Case: A Hassle a Day…
I love apples. In fact, I eat one almost every day with lunch, to the point where you might think I’m testing the, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” hypothesis. As the title of the post might suggest, my favorite variety is golden delicious.
Now, aside from rinsing off pesticides, apples don’t really require any preparation in order to eat. That’s the beauty of them. You can eat them as soon as you pick them up. Of course, you could wash them, peel them, slice them, or use them as ingredients in other dishes, but if you’re like me, you value them for their convenience (and flavor, of course).
What I find to be decidedly inconvenient, however, are the stickers that get placed on them. At every grocery store I shop at, I find the same sticker with the “4020” item number on my apples, supposedly placed there to make them easier to process at checkout. This could possibly be valuable to someone who buys apples for the first time, but checkout is a no-brainer for the rest of us, so the added value is practically nonexistent.
On the other hand, it’s frustrating to peel off. What is supposed to be a no-preparation-necessary food instead requires me to take precious seconds prying a sticker off with my fingernails. It is a needless extra step that irritates me on a daily basis.
Point: …Keeps the User Away
Is this feature adding value? That is the question you need to ask whenever a design decision impacts the user experience. My question to the grocery industry is this: Do you think you’re adding value by putting product code sticker on my apples?
It may seem like a little thing, but any usability expert knows that little things can mean a big difference. In my case, the sticker is worsening my experience. It is reducing the value of my interaction with the product, and by extension the store, by needlessly increasing the steps toward achieving gratification.
Is it enough to make me stop buying apples? No, of course not. Assuming equal quality and convenience, however, it might mean the difference between me buying apples at a grocery store that doesn’t use stickers instead of one that does. Depending on how many people are irritated by these stickers, and how much, that might mean a significant loss of revenue.
The question to ask yourself is this: What are my apples stickers? What small things am I doing that are large problems in the eyes of my users? Am I listening to my users and addressing their concerns?
Remember, usability matters in every context, on every scale. Worry about the big things first, but don’t forget that little things matter, too.