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As seen in . . .
Photo Trade News
The business of Photo Retailing
(August 2002)
click to view article at Photo Trade News

Digicam or Digican't?

Digital camera setup still too daunting
for most consumers

By Glenn D. Slovenko

   Effortless computers and email clients, hot-and-cold-running-bandwidth that whisks 5-megapixel images to the photofinisher, home color printers with professional quality output in a snap, and for peanuts . . . NOT! 

   Infrastructure limitations will keep digital camera setup and use daunting for years to come—despite the steady flow of innovation. To realize the digital potential, manufacturers need to get better at guiding average consumers through the technical odyssey they face. This necessity gives new meaning to the expression, "the devil is in the details."

   In the rush to match a competitor's new resolution, price point, feature, or form factor, manufacturers are overlooking details critical to consumers. We at EZ Rated find that most digital cameras do not provide a reasonable setup and first use experience out-of-the-box. The setup and first use failure rates are appalling. Too many consumers go through torture, then in frustration are forced to seek assistance. 

   Causative issues are oftentimes minor, as are the remedies, yet too few bother to take the relatively painless steps necessary to catch and correct such items. Lost customer goodwill and "Cost Events" (e.g., lost sales, product returns, after sale support, warranty service from negligence, brand damage, and negative referrals, etc.) inevitably result. This hurts the manufacturer, and our transitioning industry.

"I know one thing now, based on today's experience I am definitely NOT going to buy a digital camera. No way!" (User quote #1)

Recently we heard a senior executive state that correcting significant flaws in the setup process of their digital camera was "not a priority!" 

   Not a priority for whom? 

   Consumers clearly have a desire for ease when it comes to the complex world of digital photography. For proof, one need only examine the dramatic change in Kodak's market capture, post EasyShare.

"Is it a big 'returner'? I would think it is!!! My friend has one and she's yet to get a picture on the computer. They're complicated, I know that! I would really give up at this point. It's too complicated. It should be easier. I'm a computer science graduate." (User quote #2)

   We at EZ Rated know from too many test results that consumers frustrate easily when faced with vexing and poorly understood processes—especially if significant obstacles are encountered prior to experiencing some success.

   "I don't know what is happening in this installation process. I would like to know what's going on. I don't know what it's doing and it's pissing me off. I have no idea what I am installing now. There's no getting out of this. I don't understand what I'm loading. I have no idea whether I'm going to use it." (User quote #3)

click to enlarge
   Individual items themselves are not normally a big problem. It is the compounding effect of confusing documentation, cryptic references, diagram deficiencies, jargon, misleading marketing copy, and poor labeling that leads to wincing, furious consumers. In the below illustration (taken from a new release, and materially disguised), EZ Rated presents a montage of interacting documentation elements, along with user data, commentary, and prescriptions. Presented in this manner, several issues now seem obvious don't they? 

   User quote #3 largely resulted from frustration with the issues uncovered in the illustration.

   Investing the level of resources required for a new camera development and launch without robust debugging based on soccer moms and Joe Average is nonsensical. EZ Rated specializes in such refinements via our Product Radar and Flash services, both of which derive from EZ Rated's anthropological evaluations. Our proprietary processes select, analyze, and report on users who reflect the home setup and first use experience of 90% of the demographic, 90% of the time. If these folks can setup and use your camera efficiently, "Cost Events" will be minimal. However, left unattended, the issues that prevent these users from efficient setup and first use will be the same issues filling call centers and driving product returns in the future.

   Imagine that you have invited close friends to visit your secluded cottage in Maine for a little summer vacationing. With much effort you draft directions to the cottage that show major highways, distances between turns, points-of-interest en route, suggested gas stops, and the last mile to 1/10,000 scale. However, the directions have a slight flaw; they're missing "ONE" needed turn. 

   Your guests innocently begin their journey, with only your written directions to guide them—you have no telephone. When, or if, your guests ever realize the directions are flawed is unknown. However, there is good news. They will have the chance to see picturesque Maine—all of it. If they brought their digital camera they'll probably even have some great new snaps in the camera. Now, if they only knew how to print them—or email them to you and other friends. That is, if they still consider you a friend!

Glenn D. Slovenko is the president and CEO of EZ Rated, which provides out-of-box setup and first use evaluations, diagnostics, and technical documentation services based on its proprietary anthropological usability processes.

Reprinted by permission courtesy of . . .

Photo Trade News -- a division of Cygnus Business Media
a CommerceConnect Company.

Copyright ©2002 Cygnus. All Rights Reserved.

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