Product Designs of Audio Players (Part 2)

In the second part of the assignment, I am suppose to consider one product independently and describe, with reasons, all the features that I think have not been well designed.

Creative Zen Vision: M

Background

Creative Zen Vision: M is one of the first video playing dedicated digital audio players developed by Creative Technology. It was launched around the end of 2005 and is a direct competitor to the iPod. As mentioned above, it bears many similarities to the iPod, from the 2.5 inch screen to the familiar interface which is almost identical to the layout in Apple’s device (Wikipedia). In its own rights, the Vision: M is a very capable digital audio player, featuring FM radio and recording capabilities. However, its sale worldwide pales in comparison with iPod; for example, the player ranks only at 32 in Electronics Bestsellers list of Amazon.com. Below are some possible flaws with the product, from the outer appearance and then moving inwards.

Design of the Package

Back of the boxTypically, a consumer takes less than three seconds to compare products (CFC International, 2007). Good first impressions are therefore more than important – they are vital. The front of the package of Vision: M is elegant and looks professional; however the design at the back of the box is a far cry from the philosophy of Zen[1]. Full technical details are imprinted in small fonts and in various languages. These are not easily understood by many consumers and they serve only to reduce the image of the product to a regular electronic device. What Creative could have done is to move such text into the packaging, and place them together with the instruction manual.

Design of the Player

Form Factor

M and iPodMeasuring at 62 by 104 by 19 millimeters, the Vision: M has the exact height and width as the iPod. However, it has 76.7% greater volume and 22% greater weight than the iPod’s 61.8 by 103.5 by 11 millimeters. Although the Vision: M has more features such as radio and built in microphone, the portability and appeal of the device is reduced. This is because from the experience with the success stories of iPod and Motorola’s ultrathin RAZR phone, industrial designers and mobile-market analysts have already decreed thin to be the in-thing among consumers (Lev-Ram, 2006).

User Interface

The most important feature of a device lies in its user interface The design of a user interface affects the amount of effort the user must expend to:

  1. Provide input for the device;
  2. Interpret the output of the device, and
  3. Learn how to perform the above activities (Wikipedia).

With an ever increasing music library and memory space of the audio player, it is important to allow a user to scroll through their collection easily and intuitively. Introduced into most Creative products, the exclusively vertical Touch Pad[2] aims to “provide intuitive vertical scrolling […] with a gentle stroke of one thumb on the face of the player” (Creative Technology Ltd., 2004). However, my personal experience with the touch pad (and reviewers’ from various publications[3]) is far from perfect and this is a major flaw in the product design.

Vision: M allows the user to scroll through tracks and menu items by brushing up and down on the touch pad. By tapping on the center of the touch pad, it selects the current item. While this interface can be considered intuitive, it is not always precise. Users often found it difficult to land on exactly the selection they want.

The next feature of the Touch Pad interface is that when a user press and hold the top or bottom of the pad; it will accelerate through the list. This allows the user to scroll through huge music libraries rapidly. However, the performance of this feature is inconsistent. Songs sometimes get selected unintentionally and the user may also end up having to endure through the repetitious action of by brushing up and down the touch pad.

Other than the Touch Pad, the user interface is sluggish at times. This happens especially when the user is scrolling through video and photos. Moreover, when the user chooses a playlist, a “Please wait” message will be shown for a few seconds. This once again lowers the score that Vision: M obtains in the category of user experience.

Sync Adaptor

Loose component with a high potential of losingThe Sync Adaptor is a small dongle that plugs into the bottom of the Vision: M and supplies power, USB, and A/V-out ports. This dongle essentially adds an additional loose component to Vision: M which the user has to bring along – and potentially lose. In the event that one forgets the dongle, one would be very much crippled as it is not possible to recharge and transfer any music or videos. This is a serious hindsight of the product designers as such ports or functions can actually be directly integrated into the device.


[1] Creative’s Sim Wong Hoo says his company decided to “out cool” the iPod by “looking into the whole concept of Zen, [which] is something simple yet powerful.” (Vilaga, 2005)

[2] M Navigating Creative Vision: M (Extracted from manual of Vision: M)

[3] Reviews referred includes: VR-Zone, CNET (US), PC Magazine, The Inquirer and others.

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