Opinion: Page (1) of 1 - 03/30/06 Email this story to a friend. email article Print this page (Article printing at MyDmn.com).print page facebook

Way Too Hard = Way Too Bad

Complexity causes 50 percent of product returns By Gary Kayye, CTS

A recent study by a major university on the Netherlands found that product complexity actually caused over 50 percent of product returns.

Graduate student Elke den Ouden of the Technical University of Eindhoven in the south of Holland studied people who purchased consumer electronics products and how they tried (and in many cases failed) to use them, successfully.  What she discovered was a surprise to her, but probably not to too many readers -- in virtually all cases where a consumer tried and failed to figure out how to use a product and then gave up, the product itself was actually in good working order.  There was no product failure.

The true cause was that the consumers simply couldnt figure out how to use them.  In fact, in studying US consumers, Ouden and her team discovered that the average time from start to giving-up was less than 20 minutes.  And, in most cases, the product was then returned to the store or to the manufacturer.

Sound familiar? 

Well, it does if youre a user of videoconferencing, or if you load software on your own PC, or your company just got a new phone system.  I am still trying to find out how to conference calls properly on our fancy digital phone system as the actual users manual on how to do it is wrong, and when I find the time to call the manufacturer, they keep referring me back to the dealer because I dont have a direct account with them.  Interestingly enough, the dealer no longer sells the system we have, citing too many customer complaints.  Ah ha.

Theres a story I was once told by someone at Lutron, who told me the founder of their company went over to Japan on vacation back in the early 1980s.  He came back with six bread makers. He removed them all from their boxes, took out the users manuals and all markings that led anyone to know what the product was.  He then took them to his engineering department and told them to stop everything they were doing and tell him how to use this new-fangled product without telling them what it was. 

Well, a while later, they were making bread.   No manual.  No cheat-sheet of instructions and no Internet to Google it. 

He called the company together and told them, ?This is how I want our products to work I want them this easy to figure out. 

Well, Im not sure how totally accurate this story is, but the message is loud and clear to me. 

And, I think Apples iPod division, the inventor of the $300 digital camera, the visionary who created the Blackberry, and Sharps Aquos team must have heard this story or one like it.  Those are EASY products to use.

But, ever tried to program a universal remote?  Or, program a Scientific Atlanta DVR (digital cable box with a DVR)? 

Think about this the next time you have layers and layers of touch screen pages for that fancy system youre programming?


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Gary Kayye, CTS is Chief Visionary at Kayye Consulting, Inc., a Chapel Hill, NC-based marketing consulting firm that serves the ProAV and Home Theater markets. In addition to strategic marketing consulting, Kayye Consulting, Inc. is also a training development company. Gary can be reached via e-mail at gkayye@kayye.com or through his Web site at www.kayye.com.
Related Keywords:product complexity, product returns, Elke den Ouden, Technical University of Eindhoven, consumer electronics products, good working order, product failure

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