Half of all malfunctioning products returned to stores by consumers are in full working order, but customers can’t figure out how to operate the devices, a scientist said on Monday.
Product complaints and returns are often caused by poor design, but companies frequently dismiss them as “nuisance calls,” Elke den Ouden found in her thesis at the Technical University of Eindhoven in the south of the Netherlands.
Most of the flaws found their origin in the first phase of the design process: product definition, Den Ouden found.
In other words, a lot of these products are doomed from birth. The importance of good design cannot be overstated, but good (and simple) documentation and training materials might have saved some of these sales as well.
In the era of the autoconfiguring TiVo, “VCR clock blinking 12:00″ jokes are rapidly becoming an anachronism, but that’s still a good metaphor for bad design. If you can’t accurately set the *clock* on a product like a VCR, you’ve shut yourself off from some of the product’s most interesting features, like delayed/timed recording.