From the letter a journalist wrote to Nokia 5 years ago, with regards to his E51 phone – This is how a Helsingin Sanomat journalist tried to save Nokia:
I wanted an iPod, and that device would also give me convenient access to the internet and much more. I ordered my own iPod touch, turned it on, and knew immediately how to use it. I have been using the device on a daily basis for over six months now, without giving any thought to the manuals. The logic of the device opens up right away. It is no wonder that the device is a huge global success.
My new Nokia telephone model is called the E 51. Unfortunately the phone has not been designed to make it easy for just anybody to learn to use it.
[...] All kinds of amazing functions are promoted on the display, but since I do not understand what the names mean, my guess is that I will never use them.
Here is an example: the first thing that nearly every user of a telephone wants to do is to change the ringtone; so do I, but how do I do it? While fiddling around with the new phone I noticed that it has a key with the picture of a house on it. Pressing it opens up the main menu. At this point I was supposed to understand which one of the keys is for the ringtones. The options are messaging, office, log, media, tools, installations, connectivity, download, address book, web, calendar, and instructions.
The names were not much help, so I tried each of them one at a time. With each of them, new choices opened up, but none of them appeared to offer a way to change a ring tone. Therefore, I tried to seek advice from instructions, but they only gave instructions on the installation of 3D ringtones. I did not want any of those, because I do not even know what they mean.
[...] It turned out that I should have known at the outset that I should select Tools, and from there go to Settings and from there to General, and from there to Personalisation, and there, finally I would finally find what I had been looking for: Tones. I was therefore expected to make five discerning choices in a downward hierarchy before doing something with my telephone that is the first thing that every user of a new telephone wants to do.
[...] Telephones – like all other devices – need to be designed on the terms of the simplest user. All of the most important functions need to be offered at the first hierarchical level, or at the very latest at the second, and they need to be found on the basis of the name of the key using ordinary common sense. The more sophisticated and more special features need to be placed at the lower hierarchical levels. People who use them are technology enthusiasts and are quite capable of finding them there.
And then there is another, different example: I send a text message, which is something that I do dozens of times every day. First, I press messages, then I select create message, and then I need to choose from among four options: text message, multimedia message, audio message, or e-mail. So each time, dozens of times a day in the years that follow, I am bothered by this extra message, and each time I give the same answer.
The guy was right. One can find this kind of lacking ergonomics in almost every device that includes software. For instance, I own a Freecom MusicPal Internet radio which I use very rarely, as bookmarking a new station is too tedious, and setting a morning alarm needs you to go through too many menus. Furthermore, almost each and every electronic device that has a few buttons and is menu-oriented, if it’s designed by a Japanese company, is totally illogical, and cannot be used without a manual (I’m now thinking of a Panasonic micro-system). Instead of adding a few more direct access buttons (buttons that would access a function), they rely on a too limited number of buttons, and on a too complex hierarchy of menus!
Tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of idiots are screwing the devices they design. Because they’re too arrogant to put themselves in the shoes of a user and to ask themselves: “What are the tasks most users would want to perform most frequently, or after the initial contact with the device? How can I make this be self-explanatory?”
Oh, and the so-called user manuals or user guides? They always only explain what is already obvious, and never tell you a word about what you were looking for.
P.S.: In the example from E51, instead of Tools → Settings → General → Personalisation → Tones, the hierarchy could have been Settings → Audio → Ringtones, or even better, just Audio → Ringtones.