Product Usability

Good usability is not just for websites and applications. Imagine: how usable would your front door knob be if it had broken glass glued to it? Or if your toothbrush was made of razor blades? Painful to think about, right? This is where usability comes in for physical products.

"I have a refrigerator with a built in ice-maker/water dispenser. My nightly routine is to get a glass of ice water right before bed and put it on the night stand. The ice-maker/water dispenser component of the refrigerator has four buttons: Cubed Ice, Crushed Ice, Light On, and Light Off. There are two separate spots to put the glass-one for the ice and another spot for the water. The buttons are pressure pads under a single sheet of thin plastic. There's no way to tell which button I'm pressing, or if I'm touching the button at all, unless there's a light on somewhere in the room. The buttons are not backlit. There's also no tactile feel to the buttons to let me know which button I'm touching, if there are no lights on. So now, if I awoke at 3:00 am for a glass of water, I'd have to blind myself by turning on a bright overhead light instead."- M.S.

Some usability testing of the refrigerator would have solved that problem. The company would have known, through user feedback (prior to mass production), that there needs to be some way to improve the user experience of the ice-maker/water dispenser module.

Do you understand why product usability is so important? The refrigerator example above is a non-critical common item. Imagine if the item was a life-saving device like an Automatic External Defibrillator?

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