Is technology making life better…or worse?

Our global human race is more connected than ever. And I have too many ways to access the internet, I know. But once you start down that path, it’s hard to turn off that sweet, sweet flow of 24/7/365 information.

We get used to checking on evolving news stories. As we leave the office, we want to make sure our clients have received the priority digital deliverables we sent along. We love to be the first to know something and to tell our friends. We race to grab our devices to settle happy hour debates with the fastest fact check.

Quick! How many Oscars did Paul Newman have? Answer: 25 seconds via the Google voice search on my Samsung Galaxy SIII with 4G coverage.*

So, have we improved our lives, or just confused ourselves more? How much is too much? And how confused are you inadvertently making your customers and potential customers?

Inventory of an obsession

Taking a quick inventory of all the connectivity in my life, I was surprised to discover that I access the 24/7/365 global interwebs with no less than five different devices, often in the same day.

ONE: My mobile phone is the aforementioned Samsung Galaxy SIII running Android 4.1.1 operating system (OS), with Verizon 4G coverage. Love the 4.5-inch diagonal screen. Love the apps. Battery charge life is a bit punier than I expected, but I love this phone. I don’t love the sometimes-spotty coverage from Verizon or the monthly $200 bill for two smartphones.

TWO: My work computer is a Dell Vostro laptop with 4GB of memory, an Intel Core i3 processor and a 297GB hard drive. We have wireless connectivity in our office space. We’re an interactive marketing and advertising agency; it comes with the territory. We go online to do research, implement client social media campaigns, test new sites and a ton of other reasons. [Including a few cat videos.]

THREE: My home computer is a broken-in, beaten-up IBM Lenovo ThinkPad T43. Battered and bruised with Windows XP OS and 30GB hard drive, but it’s like the old advertising slogan for Timex. It takes a licking and keeps on ticking. It barely runs iTunes but I have started to store most of my e-music on stick drives.

Then there are my tablets. [Yes, plural. I know. ]

FOUR: The new Nexus 7 tablet I won last year runs version 4.2.1 of Android OS, and has a seven-inch diagonal screen. It’s lightning fast and easy to use. Easy updates to the OS thanks to Google. And at 7 diagonal inches, the screen is larger than my cell phone. But not really that much larger, in the grand scheme of things. I do love this device. I just wish I had won a Nexus 10. [More about that in a previous blog.]

FIVE: Over the holidays, I fixed the screen size thing by giving myself a shiny new iPad. It has the 2048×1536 resolution “retina display” and I upgraded to 32GB capacity. It runs on Apple iOS 6. I’m just starting to explore the plethora of apps and stuff from Apple. I’m forcing myself to learn to navigate on an Apple device, with Safari as the internet browser, because it was totally alien to my brain wiring.

Confusion sets in

So, email is available on all five devices. I just can’t remember which device I used to write and store that draft email.

My professional and personal e-calendars are available on four devices; I haven’t bothered to set up Gmail on my iPad yet. But they don’t synch or update in any sort of logical sequence. Sometimes I get confused, and I panic and I second-guess the device I’m checking. Did that meeting get canceled? Why isn’t that appointment I added showing up on this device? Why is this old meeting still being displayed?

Sometimes I have to write down notes to myself – about my e-calendars – and then open up two devices to compare and double-check. Seriously.

The internet is available on all five devices. For most of the social media sites I access professionally and personally every day, it’s faster to access via an app on a tablet or phone, rather than the full site. So, here’s some fun. Try remembering the minute variations of functionality to complete the same task on:

  • Facebook full site on a PC
  • Facebook full site on an iPad
  • Facebook app for Android on a Nexus 7
  • Facebook iPad app
  • Facebook app for Android on a cell phone

Although the technology sometimes is slowing me down rather than speeding me up, in the grand scheme of things it is an embarrassment of riches. Of course life would get simpler if I just stopped using so many devices. But I can’t bring myself to delete any one from the daily rotation.

The more important issue: How much confusion and frustration are you creating for your loyal customers or valued prospects?

A cautionary ending

Sooner rather than later, ask yourself these three questions:

  • How is your site experience different/better/worse on desktop vs. tablet vs. mobile phone?
  • Are your apps enhancing your customer experience, or just replicating some digital features for the sake of having apps?
  • If you were a busy customer, how would you honestly review your sites, apps and digital marketing efforts?

Our digital global culture keeps speeding along, always evolving. And making business more complicated. Example: Now that more of us are using mobile devices and tablets to search, surf and explore, search results on desktop computers/full websites is starting to head south, to the chagrin of retailers and e-tailers who generate millions in sales from (now-dwindling) “traditional” desktop search.

On a macro level, markets and competition will force businesses to adapt. Or their customers will leave. On a micro level, I’ll have to suck it up and do the same with my personal and professional technology.

* Paul Newman answer: Total of three. Best Actor for the Color of Money in 1986, an Honorary Award also in 1986 and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for charity work in 1994.

Has technology made your life simpler … or more complicated? Is technology making your customer experience smoother … or bumpier? Share your perspective in the comments.

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