Unless you’ve been living under a rock or don’t follow my every word on Twitter and the like, you may or may not know my old car died, so I bought a new one the other day, albeit new to me. It’s 2003 BMW 318 coupé, but what it is isn’t the point. It has a few things in it which aren’t integral to the driving experience but are just nice, insignificant touches of quality that make the experience of being in the car a little more pleasant. They certainly made me think about really minor touches we can apply to user interfaces we design and build to make the experience of using them smoother and more pleasing.
Before I start rambeling on, I should add that my past cars were a mk 1 Ford Focus Zetec and a mk1 Audi A3 Sport, so it’ very possible these touches could be in most cars now. This BMW is the newest car i’ve had. I’ll just list them, in paragraph form.
When I change the speed of the intermittent wipers up a notch, it instantly does a faster paced wipe rather than waiting for the next cycle to begin. Lesson learned? Restart an interval loop whenever it’s interacted with.
The light cluster in the headliner has a few buttons & modes. I can either flick one button to turn all the lights on, which include the main light built in with the buttons, lights in the footwells and the back seats too. There’s 2 separate map reading lights, where the bulb is recessed in a little tunnel, so it’s focussed on one of the cabin, so a passenger can read a map at night without is glaring in my eyes. There’s also a couple more little tubes with red LED’s in them which permanently shine a subtle red light onto the centre console, so I can see what’s there, again without it glaring in my eyes. No lesson here but it’s a nice touch.
The rear windows in cars without rear door are usually the type which have a little lever to open the rear edge. In the BMW, there’s a button clustered with the front window buttons that opens them, electronically. Nothing major or even useful, but it’s another nice touch, having complete control over the car from one position.
Most cars come with a tool set for changing wheels. In the BMW, this tool set is on the underside of the boot/trunk lid, so it’s very easy to get to if you need one of those tools. I can’t think of a use-case, but it’s nice that they’re so accessible.
The engine has so much plastic covering it, it might as well not be accessible. I open the bonnet/hood and it’s a sea of black plastic with BMW emblems & logos everywhere. The important parts of the engine like washer fluid & oil aren’t even labeled. Useless.
There’s no cup holders. None at all. Not even in the glove box. The only usable space for a drink is a tray in the centre console that can hold a 500ml sized bottle, but even then it’s having over the gear stick. Not enough to get in the way, but my shirt cuff rubs against it.
The ash tray is so small it might as well not be there. As a casual, occasional smoker, trying to drop ash in that tiny thing would simply mean i’d be forever cleaning that section of the dash. In fairness to the people who designed it though, it is a deterrent to smoke in the car. Keeps it smelling fresh.
Well, I don’t really know how to conclude this. I just wanted to share the moment of enlightenment I had on a drive this evening. I can see to much room for improvement, in very small places, in so many apps and services.
It’s al age-old saying, but ‘the devil is in the detail’ definitely reigns true here, assuming the devil is a good person.