It’s not faulty, it’s just duff design

Half of the “malfunctioning” products returned to manufacturers aren’t defective – they’re just duff designs, reckons Reuters. Netherlands researcher Elke den Oulden found that some firms’ products are so badly designed, even the firms’ own staff can’t work them.

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, she found.

The average consumer in the United States will struggle for 20 minutes to get a device working, before giving up, the study found.

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

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

[Via Fark]

6 thoughts on “It’s not faulty, it’s just duff design

  1. Stephen says:

    Not surprising to me… after having wrestled with products and manuals and finally by some sixth sense borne of decades of gadgetholicness and sheer desperation managed to figure out how something is supposed to work, I really wonder how the average, not-very-technical person manages. Of course they don’t.

  2. Squander Two says:

    For me the problem is compounded by a weird hex that has caused most electronic items that I’ve bought over the years to be genuinely faulty. If the things were designed better, that wouldn’t be a huge problem: turn on, try to use, think “Oh, it doesn’t work,” take it back. Instead, I of course assume that the thing does work but the manual is crap and the interface obscure, so spend hours wrestling with the thing before finally realising that it reaslly doesn’t work. Grr.

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

    What kind of crappy product developers are they, that this isn’t a normal part of their everyday job?

  3. Gary says:

    > What kind of crappy product developers are they, that this isn’t a normal part of their everyday job?

    I was thinking something similar.

    I think the best example of bad product design (that I can come up with off the top of my head) was the first version of BMW’s iDrive control system. In one fell swoop the firm dumped perfectly usable switches and replaced them with a fiendishly complicated computer system that looked good but drove everybody daft. It took a while for them to realise their mistake – which is insane. Classic case of designers designing for themselves, rather than for their customers.

    I’d love to see Ikea product designers attempt to assemble their own products, too.

  4. paul says:

    I of course assume that the thing does work but the manual is crap and the interface obscure, so spend hours wrestling with the thing before finally realising that it reaslly doesn’t work

    I’m the opposite: I assume everything I buy will be faulty in some way. So I press the on switch and if it doesn’t work immediately I think “great, I’ve got the broken one” and take it back only to be shown how to operate the thing properly.

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