Not often !! Think back to all the products that you have bought in your life – for how many of them has the buying/first usage experience been so good that you have remembered it. In my case – exactly two – iPod and iMac. In fact, I was so impressed with my iMac packaging, I took pictures while I was opening the package (see below). Setting up the machine was so much fun that I did not want it to end.
Horrible first use experience permeates both hardware products and also computer software. I think before any new products are released to the market, the executive management and product managers should watch some real people (not designers, not developers) try to use their product the first time. That should stop claims every marketing department loves to make – easy to use, easy to deploy (my foot !!).
Steve Johnson of Pragmatic Marketing in his blog post On buying and using describes his horrendous first user experience with a JBL portable player for his iPod. Such examples are everywhere – so why do great companies like Apple get it right – they take the time and give it the right amount of priority during design. They are not necessarily smarter than the rest of us, they just know that their products are going to be used by people who are very different from them and hence take the time to think how best to design the product to make it easy.
Steve points out how product packaging gets shoe horned into a one size fits all approach for all sales channels because one of the channels exhibits high incidence of product theft. Companies should start paying more attention to how customers buy if they want to make differentiation especially in product areas where all products are starting to look like. After all, good looks sell. Otherwise, you will have people like Steve and me openly writing about our horrendous experiences with products on our blogs for the rest of the world to read. Welcome to the new world of bad PR !!