Audio version 6’30
Joy In The Morning
Why was there an acoustic guitarist in my darkened hotel room at 6.30am?
Vance Joy-type folk stylings, quiet at first. Then insistently louder as they penetrated my confused morning brain.
I wrote last week that it’s time to get out, remove your mental tracksuit pants and revive those atrophied outside-world skills. After that year off business travel, I’m still not fully match-fit for six-hour sleeps after long, pleasant nights of refreshments*.
So I went through the three confusing phases of deep-sleep hotel noise awareness:
1. The sound blends into your dream
2. Hang on it’s not a dream, it’s real, what is going on? Is Vance Joy in the room next door and if so why is he strumming at this hideous hour?
3. IT’S COMING FROM INSIDE THE ROOM WHAT IS HAPPENING?
Then I found it: it was the alarm clock on the opposite side of the bed. Some previous guest must have set it.
In 2021, the thirtieth year since the first smart phone, what kind of psychopath uses the hotel’s bedside alarm clock? And why does it have a folk guitar alarm tone?
This was a deeply hipster hotel, lots of glass and black surfaces. Glass bathroom walls. Black light switches on black walls, non-illuminated so you have to search for them in Braille. Matt black toilet suite, a stealth presence in the darkness. The noise came out of a black clock against a black backboard. The clock had no visible controls.
I jabbed the only button I could feel in the darkness.
Of course it was Snooze, so Vance came back for an equally-perky encore at 640 am. At which point I climbed under the bedside table and yanked the power cable out.
A Cold Dose Of Reality
But I was awake, so thought: might as well have a shower.
Hotel showers are always a complex puzzle. This one seemed pretty straightforward though. Big, obvious shower head, simple left-or-right lever tap.
I lean right in to pull the tap up and to the left.
Surprise motherfucker! There’s a second, disguised shower head right at face level.
It blasts me full in the face and shoulders with a horizontal torrent of cold water.
Chilled to the core, I dodge back and wrangle the secret switch to activate the overhead water.
I shower, then go to dry myself. All the towels are soaked. Because genius bathroom designer put the towel rack on the opposite wall of the shower, right in the path of that first blast of horizontal water from the sneaky second shower head.
I checked out of the hotel cautiously. When you start the day with scenes straight from the TV cartoons of childhood, the fear of falling anvils or grand pianos is real.
Customers Need Simple
I don’t tell this tale to have a go at the hotel. It’s really nice and I’ll happily stay there again.
It’s to make the point that lots of customers aren’t as good at using your product as you expect.
That product is your whole world, and you have the specialist skills.
Customers like me don’t. We can be stupid, distracted, impatient, half-drunk, or all those things.
Make it simpler for us. We don’t have the time or energy to read instructions or explore your exciting world of options.
The digital world lives and breathes user experience (UX) design, but UX thinking doesn’t get the same traction in the analog product world. If you have some time, go down this rabbit hole of UX laws and see which you can apply to make your product better.
I’ll stick to three points.
1. Learn What Annoys Customers And Offer A Solution
2. Get Non-Experts Involved. You’re Too Close To Your Product
To illustrate both points: a non-hotelier supervised the design and build for a new hotel I really enjoyed last month.
He told me:
“I just made a long list of all the things that annoyed me about hotels I’d stayed in, and made sure we didn’t do those things.”
Simple taps. Lighting controls that don’t take half an hour and an electrical engineering degree to turn off at night after a few drinks. Powerpoints everywhere: where you can get to them, not underneath and behind things. Soap packages you can open.
Most hotels focus on wanting guests to feel luxurious, but you can’t get to that point if they’re bugged by functional annoyances.
3. Less Choice Is Luxurious
Business people often assume that more choice is always better. No it isn’t.
Choices take time and effort. They create the mental stress of ‘what if I choose the wrong option?’
Sometimes it pays to be confident enough to just pick the best option and give it to them.
A question to ask when developing a new product is: how can it be more rice cooker? This, the greatest appliance of all, has one button. To cook rice perfectly, you hit that button and walk away.
Without wanting to stray into Uncle Roger’s lane, I feel like the recent trend of multi-button rice cookers is by, and for, white people. Who have too many meetings.
When you’re developing a new product, there’s always someone who wants to add the extra button. Or three. Maybe it’s justified, but make them fight every step of the way.
Don’t turn using your product into work.
* We spend a lot of time testing out restaurant wine lists for decent gear that punches well above its weight. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. So as a bonus Undisruptable service, may I suggest you smash into Gentle Folk Village Chardonnay (hard to find but get it next year) or Ministry Of Clouds Tempranillo Grenache, both discoveries from recent travels. Not any kind of sponsored content, just a public service.
I’m in the studio all this week recording the audiobook of Undisruptable, which means it’s finished and ready to go to the printers. So it’s COMING SOON.
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