You’re walking confidently while chatting with your friends, when you reach out a door and a simple task has to be performed: PUSH or PULL. It sounds easy until you push the door and it does not move. Clumsy! You have to pull buddy! So what happened next? Your friends start jeering at you during a long time, whilst you want to forget that awkward moment. But wait! Are you the only one who does not know how to open a door?
Well guys do not blame you, it´s more common than you believe, and as I’m not the only one who pushes a door when it should be pulled, I want to tell you that often is not our fault, but objects default. The door is not properly designed so cannot be correctly usable. Are you talking seriously? Yeah I do. So next time that you blame yourself and do not want to admit that its a personality problem, you have all the right of blaming the door design and its usability problem.
People do not have erroneous theories, they only form mental models to explain what they have observed, so sometimes when they blame the environment is not as crazy as it seems. We have to say that there are things that are not affordable, which means that they do not provide strong clues to the operations of things (Norman, 1990). So in the case of the door, the horizontal and vertical bars specify if the user has to push or pull, thus horizontal bars signify a push whilst vertical ones signify a pull. Unfortunately this rule is not always followed and that´s why we feel clumsy when we open a door that is not well designed.
Talking in terms of consumption, people do not have access to designers of the products, so the perception and interpretation of the item relies on the interaction that consumers have with it. This is the moment when we see that the product design has high-importance in consumer patterns, due to the fact that it communicates attributes such as elegance, functionality, affordance and social significance (Crilly, 2004)
Hence, when a customer turns up at a store such as Morrisons or Tesco, he/she is used to focus on price and appearance at first glance and perhaps on prestige value. The question that comes up is: what happen afterwards, at home? The buyer pays attention to the functionality and usability of the product. So, if affordances take advantage of, the user understands what to do just by looking: no picture, label or instruction is required. However, if the product looks simple, but needs pictures, labels or instructions, the design fails (Norman, 1990) and a post-purchase is unlikely to be performed.
As we see, design and usability are closed aspects that may be taken into consideration when a product is created. That´s why some companies have began using a theory called inclusive design, where products may be well-designed and may satisfy the needs of most segments by selling usable products. This concept of usability has became a breakthrough in redesigned items, where products are more affordable to consumers and more profitable for large firms. For instance, Apple with the continuously updating of its hardware design and Dole with its Fruit Bowls packaging redesign for readdressing the target group and making a “grab-and-go” product for young, professional woman have been aware of the usability and functionality aspects of their products.
Perhaps all marketers are trying to make everybody happy? Everybody? Well we all know that there are different life stages and that in segmentation, education, gender, age and culture factors are important to cover our market targets. But what about family life cycle? Most marketers are usually aware of single, young married and full nester, but sometimes the empty nester and the single elderly stages are not considered. These particular segments, which have rising revenues and more leisure time are also recognized by situational variables such as physical impairments that increase with ageing.
There are companies that use inclusive design to understand the different levels of physical impairment that are involved when these segments known as “baby boomers”, cannot perform straightforward tasks such as open a can or hold a saucepan. These firms have understood the other face of the consumer, and have tried to develop several tools that can make this people´s life easier. Thus, this aspect has been considered as an important opportunity for developing DIY tools for the retirement sectors as well as for people that have physical impairments.
Perhaps this is an effective way to take into account these particular segments, but what about daily consumption products such as coffee or yogurt? Well this is one of the issues that most companies are trying to sort out, knowing that not all consumers have the agency of opening a “well-designed package”. For this reason, Nestle came up with an amazing idea, after LISTENING to what some consumers said about their products: “I like your coffee, but unfortunately my arthritis don´t let me open it, and it makes me suffer”.
So after understanding this new generation of customers and by doing some research with the support of the University of Cambridge, Nestle approached the Inclusive Design theory, and adjusted the packages of some of its products to ensure consumers of ALL ages and capabilities could utilised them without any difficulty. This company aimed to make their products safer and easier to use, regardless the age or physical impairment of consumers (e.g. arthritis). This research helped the company to predict how many people could use their products and to develop items where consumers had less probability of suffering when they had to open a can or a bottle that contains a Nestle product.
Summing up, is relevant to take into consideration the design of a product, not only to drive customer’s perception and increase market share, but to benefit and include minority groups such as customers with disabilities. In this sense, products that are well designed and have a high likelihood of usability by everyone including disable people would have a huge opportunity to increase product´s demand and would satisfy the consumers desire, its need and its AGENCY.