More Than Just a Pretty Face: Access Connections

It's not often that the design of our ThinkVantage software gets specific mention in a product review. It seems that in general reviewers are far more intrigued with hardware than the included software. The latest version of our Access Connections for the Vista operating system changed that. It was singled out in a recent review of the W700. Chris Connolly at wrote the review. I never would have guessed that Access Connections could challenge the W700 beast for attention. I was very glad to see the recognition for one of my favorite ThinkVantage Technologies and the hard work that went into the design. I use it everyday to make connecting easier. Here is a quote from the review:

"Typically, OEM-created software to handle network connectivity is far below the quality level of Windows's native Vista Wi-Fi software suite, which means we usually disable the bundled connectivity software. Lenovo has done some really great stuff on this end, though. Through their "Access Connections" software, you can see in a visual manner which Wi-Fi hotspots are the closest and giving you the best signal, along with which ones are locked. It's an amazingly simple but useful way for connecting to Wi-Fi hot-spots."  Chris Connolloy

Typically when I write about our offerings, I focus on what we have done, not how we got there. I thought why not take a peek into the development process and let Design Matters readers see the thinking that went into the new GUI. This is best seen by showing some of the early sketches that were created along the way. Design is very much a journey, not just a final destination. Our design goal was to take advantage of some of the new Vista GUI features to both enhance the visual appeal and usability. We were proud of the 3D model we introduced a few years back, but were convinced it could be enhanced.

Original Design

We decided to retain the  3D connectivity design model where the ThinkPad is at the center of the universe, but we wanted to increase the visual richness and improve overall clarity. The following sketches show a progression of ideas aimed at just that. You can see how we created a continuum of 3D experiments leading up to the final design. The first sketch seemed too flat in appearance and a little too cartoon like, we dropped the second idea because it looked too much like a wedding cake. I don't like my ThinkPad that much. There are many more sketchs, I chose to show these two.

We also adjusted the design of the TrackPoint inspired ThinkVantage red dot icons to increase the visual appeal. They now look more 3D and are simpler in terms of color. They almost look good enought to eat.

This is the final design for the find wireless application that showcases what we did. I really like where this ended up. Great to see others like what we did. Thanks to my graphic designers Karen Kluttz  and Yamato's Shigeyuki Kimura, and to Neil Ganey who provided critical human factors direction. I think they got this one right.

Oh by the way, they also really liked the W700 hardware  : )

David Hill