ZenStorming

Where Science Meets Muse

When Designers Don’t Really Pay Attention to the Customer – A Case Study of a Humidifier

Posted by Plish on December 15, 2010

I recently bought a Sunbeam room humidifier.  Over all I like it’s look and the various displays.  Then I went to fill up the tank… 

I exaggerated slightly to make my point, but  I think you can see what the problem is.  The fill hole for the tank is placed away from the edges.  As a result, I can’t set the tank down in the tub as it’s filling.  (I can, but 50+% of the water splashes off and goes down the drain.) Instead, I have to hold the tank at an uncomfortable angle while it’s filling and getting heavier.  On top of that, it’s hard to know if I’ve filled it enough since everything is tipped.

Before I got too angry, I looked at the instruction booklet to see what they recommended and  it clearly said the tank could be refilled in  the sink or tub.    Now, to be fair, I did check to see if it fit in my kitchen sink and it did – barely.    But, sinks often have things in them and they don’t deliver a good volume of water – it takes forever to fill up a tank.  

 Tubs, on the other hand,  give nice large volumes of water.   Without doing a study, I couldn’t say that more people use the tub than the sink, but I’d be willing to bet they do.

So what does this all mean?

It probably means that the designers of this product didn’t take the time to actually watch people in their homes filling their humidifiers.   If they did, they would have noticed the contortioning that people do while filling up their humidifier tanks.  To be fair, maybe this was done on purpose so that  people wouldn’t overfill the tanks.  Or, maybe they didn’t go to people’s homes because they measured 100 different faucets and designed for the average and it turns out that mine is an outlier - 99% of all faucets fit but mine doesn’t.  

Regardless, this all comes down to the simple question,

“Why does this even have to happen?” 

Moving the fill hole an inch closer to the closest straight edge would enable this to be used in all types of tubs. 

People could just walk into the bathroom, plunk the tank down, watch the water gush through the hole with minimal splashing (and thus not require major wiping afterwards), turn off the water, screw the lid on and pick up the tank.  It would’ve made for a simple, stress free, tank filling process. 

Is the current situation a huge dealbreaker?  Probably not.  I already bought it and it’s not worth taking it back to the store.  But, in the end, if someone asks me about a room humidifier, while I’d probably still recommend this model, I would share the info on filling because it’s an inconvenience and mess that I’d want to be upfront about.  It’s a shame really because it wouldn’t have taken much to make this product rock solid…

It’s a simple lesson really:   A better customer experience doesn’t necessarily come from flashy numbers, cool dials, smooth, beautiful lines.    Sometimes it comes from just paying attention to what the customer does.

2 Responses to “When Designers Don’t Really Pay Attention to the Customer – A Case Study of a Humidifier”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Michael Plishka, Killer Ingenuity and Ralph-Christian Ohr, Jose Baldaia. Jose Baldaia said: RT @plish: When Designers Don't Really Pay Attention to the Customer – A Case Study of a Humidifier: http://wp.me/pkQcg-En [...]

  2. First class case!

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