Thoughtless design is going to cost me money… (or, why you shouldn’t ignore conventions)

BT Aqua Phone

Here is a new phone we got the other day. It’s our landline phone. Pretty cute huh? It’s called the Aqua by BT. Don’t buy it. I paid about £100 for a set of these phones. They are going to cost me a lot more than that in no time.

Here’s the thing. How do you end a call on a slide phone (which is what these are)? Simple – you close the slide, right? Well – yes, on every other slide phone that I’ve ever encountered, but not on this phone. Closing the slide does nothing… except closing the slide. So, when I went to make a call last night I discovered that, in fact, a call was still in progress. A call to a mobile phone, that had been connected for 8 hours. Ouch. I am *dreading* seeing this months phone bill because this isn’t the first time we’ve made this mistake. Although, this is probably the worst example.

We keep making this mistake because the slide-to-end-call convention is such a strong part of our model of how a slide phone works. We will keep making this mistake – despite the fact that we will be punished, seriously, by our telco.

As cute as these phones are, they’re going to be returned very soon because the experience of using them is so broken.

Moral to the story – if you’re designing something that has existing conventions associated with it – ignore them at your peril. Otherwise you’ll end up designing something that sucks as badly as this phone. And we don’t want that, do we.

End of rant.


  1. Dan Keldsen July 1, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    Mmm… Usability… Thoughtless… Design…

    Oy vey – it certainly makes you wonder what the designers/engineers were thinking, eh?

    Hopefully you’ve left a review wherever you bought this fine phone, letting people know about the problem.

    I bought a set of 4 wireless Uniden phones recently, and wondered why a “standard” phone headset shouldn’t work (as the warned in advance) with the wired base unit. I still don’t know why, but WOW, it really doesn’t work. (sigh)

    You might want to add to your list of design issues that it is also bad form to obsolete a whole class of associated add-ons, when you roll out a new product. Unless of course you’re selling laptops and cell phones, in which case, sure, we’ll all happily buy proprietary batteries and adaptors once again! ;)


  2. Marcin July 9, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    Not realy cute :)

  3. Adrian Howard July 13, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    BT…. amazed that the foul up their UX work on such a regular basis. I was struck by this poster appearing at around the same time as the iPhone hype was starting to kick in.

  4. Pat August 5, 2008 at 7:36 am

    So, Leisa, did BT accept the “I’m returning this product because you didn’t follow convention” excuse?
    I have a hard enough time returning goods that don’t work at all, let alone fail to meet my standards for user experience :)