‘I can’t work this!’ – iPhone’s cameo in Sex In The City Movie

Yes, I’ve seen the Sex In the City Movie, I’ll admit it. Either the rest of the UX community hasn’t seen it yet or we’re all just ignoring the fabulous user experience moment that Carrie has with the iPhone. For those who haven’t seen it, she is handed the iPhone (not hers) at a time when she urgently needs to make a phone call. She looks at it briefly, pronounces ‘I can’t work this’ and asks for a proper phone.

Unsurprisingly, Gizmodo reported it this way: ‘Confirmed: Carrie Bradshaw is too stupid to work a iPhone‘. Very helpful.

Personally, this was my favourite part of the whole movie (which says more about the movie than it does this particular moment). I loved the fierceness of her reaction to the unfamiliar interface.

It reminded me again that those of us who are ‘into’ interface design are really a fairly small group and how important it is for us to remember that the vast majority of people who encounter our interfaces do so on the way to achieving a task – sometimes one that is urgent and very important to them.

The people who encounter our interfaces in that kind of moment are not going to find them interesting, but an obstacle. And that they won’t take the time to ‘explore’ and ‘enjoy’ and ‘learn’ our amazing interface design.

It would be easy to say that SJP’s encounter with the iPhone showed that it lacked ‘usability’, but in fact it is probably more instructive as to the importance of evaluating usability over a longer term than just a one hour session in a usability lab. As I’ve said in the past, if something like the iPod, and no doubt the iPhone had been ‘usability tested’ using the traditional methods, they no doubt would have ‘failed’ and the world would be poorer for it.

All these things I had to think about because the movie was so disappointing… (speaking of bad UX).

5 thoughts on “‘I can’t work this!’ – iPhone’s cameo in Sex In The City Movie

  1. LOL I loved that SJP comment. & c’mon she’s been using her old phone since the series,so even a regular pda would have been harder, but c’mon you gotta crawl before you walk lol.

  2. hehe So, my decision to wait until one evening when the film is out on DVD and I have nothing better to do still stands :)

    Maslow’s hierarchy; whatever you are designing meeting people’s basic needs can’t be ignored. I was sitting with a client watching a participant using his product last week. Head in hands, barely able to watch: “I have to make the whole team watch this session!” They have lots of lovely cool stuff in their interface but seem to have lost the basics along the way.

    Let Carrie make her urgent call and then she might be inspired to ‘engage’ and ‘explore’!

  3. One thing that gets lost in the voice-mail hell of design: the designer gets to call things features, but only the customer gets to call them benefits.

    As Maurice Hamoy of Inset Systems said years ago, “Watching a videotape of a user interacting with your product can be excruciating. It’s like watching a horror movie you’ve seen before….You know they’re heading for big trouble. You want to be able to yell at them, No, no, don’t go in there! You’ll never get out!”

  4. In a rushed or hurried state, I can imagine it would be difficult to grok how to use a lot of devices you’re unfamiliar with. The touch interface so radically alters the experience with a phone, that the reaction is not surprising.

    But on the other hand, it alters the experience in a way that is almost immediately understandable and intuitive once you’ve been properly introduced. The first time I showed my 7 year old how to use it, he immediately understood the scrolling and pinching behaviors and went to town playing with it and trying out all its features. There’s no fear of the new with kids though.

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