User Experience of TomTom

Jan Borcher's "ode to TomTom" in the last issue of ACM interactions addresses issues that are relevant to my interest in the user experience of location-based applications. First about usability issues of TomTom:

"City or street names are listed so close below each other that you keep selecting wrong ones—Fitts' law at work. I also got a furious call when my sweetheart first tried using it: Köln (Cologne) wasn't in the city list. It turned out TomTom had left out German umlauts from their onscreen keyboards (...) Oh, and turning it on is a nightmare. Pressing the tiny, half-sunken power button briefly is happily ignored, but keep pressing it a couple times at the wrong moment and it won't turn on at all."

Second, about weird features:

" Feature development doesn't stop at its sweet spot. Beyond the idea of providing reliable, easy-to-use directions, TomTom has since added an MP3 player, live updates through the wireless network, connections to "Buddies" (the use of which has escaped me so far), cooperative street updates, photo slide shows (I'm not kidding), and a stream of other features. Some of these are actually useful, but the original TomTom was the sweet spot"

... which he relies on to discuss the latest phase of product development which is a "baroque" step that "obeys the terrible law of feature creep". The new feature, instead of having a user value, make life more complex... and eventually makes it difficult to use the device in its first and intended use. Why do I blog this? Some interesting discussion about product development and evolution towards complexity (most definitely due to forces that aim at renewing products very often).