The Bose experience

Experience design isn’t just about optimising buttons & flows on a website. It reaches into every part of a product’s influence on our lives, whatever form or medium that manifests, and for as long as it takes. I bought a pair of headphones recently & thought it would be fun to recount the full journey I’ve taken from way before purchase to some time after. This is my Bose experience, warts ‘n all.

Bose Quiet Comfort 35


Introduction to the Bose brand

I heard about Bose products from a friend many years ago. Those little cube speakers that provide the treble & surround effect along with a sub to fill the room with warm sound.

The past couple of years I’ve seen more people in my office wearing large headphones & have tried several models now, purely out of general noseyness! I already had a pair of Sennheisers but they were uncomfortable after half an hour as they squash my ears too flat. Of all my colleagues’ headphones the Bose Quiet Comfort 15’s were the best fit and the best sound, especially with that amazing noise cancelling tech. What I really wanted was this superb new sound quality only without the wire.

Evaluation of the product

I noticed more and more commuters had wireless headphones over the past year and that Bose had joined that party. I went straight to Amazon to check out the specs. Didn’t aim for the official Bose site as I had expected to simply purchase them & I knew Amazon would offer fast postage. Reading the product details I discovered they were QC25’s, no wire but also no noise cancelling. Deal breaker. Slightly disappointed I thought perhaps even the mighty Bose couldn’t offer a product that had all the features I want in a pair of relatively expensive headphones.

A detour in the journey

I forgot about this headphone fascination for a year or so. I’ve been quite happy with a pair of £30 Sennheiser earbuds. They’re lighter, cheaper to replace, a more realistic choice.

On honeymoon in Brazil, heard some loud music playing in a gadget shop. Inspected the speaker & noticed the Bose Soundlink Mini next to it. Tried it with my phone & was immediately impressed with the sound quality. Searched online for prices with my phone whilst standing there & discovered it wasn’t a good deal so left the shop with just a t-shirt.

Looked for offers when we got home to the UK. John Lewis have an alluring price match policy plus I had a £250 voucher to spend there so I went to buy one. Bose products in mind I saw the headphone stand en route through the shop & had a cheeky look to see if they had released a pair of these über-cool, mythical headphones I wanted. No joy. Moved on to the bluetooth speakers. Very nearly bought one but was actually swayed by a soundbar for our new TV which also included a bluetooth link. Two birds with one stone I thought. Value. And the voucher was no more.

Recommendation from a friend

My neighbour is a massive fan of Vivaldi. That’s literally the only composer he’ll listen to. And he loves Vivaldi’s music so much that he’s bought nearly ten pairs of top-end headphones in his search for a quality audio experience. He tells me he has found the holy grail, Bose QC15s. His favourite feature being the noise-cancelling tech. He can wear them while he mows the lawn, while his wife is teaching her third violin lesson to a local schoolchild that evening, he loves them. So much so that he bought a spare pair should anything go wrong! I agree with him that they are indeed excellent but that I’m holding out for a wireless version. Renewed interest in this idea…

Making the purchase

Off on holiday again, a babymoon this time to the Isles of Scilly. Our flight was delayed and I found myself circling the upper floor of Gatwick’s departure lounge. Wandered into Dixons for no apparent reason & saw a very prominent point-of-sale display with Bose headphones. “Hello” says the sales guy. “I see you’ve found the QC35’s, care to try?” – “Oh, wireless, and noise cancelling. They’ve finally done it then?” said I. I give them a test run & after five mins of wondering if I’ve got the spare cash at this point in life I pop back to purchase. Just like Apple, Bose have pre-charged them with 70% of battery life. I can use them on the plane, WOOP!

Glowing review

In use they’re everything I had imagined. Less bass than my benchmark Sennheisers but a far clearer top end. I really like them. The wireless thing is very cool, even if it does occasionally drop out for a micro-second. I can forgive them that seeing as the other 99.99% of the music played is just great.

Post-sales fulfilment

I’d had them just three weeks when they broke. Some kind of switch issue whereby they wouldn’t turn off or pair with any device. This was irritating. I’d payed top whack for these & didn’t expect failure.

Looked online to see if anyone else had experienced the same issue. Nothing. They’re just too new to have built up a community of users. Plenty of glowing reviews from tech blogs but nobody recounting any problems at all.

Website usability issues

Visited the Bose website looking for some kind of troubleshooting support. Perhaps I could reset them with a button combo, it works with iPhones after all. Found the support section for this product with relative ease but the content in it is light, not much substance but then they are new so perhaps they haven’t had enough feedback to make this better.

I spot a “contact us” link in the footer & follow that to a form. I’m on my phone at this point & the form has been built using non-standard UI elements, stopping me from being able to choose the correct country option or even to read the text at the end of the line. Not impressed with this, it’s not accessible!

Switched to the laptop to fill in the form. Easier here. I’ve got my message across & am informed that Bose will reply within 48hrs. While this is ok, I suppose, I’m kinda bummed my very expensive new purchase has broken through no fault of my own.

Online customer service

I decide to register them with Bose before they wrote back, just in case that helps at all. I find the registration page for UK products easily, using Google. The serial number is roughly 20 characters long. I type it in & hit the go button only to be told the number is not recognised. I retype it, hit go again, I get the same error message. Rubbish! Have I bought a dodgy product here? Are they a reject being sold on at airports? I write to Bose again explaining this – using my laptop of course.

The next day, no response from Bose. Perhaps it’s not fair to expect them to have written to me overnight though.

Real-life customer service

I decide to take them to the PCWorld at work as I thought they’re part of Dixons now. I’d lost my paper receipt so checked my email to see if they’d sent me any info about the purchase. There it is! An eReceipt! And there are the relevant logos suggesting that PCWorld will be able to help me.

Within five minutes I left the shop with a replacement pair. Fantastic. The lady in the shop was happy to help, she didn’t question my product return at all.  And there’s that pre-charge of the headphones’ battery helping me out again. Magic.


Your thoughts etc?