Peter Marklund

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Nokia N70 - 11 Clicks Away From Usability

I've had the privilege and misfortune of using a Nokia N70 3g camera phone over the last couple of days. My first impression of the phone has been mostly a series of frustrations but most importantly a lesson in the importance of usability and delivering on the basics. To quote 37Signals:

The basics are the secrets of business. Execute on the basics beautifully and you’ll have a lot of customers knocking at your door. Cool wears off, usefulness never does.

Well, if 37Signals had consulted for the Nokia N70 development team I'm sure its UI and featureset would have been radically different.

To use a phone I need to know how to turn it on and off, how to disable the keyboard to put the phone in my pocket, how to put the phone in silent mode, how to make normal old fashioned phone calls, how to store friends phone numbers, and how to send SMS (including how to turn the auto completion on and off and write special chars like punctuation). That's about it. That's the full list of essential features that I need to master in order to pick up a phone and get by with it in my everyday life.

There is too much noise in the N70 UI, the essential features are not prominent and accessible enough. All else being equal, the more features you add, the more noise, the less obvious the basics will be, and the lower the usability. The user manual mirrors the N70 UI in being unstructured and not highlighting the basics. For example, I would have expected the first chapter to tell me what's in the package, have a picture of the phone and explain essential buttons and functions, how to turn the phone on and off etc. The Nokia N70 manual doesn't care for this approach but instead dives straight into advanced features such as how to configure the camera.

Another reason for low usability is not following conventions. The N70 phone is in between a Windows desktop UI and the UI of a second generation phone (remember the phones that didn't have cameras and internet?). It has its own set of conventions and before you have loaded those into your brain you are likely to be left confused and frustrated. Clicking the "select" button placed to the left on the phone is the equivalent of the right mouse button in Windows. Ok, so left and right are confused, we can live with that I suppose. Well, hold on, that analogy doesn't even hold because some of the options you get when you press "select" are not related to that particular item but to the whole list of items...

Putting the phone in silent mode is something I need to do often and its about 11 clicks on the Nokia N70. At the same time the desktop (start screen) is mostly empty and as far as I can tell not configurable, and several buttons on the start page are left unused.

Let's leave this ramble on a positive note - taking pictures with the phone is easy! Just slide open the camera and press the button. I figured that out on the first try. Except, the annoying thing about the camera is that it slides open by mistake and is left in camera mode in my pocket. This might explain why the battery drains so quickly, or maybe that is because of the large screen and all the software. Oh well, I try to be positive, I really do...

10 comment(s)


Peter Marklund said 2010-01-06 10:00:

It's interesting, I have never before upset people so much with a blog post. True, you can reach silent mode with one click, which I guess I should have realized, and this makes the title of my post a little misleading. Even if I would have known this though, I still wouldn't have liked the phone, and I still would have been unhappy with the user interface. I have the Iphone now, and it's not perfect, but the interface sure is in a totally different league than the that of the N70. It sure looks a lot nicer, and I've heard that in itself can have a significant impact on usability.

SmartyPants said 2010-01-06 06:40:

I agree with This guy is an idiot. :P lol Such an old stupid article. I'd rather do something more productive than waste my time counting the number of clicks I needed to switch to silent. btw, hold # as stated above. :P and put in smartsettings it'll make life easier!
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- said 2007-12-06 05:38:

I agree with Peter. I've just bought the n70 after 18 months of having a k750i and I think the k750i was much more intuitive in terms of usability! In fact was so frustrated that I googled for 'n70 usability' and found this page as result #3 and promptly came here! Relieved to find that I am not the only one finding difficulty, and also to find a believer in 37signals!
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- said 2007-06-26 08:48:

You, my friend, are an idiot, if you CANT USE a damn nokia phone ! ITS AS EASY AS IT GETS !

Peter Marklund said 2007-05-21 01:48:

Chris, thanks for pointing out that you can put the phone in silent mode with one key press. I knew how to do it with two already, but not with one, I guess I have to re-read the manual. Another thing that has been annoying me about this phone though is its slowness. Just to take an example, to bring up the my list of contacts takes an order of magnitude of seconds when it really should be a snap. I mean it's like the phone is fetching a webpage over the internet. It's ridiculous. This kind of slowness is something I noticed in an Ericsson phone too. I'm not out to pick on Nokia in particular here. I just think 3G phones in general tend to have child diseases, too many features, are two slow, and have poor usability.

Chris Buckley said 2007-05-20 16:37:

Whilst I agree, to a limited extent, with you about the manual it does strike me as kind of ironic that page 12 of the manual tells you how to perform 'silent' profile with *one* (yes, read: ONE) key-press! (As has been standard on Nokia's for god knows how many years...). I think you should update your blog post..

Will said 2007-04-03 21:52:

It can be tricky, but after a fair amount of time using it, I wouldn't want to give it up. Here are some shortcuts, from the standby screen: Hold 1: Voicemail Hold 0: Load web browser Hold #: Change from "General" to "Silent" Hold Menu: Application switcher Hold M.Media Key: Change key functions Hope that helps. :-)

Jarkko Laine said 2007-03-05 04:51:

I'm pretty sure the UI (the two buttons right below the screen and the "joystick") is customizable. At least it is on my 6630 and I don't think they've gone backwards in that regard. I for example click left arrow to write a new SMS, up to use the camera, right to get to the calendar and down to get to the address book. There's definitely a lot to do as far as the UI goes in Nokias but I currently find them the least bad in the field. I hope and believe that iPhone will knock my socks off, too bad it's not gonna be 3G.

Peter Marklund said 2007-03-02 08:46:

Just to be fair to the poor N70 phone, my girlfriend (as embarrassing as it is) pointed out to me that by using the power button you can enter silent mode in 5 clicks...