How Do I Get the 12:00 to Stop Blinking?
turbotodd 100000388Y Visits (1559)
According to a Reuters story, a recent thesis from a student at the Technical University of Eindhoven in the Netherlands indicated that half of all malfunctioning products that consumers return to stores are in full working order.
The problem? They could never figure out how to operate the devices. By way of example, the study indicated that the average US consumer will struggle for 20 minutes to get a device working before giving up. (Me, I'll give it 10 minutes max.)
What's most interesting about this story was that a group of Philips electronics product managers were forced to watch from behind a mirror as their guinea pigs...err, cust
Working on the IBM Web site, our team has encountered similar challenges. You, our customers, have told us plenty about what you don't like about it -- what works, what doesn't, what frustrates you, etc. -- and we work to put that feedback back into consideration for future improvements of the site. (As I explain to internal constituents here all the time, there would be no need whatsoever for our Web site were it not for our customers. They look at me kind of funny, then go back to work...but they generally get the point.)
To my mind, the student's thesis points out a much greater marketplace gap: The need to focus more on the upfront design and usability of products and services (i.e., what problem are you trying to solve, and what kind of device/experience can best you best solve it.) This is where design and user testing -- done up front, before any money has been invested in project scoping, marketing rollout, etc. -- can help stave off similar reactions to your own products and services.
Listen to the customer. Give them an opportunity to respond to your product or service idea. It may very well be, as you suspect, the better mousetrap.
It also might just be the mouse.