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IBM Ease of Use: Cost Justifying Ease of Use





Easier Products Faster



In the product development process, much attention is paid to the stages that lead to the final production design. Target market consumers will often have the opportunity to work with pre-production iterations; final designs typically reflect insights from these interactions. Prior to release, however, synergies, or the lack thereof, between the final production design, documentation and packaging cannot be readily determined.



Learning Curve

With the net effect of a new release's appeal and use being largely unknown, there is a financial imperative for producers to quickly determine and address end market issues. Each outstanding issue represents potential lost sales, brand damage, after sale support, returns, and negative referrals.




With any new product release, to efficiently identify a comprehensive set of costly end market issues prior to production is inherently difficult. Limited pre-production units and minimal time, if any, are available for traditional analysis--such as beta testing or random sample user groups--on the final product, packaging, and documentation bundle.

Even when a beta test is used for the "final check," the process is costly, slow, and loaded with errant data. Beta testers are:

  • a subset of the population, since they are typically technically adept early adopters.
  • often used repeatedly for similar products, consequently they migrate up the learning curve and do not represent the experiences of most new consumers.
  • normally less critical, since they are/ were given free product.
  • unresponsive to the specific data needs and timetables of the typical product development process. Beta testers may be slow to or never try the product, and frequently only offer generic comments, such as, "It was O.K."

Most importantly, beta tester data results from polling consumers, versus EZ Rated's observations, measurements, and interviews collected from "high incidence" consumers.

Expert or publication reviews are another potential source of feedback. These reviews, though helpful to producers, are lacking in critical areas:

  • They are poor at spotting issues that will preoccupy "Joe Average" when he or she gets the new product home or to the work site. Experts are too familiar with the technology, competing products, and the industry; these are the same reasons a tech support "fly by" fails to uncover many issues that will result from a new release.
  • They often fail to be timely in providing the feedback that would allow corrective production measures.




When a single evaluation entity or category is used to debug the new release, one or more of the following factors can compromise the result:

  • The evaluator (e.g., usability lab) used for the product's development has a vested interest in reporting minimal end consumer issues, or minimizing the impact of reported issues for finished products.

Example: "We have seen problem X before, but consumers work their way through it . . ."

  • Industry competitors (e.g., competing labs) may address end consumer issues in a manner that enhances the probability of their displacing the incumbent in future projects.

Example: "We would never have recommended that . . ."

  • Certain end consumer issues, or groups of end consumer issues, may go undetected because they lie beyond a particular process' sensitivity range.

Example: Testing for the optimal placement of the product's controls would not determine whether the box's illustration of those controls would be considered misleading by consumers.

Thus, the utilization of varying analytical techniques will help create the "vectors" that enable the reliable identification and elimination of unresolved product issues.




"Vital few and trivial many." (Dr. Joseph M. Juran)

A small percentage of consumers account for a disproportionate amount of the end market issues that result in cost events for a business. For example, non-technical consumers rely largely on what has been provided for them in and on the box. These consumers follow documentation and product labeling in a literal manner. When they fail, it is often because the materials provided have failed them. Such consumers may not form the majority; however, the negative effect they have on a product's profitability can be devastating.



EZ Rated's proprietary anthropological evaluation process using "mechanically disinclined" consumers pinpoints end market issues that lead to "cost events" for producers, retailers, and IT mangers. We call the effect and deliverable . . . Product Radar. Product Radar quickly renders the current landscape and trajectory with concise actionable reports that address cost events. Documentation, packaging, product, and promotional modifications based on Product Radar lead to more usable and satisfying products, positive referrals, fewer returns, and decreased after sale support.

EZ Rated is geared to evaluate products right before they enter full production; we are useful even if production is already underway. Typical solutions include stickering, insert additions, revisions in documentation, marketing claims and artwork, the repositioning/ repackaging of items in the box, and web bulletins. We also advise on iterative considerations for future models to address platform-orientated issues.

Products meeting our published standards for setup and first use ease, as determined in the above evaluation process, are granted an EZ Rated ease-of-use labeling license.

Volume buyers prefer products that have undergone comprehensive out-of-box testing; they know these products are less likely to need support and are generally easier to sell or implement. As always, retailers, IT managers, and consumers choose the technology products that look, and are, easy.




Take The Credit Your Product Deserves

Ease-of-Use labeling = Better Sales




Ratings help sell products--they increase consumer confidence that a particular product will satisfy perceived needs. For example, Volvo cars are highly rated for safety, and they are preferred by auto-safety-conscious consumers.




Evaluations and ratings are available in several forms; however, they frequently fail to be either timely or accessible, or both. For consumers to take advantage of a product or service review, they must be aware of the review's publication. Then, they must acquire and review the often voluminous information--potentially paying a fee for access to that information. Then, these consumers have to find the prescribed items at sellers they wish to patronize--that is, if they are still available.

Yet, the most common failing of ratings involves impulse buyers--typically these consumers have not had the benefit of independent evaluative information regarding the products or services they are considering.

In short, ratings accessibility problems cost sales.

The rating accessibility issue can often be solved with product labeling. Buyers respond favorably to product labeled ratings systems . . .
  • Energy ratings on appliances,
  • Nutrition labels on foodstuffs,
  • Age ratings on toys, video games, and movies, etc.





EZ Rated's independent ease-of-use labeling (based on our anthropological evaluations and published standards) convey high priority product information to consumers--ease and time--on the box, on the product, online . . .anywhere! These labels concisely answer that which all consumers want to know when contemplating purchase . . ."How complicated is this going to be?" and "How much time is this going to take?"







 
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