Don’t remodel your home. Or, at least, do what you can to make sure you
know what you’re getting into when you start. When my wife and I
remodeled our kitchen a year ago, the initial excitement of change and
newness quickly turned into a 9-month ordeal of living in a
construction zone, a refrigerator and microwave in the living room.
But let’s go back to that initial excitement: the kitchen of our
dreams. Buying new stuff is exciting, especially when a dark old
kitchen has become a blank slate.
Like most shoppers these days, I started by learning all I could about
my purchases online. As I did my research for refrigerators, I noticed
that virtually all manufacturers included information like cubic feet,
features, and energy consumption. That last one was particularly
important to me as I live in California, and have seen our utility
rates almost triple recently due to various Enron scandals and the
So it was frustrating to arrive at the Maytag web site and find the
refrigerator specifications lacking any reference to electrical usage.
All of the competing vendors did, why didn’t they? As the illustration
above points out, my interaction with Maytag was not exactly pleasing.
Three emails, three customer service reps, no resolution to my desire
for a simple piece of information. What a terrible design issue.
Design issue? Sure, I could explain this as a failing of whatever
Customer Relationship Management process Maytag uses, but what does
their inept correspondence with me have to do with that?
It’s an issue of anticipation. All of Maytag’s competitors were able to
accurately foresee my need for energy ratings, but Maytag did not. This
may have been an explicit choice by someone on the web team, or an
implicit oversight. It doesn’t matter. The reps who wrote to me had the
information (”Please include your model number…”) But I did not.
I was a potential customer, I based my entire perception of their brand
on the interaction I had with their Web site. It was all part of the
user experience — as much as browser compatibility, the use
of Flash, or the effectiveness of the navigation for information
discovery. In essence, Maytag designed their site with an incomplete
understanding of their users. And they paid for it.
The problem could have been avoided through user research or — even
easier — by a simple yet thorough competitive analysis. Designing on
top of a foundation of research need not be expensive or complicated.
It just needs to be part of your culture.
Well I’m back from Spain and Portugal but not for long. Soon, I will be moving all that I own back to North America … Vancouver, Canada to be exact from where I’ll try to figure what to do next.
Before I go however, I’d like to invite OK/Cancel UK readers to join me for a drink:
Where: Amber Bar downstairs bar in Soho
When: Thursday, January 27th, 2005, 20h00 (8pm)
I know the notice is kind of short but I hope some of you can make it out anyways. I’ll try to wear one of the OK/Cancel shirts so I’m easy to find. Come say hi before OK/Cancel loses its European representation! And if you plan to come, do drop a note here or by e-mail so I can look for you.