Cool new printers are like leaves in a forest these days, and it's terribly hard to make any one stand out. Even super-duper printer-fax-scanner-copiers are now serious yawn-material. But when my good buddy and colleague Markus bought himself an HP machine last week, he called me straight away to rave about one feature.
"You put in your memory card," he says, "and it prints thumbnails of all your photos."
"Uh, OK," I reply.
"Wait, this is the cool bit. On the printout, there are little boxes next to the thumbnails. You tick the size you need, and put the paper back in the machine. It reads your ticks and prints the pics you want automatically!"
Now, I don't know if this is HP's own idea, or if it's even new, but it's solid gold experience design for two reasons.
Firstly, that is a brilliant interface. People are much happier with pens and papers than with even the best computer menus - and you can pass a piece of paper around. Choosing the pics to print becomes a social experience on the sofa or in the cafe, without the sickly light and cricked necks of too many people trying to see the same computer monitor. Excellent work!
Secondly, that design feature is something that it is really easy to talk about. And this is important.
Remember, a lot of technical development results in improved specifications - say, a higher dpi or printing speed. There's not much you can say about that, except "well, it's better quality" or "yes, it's a bit faster". Hardly gripping stuff - and well on the way to Commodity City.
HP's clever user experience gimmick is different, because it gave Markus a story to tell - and helped him endorse a product he was excited about without boring us with geeky spec-numbers.
Pine and Gilmore argue that the experience economy is about creating memories. You could also say that experience design is about creating good stories - that bring all the benefits of word-of-mouth marketing.
Question for the week - what part of your offering is easily "tellable"? What makes a good story, for people to pass on to their friends?
Storyteller pic from travel_aficionado at flickr