Who cares if it doesn’t work?

There is often a huge gulf between the way in which a product was intended to be used and the way it actually is. Product designers need to experience first-hand how their creations work in the real world if they are to improve future designs.

If a consumer product doesn’t work well, it is likely to become the subject of online reviews, and any feedback will eventually find its way back to the designers one way or another. At the very least, the consumer experience is likely to (negatively) affect the prospects of repurchase. But for products or experiences which are not so obviously linked to consumer purchase, there are likely to be fewer repercussions. Who really cares if it doesn’t work?

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When the packaging is part of the product itself

What happens when the packaging is part of the product itself?

Packaging performs different tasks:

  • Presentation (keep forever) – expensive watch; jewellery
  • Protective (discard immediately) – computer; bicycle; shoes
  • Functioning (continuous use) – cling film; washing detergent

Each of these types has different requirements. Each creates a particular set of user expectations.


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Requirements definition – something’s missing from online and embedded dictionaries

Online and embedded dictionaries fail to deliver the same features as their printed predecessors. They’re brilliant at quickly providing a definition, but that’s all they do.

In defining the original requirements for these dictionaries, it seems likely that only those features directly relating to the specific application were implemented (ie providing a definition for a selected word). Printed dictionaries do more than that though:

  • Printed dictionaries provide definitions of alphabetically adjacent words.
  • Printed dictionaries lend themselves to browsing.
  • Printed dictionaries reinforce the alphabet sequence.

Where online and embedded dictionaries clearly succeed is with their near-instant response times which cannot be matched by their printed versions. Their portability cannot be ignored either. Other enhancing features such as example uses and integration with online thesauri suggest that these dictionaries are here to stay.

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6 unlikely reasons for a hopelessly inadequate product

I can’t understand how this happened. Surely the product wasn’t specified this way? Maybe pure laziness? I really don’t know, but I have my suspicions. Perhaps you’ve experienced the same?

Last week I found myself staying for 2 nights in an out-of-town hotel. The sort of boxy hotel which is cloned hundreds of times across the country, perfectly clean and functional but totally devoid of any personality. Fit for purpose, adjacent to a roundabout on an arterial road close to my destination – it was just the thing I was looking for.

These places always seem to be designed to the same specification – very much a “bare essentials” approach had been adopted, with everything in its place and nothing extra. Designed to meet, rather than exceed my expectations. With the exception of the TV remote, that is.


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How to ruin a great product

As if creating a great product isn’t hard enough in the first place, there’s (at least) one way of completely ruining it: poorly-conceived or badly implemented packaging. I despair whenever I see examples of great products where poor packaging has completely taken the focus away from the product itself. And by that I don’t mean the artwork, labelling or other such cosmetic element. I mean the mechanics, the physical barrier between the consumer and the experience of actually getting at the product.Packaging

[Image courtesy of boldpost.leibold.com] Continue reading

As useless as…

There are many ways in the English language of describing something which is useless – “as useless as a chocolate teapot” is one of the more common terms, and needs no explanation. Perhaps it is surprising to find that many teapots are almost completely useless because they don’t pour properly, and splash tea everywhere. I’m not being picky or overly sensitive when I say this – they are utterly useless, and there is no way in which anyone would knowingly buy such a teapot.


[Image courtesy of Sophisticup.com. Note – no criticism of this particular teapot is implied by its appearance in this blog, nor should be inferred. It was selected as a “generic” teapot. Whilst I could reasonably expect it to function properly, I have no way of knowing whether or not it does – without trying it first…]

Labelling – how not to do it

My daughter recently received a scarf as a gift. On wearing it for the first time she complained that it was scratching her, and on looking at it in more detail I found that it wasn’t the scarf itself which was scratching her – it was the label. Or more accurately the bundle of labels.

Five separate labels on Bench scarf

Five separate labels on Bench scarf

Clearly there is a need to label products, not only from a consumer information perspective but also from a regulatory perspective too. And I recognise the need to maximise flexibility such that a single product can be sold in many different markets. But I wonder whether somehow this principal has been taken to such an extent that the effect on the consumer has been overlooked, and that somehow the consumer experience is compromised. Continue reading

Handedness – not to be overlooked

I was recently offered a coffee whilst having my hair cut, and when it arrived it was neatly presented on an elegant tray with a small jug of milk and some sugar. The coffee itself was in a stylish mug which neatly complemented the design of the salon – stylish but not overly swanky.

Schonwald_SignatureCup2[Image courtesy of AbleKitchens.com]

It was only on starting to drink the coffee when I noticed that the mug was designed to be used only by right-handed people. By that I don’t mean it was optimised for right-hand use; I mean it specifically excluded left-hand use. Continue reading