From Computerworld

28 Jun 2006 - 12:34pm
10 years ago
1 reply
688 reads
Mark Schraad

Sorry if this is old news, but I just ran across it and thought it
might be useful. - Mark

Scientist: Complexity causes 50% of product returns

March 06, 2006 (Reuters) -- AMSTERDAM -- Half of all malfunctioning
products returned to stores are in full working order, but customers
can't figure out how to operate the devices, a scientist said on Monday.

Product complaints and returns are often caused by poor design, but
companies frequently dismiss them as "nuisance calls," Elke den Ouden
found in her thesis at the Technical University of Eindhoven in the
south of the Netherlands.

A wave of versatile electronics gadgets has flooded the market in
recent years, ranging from MP3 players and home cinema sets to media
centers and wireless audio systems, but consumers still find it hard
to install and use them, according to den Ouden.

She also found that the average consumer in the U.S. will struggle
for 20 minutes to get a device working before giving up.

Product developers, brought in to witness the struggles of average
consumers, were astounded by the havoc they created.

Den Ouden also gave new products to a group of managers from consumer
electronics company Philips Electronics NV, asking them to use them
over the weekend. The managers returned frustrated because they could
not get the devices to work properly.

She said most of the flaws found their origin in the first phase of
the design process -- product definition.


28 Jun 2006 - 12:58pm
Bernie Monette

> From: Mark Schraad <mschraad at>
> Date: Wed, 28 Jun 2006 12:34:58 -0500
> To: ixda <discuss at>
> Subject: [IxDA Discuss] From Computerworld
> Product developers, brought in to witness the struggles of average
> consumers, were astounded by the havoc they created.

This is something we should all do. Even designers/developers who are
sensitive to usability are surprised when they see how people, competent and
nice people, can not figure out their designs.

I watched a group of my students evaluating another group of students going
through a design. The testers could not figure it out and my students were
flabbergasted. The outcome though was a greater sensitivity to the need of
including the users in the design process.

Otherwise, it is very easy to 'blame the users' since they are stupid or
uninformed. Which is of course true: being uninformed. They lack the neural
pathways that we have created in developing the design.

Especially in the case of websites, your users have to be able to tell what
to do just by looking.



Bernie Monette
InterActive Arts
Internet Presence Management monette at 416 469 4337

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