Usability testing and sticky spoonsPosted April 13th, 2010 by David Hamill
When you look through your own website, you do so with complete knowledge of how it works. So it’s often difficult to spot problems with it. Through usability testing you can uncover issues with your designs that you may never have realised on your own.
In this post I’m going to point out an issue in the design of a yogurt pot that the designers may not have noticed. When I walk you through the problem, it may seem obvious.
The product image below is a tasty yogurt-based snack called Rumbers Oat Cluster. I often buy it with my lunch when I’m in town.
The pot is quite cutely designed (if a little over-packaged). It’s made up of plain yogurt and a dried fruit, seed and nut crumble.
Before eating the snack you need to mix it all together. So you start by separating the two pots. You peel the foil lid from the pot containing the yogurt (pictured above). Then you remove the film from the pot with the crumble (pictured below) and pour the yogurt over the crumble.
After pouring the yogurt over the crumble it’s normal to mix the two together. Well that’s what I do anyway. In order to do so you need a spoon. Luckily Rumblers Oat Clusters come with a spoon. Unfortunately that spoon disappeared underneath the crumble when you turned the bowl over. And that crumble is now underneath a layer of yoghurt.
The spoon disappeared when you turned the pot over, so it’s easy to forget about it. In a step-by-step process it’s unusual to think about Step 5 until you’ve finished Step 4. Unless you can see it, you don’t really think about the spoon until it becomes relevant (See Jakob Neilsen’s Usability Heuristics – Recognition not recall).
Good designers need usability testing
If the designers of this product walked through the process of using it they might do so without problem. This is because they designed it and know more about the product than the user.
When they walk through the process, they’d just remove the spoon after removing the film from the pot. It’s unlikely that they’d forget about the spoon because it was them who decided where the spoon went. They need to test the design to find such issues.
No amount of design talent will allow you to spot all of the issues with your designs. This is why good designers understand the benefit of usability testing.
What would you do?
It’s easy to pontificate about these things from the safety of my usability blog. But in reality it may not actually be worth fixing the issue.
Why not leave a comment telling me what you’d do and why. Would you leave it as it is or could you redesign it to make it better?
Remember to consider:
- The likely financial impact of the problem (I’m still buying them)
- The cost of production (they simply drop the spoon in before adding the crumble)
- The importance of the spoon’s visibility at purchase
I’ll try to respond to each comment. You can add links in your comment to anything that supports your argument. Just paste the URL into the comment if you wish to do so.