Keep it simple, stupid

Sierra got a camera for her birthday. A digital one: the VTech Kidizoom Plus. It takes real pictures and everything. She was excited. I was excited. We were all excited to get it going.

But it wasn’t the easiest thing to figure out. Part of that is because, in essence, Sierra also got the following for her birthday:
• A photo editor
• A game system
• A framing kit
• A slide show
• A movie camera

All in the same package.

Sierra is a three-year old girl. She likes to take pictures with her camera – not play games, not film movies, not put wacky frames on wacky shots. To her, this is merely a camera. To me, it’s a monstrosity in over-indulgence; some “design by committee” product spec that attempted not to make a great product but, in the way committees are wont to do, make a product that tries to appeal to every single demographic available.

Sierra loves her camera, and I think it’s pretty fun. Grandpa Dennis did a great job picking it out. We’ve already started a Flickr page with Sierra’s pictures. (They are fantastic, by the way, if you like blurry, off centered pictures of her family and the backs of their legs.)

But the insistence of modern manufacturing to pile on the features and added benefits – often to the detriment of the original reason for purchasing the product – is frustrating and, dare I say, ugly.

Kids want cameras to take pictures. They will be happy with a simple camera that takes good pictures and – here’s the kicker! – is easy to use.

That means no extra features to bog down the button landscape. Just a few buttons to work the camera, like the old Holga models.

Do people really want all the things on this camera? Or are they simply a way to create false competitive advantages in a crowded toy marketplace – competitive advantages that are then one upped by the competitors, which are then one upped by the original product, which continue ad nauseum until soon there isn’t enough room on the package to explain what the damned thing does.

Here’s the thing: it’s a toy. For a kid. Yet, it’s become so complicated that even I had a hard time working it.

Did we forget about the simple rules of making toys? Rule Number Two: TOYS ARE FOR KIDS.

It’s all I ask. Simplicity. Better design. Something Sierra will be happy with. Something she’ll have no problem grasping and understanding. Something we all can be proud to purchase.

And, thanks but no thanks, we’re okay without the wacky hat slide show.

This was lovingly handwritten on August 3rd, 2010