Nutrition Facts for printers

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Morten Just

I spent 15 minutes staring at a Brother multi-function printer today. “No network connection” while the wifi symbol said full signal. “Go to web admin page” without telling me the URL. Defaulting to fax, despite being bought in 2013. Wondering how a printer like this can ever make its way to the market, let alone why anyone would buy it, my eye caught the box it came in. The printer on the box actually looked good.

In the supermarket almost all the products are light and healthy if you ask the packaging. But there’s a Nutrition Facts label, standardized across all the items in the supermarket, telling it like it is.

In the electronics store, all you see is carefully crafted copy and photoshopped images. There’s a guy walking towards you right now, you could ask for his recommendations, but you know where a big portion of his salary comes from.

Like food has a Nutrition Facts label, electronics should have a Usability Facts label. The contents should come from an independent organization or even the government. I first thought of a full disclosure of the user-centered design process the product had gone through: These are our personas, these are the high-priority tasks, these are the scenarios. But maybe that’s too vague. A boiled-down version of an ISO usability report could maybe work. But why not just let the product go through intensive user tests?

Getting good numbers on the Usability Facts label would have an obvious effect on the sales. But being really easy to use could go from being a branding and word of mouth instrument to a factual, quantified selling point. We could get things started by bringing our home-brewed Usability Facts stickers to Best Buy today. At least I would feel slightly better about the 15 minutes I spent staring at a Brother printer today.

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