Friday, May 16, 2008, 10:03 AM ET|Posted by Will Richmond
I recently bought and set up a Harmony One universal remote control. I had heard about the Harmony products from many friends over the years, but had resisted purchase for a variety of reasons. Now, having completed a new family/TV room with home theater, I bought the latest model, the Harmony One. If you've never seen this device in action, it's a really neat marvel of consumer electronics.
And for the many companies trying to figure out how to build devices to bridge broadband video and TVs for mainstream consumers, it offers many usability lessons. I think that if they remember some of Harmony One's key design philosophies, their probability of eventual success would only be enhanced.
I think these are as follows:
Solve a pain point - The Harmony remotes solve a clear consumer pain point - multiple confusing remotes. The benefits are messaged clearly, starting with: "One-touch access to your entertainment. Enjoy easy, one-touch access to the home entertainment activiites you love." The current pain point in broadband is that you're practically locked to your computer to watch video. Resolve this pain point and message it properly and consumers will quickly "get it."
Make it easy to use - Everything about the Harmony One is easy and intuitive: set-up, use, updates. Nothing has been left to chance by its designers. In consumer electronics, "easy" almost always wins the day. Broadband devices need to execute on the "easy" value proposition. Of course there will be some crawling-behind-the-TV involved, but minimizing the hassle and speeding the process to realizing the benefits is essential.
Replacing may be better than augmenting - When it comes to entry strategy, it's often tempting to augment, rather than replace existing devices and services. That's a more evolutionary and seemingly likely path to success. Sometimes it is. But Harmony shows that a proposition of replacing existing devices (in this case, current remotes from cable operator, DVD player, A/V receiver, etc.) can actually the better way. Think how much more complicated Harmony's marketing task would be if they weren't able to make the simple but powerful claim of being able to replace ALL remotes. It no doubt took them a lot of extra work to execute on this, but it is well worth their while.
Similarly, for broadband device makers, addressing how not just broadband video, but also traditional TV gets delivered to the home may indeed the better way. Of course, that's a far bigger nut to crack, but at least initially, for a certain early adopter audience, the value proposition would likely resonate more clearly. The proposition changes from educating the customer about how the new box fits in, to a more straightforward all-encompassing pitch - "We know you love TV and broadband. Now you can easily get it all, on your familiar TV."
To be fair, figuring out how to bring broadband to the TV is a more involved task than building a universal remote control. There are more stakeholders, technical issues and usability challenges. While adhering to Harmony One's few simple design tenets won't guarantee eventual success it will certainly enhance the likelihood of it. For consumers looking to enjoy broadband video on their TVs, that would be great news.
What do you think? Post a comment and let everyone know!