in Mobile Phones

Prompt madness

20070406Certificate.jpgEvery time I met friends not involved in telecommunications or mobile phones I always get the same basic comment.

Why don’t you make things simpler on existing applications before thinking to new applications to be installed on the mobile phone?

This a crystal clear statement, and they are absolutely true when they say that.

Today I would like to talk about one the most common things that usually annoys a customer. Phone prompts.

If you have ever worked around a mobile phone you may already know that usually there are hundreds of prompts to be managed. (Is some cases they may reach the number of thousands). The situation get more complex when you need to validate prompts for country variants of the mobile phones. Prompts need to be translated in the local language and sent back to the factory for the final building of the production software.
What you will have noticed is that prompts are bad and in some cases they are not useful and meaningless (at least for the average user). Some of the strangest prompts you may read happens when you need help the most. And they don’t serve the need.

There are lot of reason why this is happening. Most of the time prompt are limited in length and you try to condense as much sense as you can in 20 characters or so. In some other cases the prompt are left to some software engineer that cannot speak an understandable language for the end user (I’m joking here, at the end of the day I’m an engineer too).

The point is that we should take care of prompts with much more attention. After the user interface they are the most common thing a customer will notice about a phone.

We should understand that telling the user that “Certificate Error” is not the right way to tell him something has gone wrong while he was trying to install his new super cool golf game.

We need to rethink the mobile phone from the ground and prompts are a very good start.

Why do I blog this? We tend to forget simple things when we are pushed to think great.