The Zonbu needs a welcome wizard

Magic hatAfter starting from scratch with my Zonbu today, I noticed that it lacks something fairly important – there is no “first run” wizard.

A PC replacement for non-technical users that doesn’t have a welcome wizard? Seriously?

You probably remember how XP or Vista behave the first time you install them on a new machine, they prompt you for all kinds of details, login names, time zones, desired network settings, audio volume, sound tests and so forth.

When you’re done answering questions, the system has a basic configuration and usually offers to play you a welcome video to introduce you to the layout of the desktop and some important functions.

By contrast, the Zonbu just drops you on the desktop after your first login…

Of all the Linux distros I’ve tried, I’d say Linspire does this “Weclome” process the best, and Zonbu may benefit from taking a look at their “first run” experience.

What should the Wizard do?

Other than giving the lion courage and the tin-man a heart, what should the Wizard do, you ask?

I have a few suggestions:

-Confirm network connectivity & settings (in plain language)
-Check for updates, verbosely, and patch accordingly
-Configure the timezone (master default should be GMT prior)
-Configure the audio volume & add the mixer to the tray
-Offer to Configure panel options like memory & network use, weather etc
-Offer desktop wallpaper selection options
-Offer to import a “headshot” photo & configure it in IM/Skype
(Import photo from USB drive OR from a web URL)
-Offer any “Import from windows” options
-Configuration of Evolution E-Mail (optional for user)
-Advanced option to set desktop icon size, panel size and font size
-Launch a “Welcome/Tour video”

All of these things, and indeed all configuration options on the Zonbu, need to be very straightforward, in plain language with iconographic material supporting them.

A strong tendency to forget the audience…

I think the Zonbu is an excellent concept and well executed, for what it is to date. But I have to say that one thing that I am noticing, as I attempt to use the box for my everyday tasks, is that I think the initial enthusiasm to makes things easy is good – but it quickly fizzles and “geek think/Linux think” pops up.

Let me say it another way. I think enthusiasm overcomes focus and context and what you sometimes end up with is either a two part experience where part one makes sense and part two is suddenly technical, or a one part experience where the feature set is so distilled as to not be useful.

It’s a natural thing to happen, especially in a start-up environment, and the early days of the product. But someone needs to be the voice of consistency and really push the functional testing of the configuration options, dialogs and error messages.

What would Mom do?

If you really want me to be able to give this to my mother, she needs to be able to decipher what is going on during her day-to-day PC tasks. Right now I think the stack is a bit inconsistent in this regard.

The good news is, it is nothing that can’t be fixed.

Product management and extensive field testing

I hope the Zonbu team respect and appreciate the time and effort that I and others are putting in to sharing information and experiences via this blog and other forums on the Internet.

What they are really getting is free product management and field testing.

A certain amount of this is to be expected, but I do think a bit too much enthusiasm for the “web 2.0” model has resulted in the box being pushed out before it is probably ready for its itended audience.

My observation is that more vision and direction is needed in relation to the nitty-gritty details of the customer experience and the product management supporting that. Following that, extensive end-user Q&A and testing is required.

I’m not really pleased that I managed to break my box within 24 hours of starting my 30-day desktop replacement experiment. However, the box is back, and I did miss it.

I’m patient and we’ll continue on with our journey, but I do think the company needs to have a serious look at these issues and ask just how rigorous and complete these processes are right now.

Even more importantly, how can they ensure they scale? Scale is one of the biggest threats to a start-up and the world has yet to see how the “new web 2.0” model will do in that regard.


I’m doing a lot of free testing and reviewing of this device.

Prior to ordering my device I had never heard of the company or its founders. I hope this blog comes across as tough but fair, and that people continue to see value in the feedback contained here.

I don’t mind posting about my initial experiences because I have a keen interest in the space and I’m testing the viability of the device to drive other business ideas that I have.

Even so, it should not be lost on anyone reading this, that this kind of feedback is normally done as part of a healthy and complete product management cycle.

My time and experience, as well as that of the other participants here, has real cash value.

We generally don’t mind contributing to companies that interest us, but there is a limit to that generosity, whether you stick “web 2.0” in your business plan or not.

-Mr. Zonbu


One Response to The Zonbu needs a welcome wizard

  1. Lynn says:

    After having the Zonbu experience for a few weeks now, and being a mostly non-technical person, I couldn’t agree more with this article. I have been very frustrated trying to decode the few instructions I have found online to navigate and utilize the Zonbu. I see that most of the instructions are written for people who already have computer experience and know the language. It seems that it was designed as a test-run not so much for the public as for Geekdom. The customer, it would seem, was just a footnote and convenient to supply feedback. At no time did I get the feeling that this machine was designed for people like me, in it’s current state. Many times I feel that the makers of Zonbu should be paying me for my frustration, and to compensate me for the money I have had to pay to get another geek to help me figure it all out, which has not always been successful either. However, I find the CONCEPT to be a good one, a simple, relatively cheap computer that most can use for simple tasks. It is quite limited in many things I have tried to do with it, like download games, which are not designed for this system. I gave up trying to understand the instructions for Instant Messenger, something I have used on Webtv for years, and cherish, and will have to pay again to have my computer geek set it up for me, if I ever want to use it. Overall, it has been a mixed experience, NOT cheap, and not one I would ever recommend to other new computer users.

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