Whilst reading some of the many articles and comments that have been written about Steve Jobs this past week I was reminded about a conversation we had at Pool Heights one time about Apple’s famous product development.
We were talking about the user experience of software we know and love and got to talking about the Apple bounce.
If you own or use any Apple product you’re probably familiar with the Apple bounce, even if you don’t realise it. It’s the way the cursor bounces back up just a little bit when you reach the end of the scroll while viewing your emails or when you come to the bottom of a web page or whatever.
How interesting the conversation must have been, we mused, when Jobs and his team discussed the design of this bounce. How hard or soft should the bounce be? When should it be used? How could the designers ensure that the bounce was subtle enough not to take over but whimsical enought to be, well, whimsy?
We imagined countless returns to the drawing board by software designers who hadn’t got it just quite right.
And how hard it must have been to convince the Finance department of the commercial benefits of this whimsy, this fastidious attention to detail that is, it now turns out, so completely Apple.
But then, maybe there wouldn’t have been much convincing to be done in an organisation that has attention to detail and excellence wired into it’s DNA. An organisation who, it is said, purposefully designs new enhancements and features, knowing that it will discard 90% of the work done.
There are not many companies who are like Apple or perhaps, can be like Apple. But maybe every product designer should look to add their own bit of whimsy to what they produce.
Of course, this is not as easy as it might sound, not least because the boundary between whimsy and brand character is a very blurred one.
So, what makes good whimsy?
First of all, a definition. Whimsy is:
- a capricious idea or notion
- light or fanciful humour
- something quaint or unusual
Whimsy is all about the user experience. It creates an emotional connection that can only be made where there is an intimacy between the user and the product. After all, whimsy is a purely subjective thing.
Learning Pool has a lot of quirkiness that is part of it’s brand character. Our Peggy Pig and her escapades, Mary’s hug tally as her way of grading a good or not so good week, our Twitter hashtag #teamlovely and our equally bonkers customers who will dress up at our behest to raise money for charity.
All of this is brand defining but not necessarily whimsy.
We’re still working on that.
So, tell me, what’s your favourite bit of product whimsy? Is there anything whimsical that makes you warm to a product or service you use?