Design: Little Things Matter

September 22, 2013

I like running and listening to music using my iPhone. Up until recently I was using Sennheiser In-Ear Headphones without a remote or microphone. The headphones caused me a few problems before I finally decided to buy new headphones, which made me think about design.

The first problem with my current headphones was that even though they were in-ear, they kept falling out, which was really annoying. The second problem was that I couldn’t forward songs. Listening to a slow or uninspiring song approaching a hill is hard work. The third problem sometimes occurred with an incoming message. Fumbling to get the iPhone out of my SPI Belt and read the message while running (to see if it was urgent) was difficult.

I did a quick review of headphones with remote and microphone in the Apple Store and purchased the Sennheiser OCX 685i In-Ear Sports Headphones.

Sennheiser OCX 685i In-Ear Sports Headphones

The ear clip design, combined with the lightweight cord and clip means that they stay secure while running. No more falling out. The remote and microphone work - I have full control over music. I can also use Siri to listen to incoming messages, and dictate a reply. I can even use Siri to Tweet. The headphones are also sweat and water resistant. Nearly perfect.

The only problem I have with them is the design of the remote, which detracts from the overall experience of using the product.

Compare the design of the remote on the Sennheiser in the above picture to the remote on the Apple EarPods in the below picture.

Apple EarPods with Remote and Mic

Can you guess what the problem is? When I’m running and listening to music, I’m watching the road ahead. I move my fingers to the remote near my neck, grab it, and feel for the controls. They’re all placed together and feel like they blend into each other. It feels like one button. This is the exact opposite experience with the Apple EarPods remote. On the Apple EarPods remote the clear indent in the middle means I feel immediately by touch the distinction between the 3 buttons, and hence how to activate the different functions that the 3 buttons enable.

I was reading this article today - Tim Cook: The Complete Interview, and there are a few really good quotes from Tim Cook that I think are relevant.

We’re a product company, and so the products show the values of a company. They speak to innovation. They speak to caring about every detail. They’re a reminder of how incredibly important experience is … every detail has been thought through. The experience is an “Aha” moment.

And then this one.

Nobody worries about buttons and finishes. Nobody really worries about the experience, and we do. We’re really proud that we do.

Design is important, and only going to become more so - The 3 Future Waves In Design, And How To Ride Them.