The Small Details that Make a Difference

Most products I use work. They do the job for the most part, but they fail to delight. Every once and while a product comes along that includes a detail or feature that’s so impressive, that it elevates the experience to a higher level. Such small details can make the difference between merely doing the job vs. delighting the user.

Below are a few products that include a small detail or feature that’s delighted me lately:

The Tivo Remote – How come most remotes are such a pain in the butt to use? Tivo comes along and create a remote that makes others feel 20 year old. Tivo understands the remote is something that users actually “feel” each time they use their product. They created a remote that just feels right in your hand. It’s balanced and elegant. Most remotes include buttons that are all the same size. But the Tivo’s buttons are big and colored. Even my three year old can use it without trouble. These small details set the product apart from anything else on the market.

Which remote do you think more time and research went into? Link to Tivo.

The Moleskin Notebook – Lots of small details set this notebook apart but my favorite is the ribbon placemarkers. Such a tiny detail can save a lot of time each day. No more thumbing through pages looking for where I left off. I can immediately turn to an open page and start taking notes. I keep a couple on hand at work and a small Moleskin on me at all times to jot to down ideas and short reminders.

The ribbon placemarker makes for quick entry while the elastic band keeps it closed when not in use. Link to Moleskin store.


I love unexpected but smart animation like the one John Ballinger added to my favorite Twitter application for Windows. The one I’m talking about is the quick “cube spin” that happens when I click on a persons icon. It’s just enough to let me know what I’ve clicked while adding something unexpected. I love it!

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You can see the first icon just as it starts to rotate. Link to Tweetr site.

Nikon D40 Camera

How can a DSLR be easier to use than a point and shoot? That’s what I asked myself after using the D40 for a few weeks. Being new to photography, I was concerned that a DSLR would be difficult to use and I’d spend too much time futzing with settings and hunting down menus instead of taking pictures.

Then Nikon comes along and sets a new standard on DSLR ease of use with the D40. Here’s a camera that knows its user base is made of first time DSLR owners. The menus are a pleasure to use! I can’t overstate that. During my few training classes I was mixed in with Canon DSL owners, many of which had less experience than I did which wasn’t very much to begin with. The instructor would ask us to change certain setting on our camera and it was funny to watch many of the Canon owners struggle to do so. Many had purchased too much camera for sure. After comparing the D40 to similar Canon models I decided on the Nikon mostly due to the camera’s ease of use and super clear menu system. Not only are the menus easy to navigate but they help you understand different settings by giving you a dynamic thumbnail image that shows setting changes in real time. Why can’t all cameras be this intuitive? DPreview has a full of screen of D40 menus here.

A smart and concise menu system makes the D40 a pleasure to use. Link to D40.

BMW Steering Wheel

BMW does so many things right which helps explain their obsessive fans and years of automotive accolades. I love how the instrumentation is clear and simple. I love how they angle the controls towards the driver. Every knob, switch and button has just the right about of tension and feedback. In just minutes behind the wheel and you can tell this is a car that was created and assembled by fanatics. But my favorite interior detail is the steering wheel. Only the most useful buttons have been included, and they fall right where your hand expects them to be. Each button has a little bit different shape so you can use each without looking down. BMW also figured out the best angle to mount the steering wheel. This isn’t easy to describe but the wheel just feels like it’s always in the right place. Other cars I’ve owned required frequent adjustment to the wheel or seat or both and sometimes the arrangement never felt right. It’s as if BMW measured my limbs and figured out the ideal position of each instrument. It’s uncanny how this works but it does work!

A driver-centric cockpit can be found on all BMW models

Fred Meyer, Nordstrom and Applebees

I like how Fred Meyer places a bottle of hand sanitizer near the grocery carts as you walk into the store. There are also hand clothes there to wipe off your cart if you do desire.

Nordstrom probably deserves a post of its own but one thing I’ve noticed is how clean they maintain their restrooms. I’ve never been in one where a toilet was taped off or a stall divider broken. There’s never water puddled up on the counter or paper towels strewn on the floor. Nope, someone at Nordstrom understands that even their bathrooms are a reflection of their brand and service.

A small detail I’ve noticed when we’ve been to Applebees for lunch or dinner is that, when they see our family walk towards the door, someone always heads to the door to open it for us. A small detail, no doubt, but a very helpful one when you’re trying to heard three wild kids in the right direction. They do the same on the way out, and it leaves a good impression each time we enter and exit. Very nice touch.