Design is all about removing things

by Volker Weber

Software developers love status messages. I am not sure why, but it probably has to do with debugging. They also like to show off the richness of their application, all the choices the user has. The user however does not care about these things at all. The software should just do its job. Quietly and effortlessly.

In this respect the iPhone is a user's dream, and the E90 is a developer's masterpiece. On the iPhone I don't make any settings at all to connect to the Internet, to browse, or to fetch my mail. It asked me once for the credentials of my WLAN, when it first encountered it. Now it quietly uses the WLAN when it sees it, and otherwise falls back to the mobile APN.


The E90 in contrast asks me the same question all over again. And again. And again. And again. Easily a hundred times a day. Which access point should it take? It consistently gets the same answer again and again. And again. And again. And again. The WLAN access point when it's available, and otherwise the mobile APN. When it loses the connection it happily displays the status message "Disconnected" and then asks the same simple question again. And again. And again. And again.

The world is full of these annoyances. Vista added a lot of them over XP. It makes people hate their computers.

Getting rid of these annoyances may be the secret of Apple's success. They are going out of their way to remove them. The iPhone is just one example. There are many more. Safari for instance justs logs me in to my sites. It does not only present the credentials and lets me make the choice to send them. It logs me in. I can log out if I want, but the default is of course that I do log in every single time. Why should it ask? Yes, a developer will find a reason. But for each developer there are thousands of users who have to suffer from bad decisions.

If you think design means to make shiny things, you are dead wrong. Design means a lot more. A lot. You are not done, until you have removed everything possible.


This is an application thing, not a platform thing.

If you use fring on the E90, for example, it will auto-roam between wifi and gprs without prompting. You can set, without the application, which to prioritise.

It remembers my work and my home wireless AP and uses them when available, if not it uses packet data. It works...on the E90.

Sadly, a lot of the built-in applications (web, messaging etc.) on the Nokia don't support this roaming functionality...but it's certainly possible on both hardware and OS as fring have done it.

Ben Rose, 2008-05-23

Same on the N95 - similar menu issues. I love the phone but I'm pretty sure I could have designed how it works for the user better.
I noted the same frustration with connecting to to network questions.

I'm not sure whether its the same for E90 but it feels like they have even tried to merge several different menus systems into one that were created by different development groups - its doesn't feel smooth at all for the user.

Steve Castledine, 2008-05-23

Goodness know who was typing that link text - wasn't me :)

Steve Castledine, 2008-05-23

As my Vodafone data contract is now "unlimited" (500MB/mth AUP) I just set all the connections to use that. The 3.5G data connection is usually as fast as my broadband anyway.

Ben Rose, 2008-05-23

Amen :-)

Mike Reichert, 2008-05-23

Couldn't agree more, the iPhone is excellent in this respect. When in a call it gives me only the options I need.. Almost all settings and menus are intuitive. Heck, my 3 year old can operate my phone, that says a lot about usability (and perhaps my daughter too :-))

Hans Bornich, 2008-05-23

Devicescape is a solution to asking for what AP to use. Not perfect, but it does work.

Chris Lindley, 2008-05-23

It amazes me when people say it's so easy even a child could use parents could never program the VCR in our house, even adjusting a digital clock was difficult.

Yet, even in the days of my grandparents, children could operate mining machinery ;-)

Benjamin Rose, 2008-05-23

Yep. Which means I have a lot more work to do. :)

Mary Beth Raven, 2008-05-23

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Timo Stamm, 2008-05-23

Volker- check out Psiloc Connect for your E90- I only use one access point. It picks up wifi when avail and otherwise will use gprs/ edge/ etc... should have been built in S60 but...
Can't wait for the E71!!!

robert nobleman, 2008-05-28

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