Wireless Wonders

No news, just comment about mobile phones and services, from a veteran practitioner...3G, GPRS, WAP, Bluetooth, WiFi, etc...

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Ring tone experience (idea #102)

I recently sat in a cafe and watched a teenaged boy take his brand new phone out of its box, insert the battery and start "playing" with it. Not surprisingly, before long we could all here an array of ring tunes whistling their merry way across the cafe. Ring tones have come a long way - they weren't nearly so annoying as they might have been, even with a constant switching from one 5 second blast to another (and back again).

Of course, most of us have done this, although usually in the privacy of our own homes - it is a natural part of exploring a new phone. Let's play the ring tones. I still argue that a tune sequencer would be a great feature on any phone, allowing musical loops to be sewn into a unique ring tone, or should that be "tune"? (See my last post.)

In a recent user experience definition I worked on for an MVNO project, the "out of the box" (ootb) experience was a key part of the analysis, as it clearly marks and affects the entry point into the device and the services attached to it. Usually precious little effort is given to the ootb experience and so the initial playing around with the new phone can be a short-lived and quite dull affair. Service discovery is an important part of service design, but often an afterthought, it thought about at all.

In the cafe I observed an ootb experience first hand - the young man became my lab study for a few moments. He fiddled with the ring tones and having exhausted himself of the possibilities (in MTV-speed fashion - i.e. about 1 minute) he duly proceeded to less interesting stuff. I couldn't see what, but it was probably the usual address book boredom, changing a wallpaper and so on.

This was a golden moment to engage him with services. Within the "ring tone application" he could have been offered a number of options that drew him further into the experience and also made the operator some money. The option to download new tones should be built in to the same user interface (UI), not a link somewhere on the operator's WAP portal. Tones should be organised into "play lists" and shareable, reviewable, rate-able, just like an iTunes experience. Moreover, it should be immediately possible to share any of the default tones with another user from within the same UI.

A portal is a single entry point to several services. It make sense to offer a front-door into a set of related services. However, with a mobile phone it already has a multitude of doors, like "ring tone selector", "address book", "call record" and so on. There's no need to make a user go out of these environments and back through a front-door - they're already in the house! Why not put services within these partitions?

I'd probably argue that the whole partitioning of the experience into ancient functions like "address book" doesn't make sense anyway - most users haven't had an address book for the past 5 years anyway, most likely never at all. Why mimic a book on a phone? There are lots of metaphors that could be used to organise people information. As an exercise, I suggest taking a large sheet of paper and drawing an imaginary set of icons on it to resemble a phone interface. However, the rule is that you're not allowed to use any of the traditional icons and names. For example, try putting an icon called "connect". What might it do? If the only options you can think of are "call" and "text", then you probably shouldn't be in value-added services (if that's what you do already). The ootb experience requires some ootb thinking!

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At 5:21 PM, Anonymous David said...

This reminds me of MSN Messenger, which has some fun "winks" and "smilies" built-in for free (so that you can discover them yourself by clicking around) and a "more" link to download, well, more.

At 12:12 PM, Blogger Anders Borg said...

Sony Ericsson and Nokia provide links to their own content sites in own-branded phones, yet they don't provide much of value. That could easily be improved by them cooperating with Jamster for instance, unless they truly wanted to jump into the content market themselves.


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