do,… It makes a lot of things more streamlined and makes me happier.
If you’re interested in what goes into consideration when objects are built and what makes some of them special, I recommend you to watch Objectified, a great documentary about product design.