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UI Design – An open letter to Nokia

I’m going to be incredibly snootish and send this letter to Nokia about a few irksome pieces of bad design in my mobile phone.  I hate seeing these design decisions implemented in the projects in which I work when they are so obviously wrong.  They’re done for various, generally political or marketing reasons, overriding the default decisions of engineers. I guess sometimes they are the correct decisions, but when I on the receiving end of these problems in someone else’s product (which inevitably happens), it really grinds my gears.

So it’s time to grind some gears at Nokia:

Dear Sir or Madam,

For nearly a year and a half, I have been the owner of a Nokia 6300. Unlike my irredeemably poor Motorola L6 that preceded it, I am generally happy with the 6300. It’s simple, rugged and generally well-designed. However, it has a few design features that irk me and that I would rather not see in my next Nokia. Thus I am writing to you to, as a software designer myself, with some earnest criticism of your product.

The trigger for this criticism was a message my phone gave several days ago, telling me that the internal memory was full, to free some memory in order to continue receiving texts. Having done this, my phone appeared to continue working as usual, although later that day, and during the next day, I inexplicably received calls from friends who had said they had been trying to contact me but hadn’t received a reply. Imagine my annoyance nearly 48 hours later when, after restarting my phone, I received a deluge of text from the previous two days from those people. This is evidently not a bug: It is clear that the phone should have prompted me to restart after freeing memory, in order to continue receiving text messages. I am greatly annoyed that it did not do so.

The other very annoying design feature of this phone is the choice of location for the spell button when writing text messages. I would say that 1 in 10 of my text messages have to be resent because the send button doubles with the spell button, and the navigation button. Thus, when I attempt to spell, I accidentally scroll off the word before continuing to send the incomplete message as I attempt to spell a word. This is particularly annoying because it gives the impression that I am unable to use my mobile phone, or to spell, when in fact this is only partially true!

Finally, I have continually have problems with the headphone jack in the phone. I understand this is a common problem with this phone, is there a software patch I can install to rectify this issue or is it based in hardware?

Aside from these (and some other small) issues, I am generally pleased with the 6300. I am generally pleased to see the feature I need is there and easy to use: whether it be the ability to copy calendar entries, the choice to change the predictive text language easily, or the availability of a simple, reliable alarm clock. Feel free to contact me regarding future, equivalent models where the aforementioned annoyances are fixed.

Yours sincerely,

Tadhg Pearson

I guess that someone in Nokia will open this letter and think… pompous git.

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