Designed For You, Not the Shelf of a Superstore


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

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9 thoughts on “Designed For You, Not the Shelf of a Superstore

  1. I’d be more impressed with your blog if it wasn’t just posts where Dell pats themselves on the back.

    What are you doing with regards to improving your customer service?  Not your pricing, not your designs, we know you’re working on those.  What about your customer service?  

    Specifically, what about moving your call centers back to native english speaking countries?

  2. I wouldn’t go bragging about your printers just yet.  There is a LOT of room for improvement…like making the laser printers work and not hang the programs that try to print to them.

    A couple of months ago there was a Microsoft update that caused problems with Dell printers only.  To make sure it was just Dell and not the Lexmark base that Dell uses we tested two different Lexmark mono Lasers and they worked fine in all tests.  I came to the conclusion after weeks and weeks of worthless talks with Dell techs and managers that there was a problem with how Dell modified the driver…mainly when the data was converted to travel over the network using TCP/IP.

    We have 8 Dell laser printers between 4 offices.  3 of those 4 offices only had Dell printers at the time, so this caused a period of time where they could not print anything.

    When we recently went looking for a color 8×11 laser printer our Dell sales rep said that she could more than likely get me into the Dell seed program to get a free Dell color laser printer to try to restore our faith in Dell’s printing ability.  After 1 month of e-mailing back and forth…no Dell laser printer.  We had to scrap the Dell printer and go with a Xerox 8550, and I must say we are 100 times happier with the Xerox than any of our Dell printers.

    Long story short…I wouldn’t purchase another Dell printer.

  3. That’s great that the design is intuitive and easy to figure out. I like how it is designed for us, but what good is it if we never see it (XPS 700). I like Dell products and have always found them to be as you stated, but if products never reach the costumer, we will never get the benefit of it all.

  4. The suppot stinks. The can’t ever tell what socket type you have on your mother board from your service tag. What else do they not know. Maybe they should stick to trying to tell you how to turn your Dell on! Just train them on telling you how not to stick your finger in the outlet.

  5. Dell printers = rebadged crappy Lexmarks.

    Lexmarks are historically known to be the worst printers, and Dell just rebadges them as their own.  This is for their inkjets (Lexmark laser printers are generally okay)

  6. You’re kidding right? You are not seriously going to list your 964 as something to brag about are you? We got ours with our sons PC last year and the color was never right. Unfortunately, my teenager never really alerted me to the seriousness of the problem until the warranty had expired and you wouldn’t help me. All colors print as blue or yellow and no what we did or how new the cartridge we used. Nothing helped or would fix the problem so we’ve given up and only printed in B&W since. But that problem was only after the original problem of yellow streaks running down every document finnaly stopped. I won’t even start with the cost of the ink and the amount of prints I get from a cartrigde. If you REALLY want to have something to brag about, create a product that works the way it is supposed to and does not cost a ton in money and impact to the environment. Try that. Where are the Energy Star ratings? I only see them on the Canon printers. You want a relationship? Be someone worth having a relationship with.

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