Most people understand that the direct model helps us deliver better value by eliminating the middle man and establishing a personal relationship with our customers. What’s not as obvious is how much that relationship with tens of thousands of customers can influence the thinking of the Industrial Design and Usability of our products.
One of the best demonstrations of the advantage we have can be seen by comparing the user interface on our consumer multi-function printer line with those of our competitors.
Our consumer multifunction printer line (Models 944, 964) utilizes a clean and intuitive user interface (UI) designed to simplify the user experience by eliminating clutter and focusing the user to a simple, 5-way, navigation control and a 2.5” color display. This allows the user to easily select the function of choice—be it print, scan, copy or fax and with minimal input.
By listening to the customer, developing prototypes, and testing them with real end-users, our design team found that this intuitive and simple solution was greatly preferred to the cluttered user interfaces of our competitor’s multifunction printing products.
So why don’t our competitors implement a similar design to ours? Why do they add unnecessary or redundant buttons that are confusing the user and a barrier to a positive user experience? It’s because they are designing for the shelves of the electronic superstores and not for you.
Apparently our competition has found that the more buttons on the control panel, the more functionality that buyer will assume the product has. Thus, they put a group of buttons to ensure the customer knows it prints, another group so they know it will fax, more to scan, even more to copy, and so on. This apparently helps them sell their product instead of the product sitting next to them on the shelf. However, it also results in a poor customer experience once the product gets home. The vast array of buttons is confusing or even intimidating. It is not uncommon to hear end users in our labs, when asked to perform simple tasks on our competitor’s products, make a comment like, “I know it can fax, I just don’t know how to make it fax.”
Having direct access to our customers, designing with the sole purpose of meeting their needs, and being able to deliver a product that is uncompromised and uncluttered because we don’t have to compete in the “pick me, I have more buttons” competition is a true advantage.
Ken Musgrave & Steve Gluskoter, Directors of Industrial Design