Stories
Everyday Design: Appliance Diaries, A Story of User-Experience Evolution

By Michelle Pomorski, December 15, 2017

Have you ever been blindsided by the thought “Wow, I apparently really don’t know what I’m doing”? That was the exact thought that my husband and I expressed when we purchased our first brand new washer and dryer. We had found a good deal on some new ones during an online Sears sale and set up delivery within the first month of living there. Neither of us had ever purchased new appliances before and we certainly had never owned a gas dryer. Because of this, we didn’t realize we would need to purchase additional connector parts or that the delivery charge did not include the installation of the dryer. The website did not help in educating us about these things either, so we were left unprepared and feeling a little stupid.

We got lucky though. The man who delivered our appliances went above and beyond, not only supplying us with the needed parts, but helping us to install the dryer as well. But, for us, the damage was already done. I felt like an idiot, like I should have known what goes into hooking up a gas dryer. I think the delivery man sensed this and so he said to me, “This happens all the time. This is why we carry extra parts in our truck.” Upon reflection, after my delivery hero left that day, I realized it wasn’t me that was stupid. I’m not a delivery driver for Sears and I don’t know anything about gas dryers or their parts. That doesn’t make me stupid. I was a victim of stupid design.

Fast forward to today: my husband and I recently replaced all the other appliances in our home. Once again, we turned to a huge online Sears sale for our appliance needs, but this time I was prepared. Having been caught off guard last time made me overly aware of what we needed to purchase with each appliance. I was no longer going to be caught feeling stupid.

But this time was different. This time I didn’t have to know all there was to know about appliances! The Sears website actually helped me. It conveniently included the necessary parts for installation (the water hose for my fridge, for example) along with an installation option for every appliance. What an improvement from the first time I had made a similar purchase! My heart smiled a little at the thought that this new design would prevent other first-time appliance purchasers from feeling stupid. Or so I thought…

It just so happens that the new and improved design was not able to alleviate all of my stupidity. Apparently, installation of the fridge and gas range are done by those who delivered the appliances, but for reasons unclear to me, the dishwasher installation had to be done by a different resource that needed to be scheduled separately. To me, it seems like a gas range would be more difficult to hook up than a dishwasher; but then again, as stated before, I don’t know anything about appliance installation. Regardless, once again, the necessary components for successful and complete installation were not clear from the website. Granted, my most recent user experience was a significant improvement over the initial encounter, but this is a perfect example of how great design never stops iterating. There is always room for more improvement.

What do you think about iterative design? How does Agile fit in with the user’s experience?

Are you interested in learning more about Menlo’s agile High-Tech Anthropology process? It’s a process that ensures products go out without the users feeling stupid and focuses on rapid iteration to test designs. Check out our classes or contact us to see how we can help you start an agile user experience team within your own organization!