I have a Garmin Nüvi 660 – a splendid GPS unit. If you are looking for a GPS unit for your car, the Nüvi series is the way to go.
But this is not about GPS units or mapping updates as such – it’s about the hellish user experience that not thought through installation procedures and futile attempts to protect software from piracy can lead to.
For Garmin needs a serious lesson in service design. What ought to be a simple update of the maps inside my Nüvi 660 GPS unit has been made into an hour long waste of time. It all started when I tried to purchase the map update:
1. I week before Easter I got an e-mail from Garmin telling me that the Map update 2008 for Europe has been released. I’m a gadget freak, and firmware and map updates are the salt of my tech life. The mail pointed me to the (very badly designed) Garmin website.
2. At the Garmin website I had to enter the serial # of my GPS unit to find out what update to get. Bad funnel design here – why not just show me a picture of the different units to make it easy for me to spend some dough? Luckily for Garmin, I had the unit with me.
3. I found the right update, and the website told me that it could be purchased directly from Garmin. Nice, I thought, and broke out the Visa card.
4. But alas – after putting the update in the shopping cart and entering all my personal info, I found out that Garmin only ships to the US, UK and Ireland. It took me some browsing to find the Danish dealer of Garmin hardware.
5. Nowhere on the website of the Danish Garmin dealer could I find out how to buy the update. A few products were listed – but not the one I was looking for.
6. I Called Garmin Denmark and after being on hold for 5 minutes a guy told me that Garmin Denmark does not sell map updates. The update must be bought in one of the physical dealerships. I apologize to the support guy for being a bit angry at this point – but for Pete’s sake: Why don’t you just write on your web site that you’re your not selling to private customers? Why don’t you compile a list of online shops that sell your stuff?
7. Refusing to waste my time going to a Fona or Merlin store (the Danish equivalents to Radio Shack: They mostly don’t have what you need, and they mostly don’t know anything about what the do have) I managed to find the update on a webshop and ordered it.
8. A DVD sized package should be perfectly able to fit through the letter opening in my front door, but to my surprise the Garmin DVD didn’t arrive. Instead a note from the post office told me that I had to get the package at the local post office. But I have left for Easter holiday and the package had to wait for a week. Those of you that like software updates as much as I do will know that a week is a very long wait.
9. Today – picking up the package – I realized why the postman hadn’t been able to get it through the letter opening: Garmin has for some spaced out reason chosen to wrap the DVD with an A4 sized clam shell (you know: the environment damaging PVC packaging that’s impossible to open without shredding your fingers to pieces). So, absolutely unnecessary packaging delayed the DVD a week.
10. After using a pair of heavy duty scissors I got the DVD out from its casing without blood shed and booted it up. It immediately halted with an error message saying that the setup program couldn’t detect an active internet connection (and such is needed). All I could do was to cancel the setup. Now, all other programs had no problem finding the internet connection – the pc was as online as ever. After 30 minutes of trial and error and searching the internet for help (using my supposedly non-existing internet connection), I found out that some setting deep inside Internet Explorer had to be changed for the Garmin update DVD to see the connection.
Now: The only reason that this connection had to be available was for the DVD to check my Garmin registration number with Garmin’s servers. So 30 minutes of my time was wasted because a product WHICH I LEGALLY BOUGHT needs validation. Arrgh. Of course the problem with the missing internet connection isn’t mentioned on Garmin’s support pages although more than one GPS forum mentions it. I guess Garmin’s employees doesn’t read the forums in which their loyal customers discuss Garmin products. Why should they…
11. Finally – after me tweaking Internet Explorer, the setup program continued – just to grind to a halt again when the DVD suddenly couldn’t find my Garmin unit. Strange, because the unit was perfectly connected to the pc, though, and the screen of the Nüvi shows the “connected to a pc” picture. The Garmin website suggests that I try another USB port – I do. No go. I try another USB cable. No go.
It turned out that the unit conflicted with a network drive letter on my pc. Thank god I’m not a pc novice – a lot of users wouldn’t have been able to locate this error (when did YOU last check your locigal disk setup using the Disk Manager inside Computer Management inside the Control Panel?). Of course: It’s not Garmin’s fault that I have a network drive called G:, but again: This must be a very common problem and Garmin does not mention it on the support pages on its website. And the moronic setup program does not suggest any way of solving the problem – all I can do is to press “Exit”.
12. Finally: The GPS is connected, its firmware updated and the unit restarted. I entered the validation code for the map (located on the jewel case of the DVD), and … the updater halted again. The server which was to validate my validation vode is down. “Please try again later” it says. All I can do is press Exit. I’ll just have to wait until some geek in the US gets the server up and running again.
13. By now, I was pissed. I bought this product (although it was hard to find) and now it seems that I’m not allowed to use it. So I wan’t to write to the Garmin support and tell them that their software sucks. But fortunately for the poor supporters, the support site crashes when I try to access the mail form…
Dear Garmin. This is not the way to do it. It’s not OK to be more concerned with copyright laws and data safety than to the user’s experience. An update procedure for an expensive product must be tested over and over again to make sure that the user (all users – not just a geek like me) can complete the procedure.
Multiple pieces of software, services, support functions and content has to play together to ensure a nice user experience. The service has to be designed all the way for the user to be satisfied. If that is impossible (and it seems that it is to Garmin) then at least let go of the paranoia and all the safety measures and focus on providing decent support all the way through the update. In that way the installation procedure will be simple and less prone to errors. All you do is irritating legit customers. The pirates will find a way through anyhow.
Now – after spending almost two hours and waiting for that quirky validation server to wake up – the setup procedure finally runs and is updating my GPS unit. Meanwhile it shows me ads for motorcycle GPS units (Why? I have a GPS unit – that’s why I’m updating it – morons!) and reminding me, that the little blob on the GPS screen that indicates my whereabouts can be changed to another kind of 3D vehicle. Gosh.
If all that energy had just been used on testing and improving the setup procedure and updating the support pages.