What’s News: Hey Good Lookin’

Those of us who have been frustrated for years by the world’s lack of focus on usability take heart: a web marketing campaign for a new brand of sunglasses is focused on user experience. Mind you, these are not your typical sunglasses. TriSpecs™ combine sleek good looks with earphones that retract into the frames, and full wireless integration with phones and music players.

picture of sunglasses

When the fancy features are not in use, the earbuds tuck discreetly away, keeping the power off to conserve energy. Pull an earbud out a tiny bit, the power goes on, and you can make a call with a touch of a button on the left arm of the glasses frame that initiates voice dialing. Volume is also easily adjusted with buttons on the left arm. Three little buttons on the right arm let you listen to music in stereo (if you pull out both retractable earbuds), and control moving forward and back in your playlist. The music will pause if the phone rings, and while you are on the call, unless you choose to ignore a call. To add to user appeal, the website lets you customize your glasses, choosing your preferred lens and frame colors.

The earbuds are discreet when in use (especially if you have long hair), and they are built with effective noise-cancelling technology. Perhaps Corey Hart was doing beta testing when he sang, “I wear my sunglasses at night.”

To judge from the comments of reviewers (http://trispecs.com/#/user-experience), there are some key usability issues that are missed in the design. Trying to fit three control buttons on each arm, while keeping the device light and sleek-looking, required a tradeoff. According to at least one reviewer, the tradeoff was not well-handled—it’s difficult to tell the buttons apart by feel only, and you certainly don’t want to have to take the glasses off every time you need to adjust the volume or take a call. The procedure for turning the unit off is also awkward: it requires holding down the rewind button while pressing the retract headphone button.

Ironically, despite their focus on promoting user experience as the key selling feature for these glasses, the TriSpecs website itself is not a great model of usability. It is Flash-based, which means that users without Flash can’t see it; even those who do have Flash have to wait for pages to load. The site has a black background with small white text, which is virtually unreadable if you are trying to view it sitting on a sunny terrace with your laptop. (I’m still waiting for sunglasses that will make laptop screens easy to view in bright sunlight!)

The website is also weak in detailed specs on the specs. This is particularly important since using them requires a new type of Bluetooth that many phones do not yet have. You have to dig to find that information on the site.

Nevertheless, most comments on the TriSpecs are favorable, noting the convenience of combining all these features—including their light weight and fashionable looks—in one handy device.

Apart from some tweaking, which could easily be dealt with in a second version of the sunglasses, what else could we ask for? Maybe to live in a sunny enough place to use these year-round!

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