A friend of mine used to drive a right hand drive Alfa Spider. It was a ridiculously impractical car, with all the niggles of old Italian engineering. He had to put his work access card on a stick and lean across the passenger seat to get into the office.
But he loved it. Where others saw niggles, he saw character. Where others saw ridiculous impracticality, he saw the coolest car on the planet. Or at lest that he ever owned.
Which is why I have always said “Buy the car you want, not the one that looks good on paper” †. The problem when you buy a car that ticks all the boxes the decision is too logical. So the pleasure or enjoyment you get out of it is minimised but all the quirks still remain. And those quirks can drive you nutty. But when you buy a car for emotional reasons (which can vary from “It’s red” to “It’s a sexy fast convertible”) you overlook those quirks or rationalise them in character, or simply don’t care.
Ever wonder why most car adverts try engage with people on an emotional rather than practical level? No one really cares about how many cup holders a car has. Note also the shift to things like fuel economy and safety as those issues have become socially and hence emotionally relevant over the recent few years.
Which brings me to Apple. Since the return of Jobs (and doesn’t that sound like biblical passage) Apple has more been engaging with people emotionally. From a design level, from a usability point of view, and from inserting itself into the social zeitgeist. Note the passion of Apple converts. It may be written off in the media as fanboys or fanatics or what not, but it’s a sign of a company building products that engage emotionally, and I can bet that Microsoft or Sony would sacrifice virgin coders to the dark forces if they could get it. Or get it back in Sony’s case. Nintendo has managed this too with the wii.
Of course their are cases where this passion can be counter productive. Some people hate a winner. Starbucks suffer from this a lot in the UK (perhaps elsewhere too). Apple gets a lot of people who resent the ‘hype’ (whatever that is) and don’t like apples products regardless of any logical reasoning. Seen often Daring Fileball as a jackass or being taken down by The Macalope
I had an argument with a friend this week on the iPhone. He “doesn’t buy into Apples hype”. Although he did go through 3 Sony MP3 players before now buying a series of iPods and an iPhone. But because he got the iPhone for logical reasons (best phone on the market) the quirks annoy him. And yeah the iPhone has it’s quirks, and bugs. But no more so than any other phone.
However because he has no emotional attachment to the iPhone (because he doesn’t like the ‘hype’), where he sees an issues with ringtones it’s Apple being crap, and not noticed that it’s the record companies or the fact he had the exact problem with every other phone. Where he sees it as annoying their is no drafts folder for texts, I see the fact that I have email that finally works, where he sees no 3G, I see the best mobile browser on the market.
We both have the same phone. But because I ‘like’ the phone and he doesn’t he sees the problems the phone has and I ignore them. I see the features the phone has, the design, and the general increase in use I have had over all my other phones. He never should have got an iPhone and I advised against it. Because it just frustrates him.
I always think you should buy products that you like.
I always think you should build products that people like. That people emotionally engage with. That people are passionate about. All the best websites do. If you want to be the best make sure you people who are passionate about what you do. If you want people to be passionate about what you do, you better be too.
† This may not be true for all people, or people who could car less about the car, as the fact it’s 4 wheels and box to get you from A to B. However most people I have found who own a car have some degree of passion for it, from Ford Fiestas to hand build Caterham Sevens. People who don’t own cars at all (and/or can’t drive) however often don’t get the car thing at all.