Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Simplistic End User Design

Recently a friend who is an excellent cook has talked about finally getting a decent food processor, now that their existing [mediocre] one has finally given up the ghost.

As usual it set Marcus and Agata of on an interesting trail of discovery, since food processing equipment is not at all an area of knowledge for us.   But we thought as Engineers and logicians we would turn our mind to the task.

We were told that the gold standard was Vitamix and that the 750 is a great machine, but that the 300 series is probably enough for a small  household on a reduced budget.

And then our local qoqa bargain site has amazingly a Princes Turbo blender for /only/ 199 CHF

Before the offer expired (24 hours) we now had a deadline to investigate and comment and advise on this technology.

The race was on to use Google to intensively Internet Research ...

Occams Razor Extended

Marcus used Occam's razor principle in 2009 to talk about product ownership.  Today I'll propose to use it to help with product design and selection

The gist of the argument is:

Buy a product that by design meets your needs closely.  Something without lots of needless add on gimmicks that if you seriously consider it, you know you will never use end us being a distraction and an annoyance.

Many of us can relate to this argument in many other spheres of our lives.  The washing machine with > 30 programmes, but we settle down in real life to just using 2.

The Word Processing package that is so sophisticated we are deeply conscious of the fact that we use less than 5% of its capabilities, making us feel like idiots.

The car with an infotainment and computerised audio/ climate/ engine setup system so complicated that you hardly dare go into the menus for fear of screwing something up.

End User vs Actual Design
Many products have a complicated Internal design but operationally and for End user interaction they are simple to operate.   Apple products for example, typically have excellent End User accessibility and interface.  However internally they are difficult, and sometimes impossible to service: too much solder and glue meaning disassembly & component replacement is not just impractical but impossible.

But the end user is not directly affected  (I'm leaving out Environmental waste concerns as this is a separate, though valid discussion beyond this article scope)

So the first pass must be that End User operation must match a users capability, and for most people, even professionals this means simplicity.

In this Case
- What do all those buttons do?
- How easy to clean if I spill liquid over the unit itself
- How strong is the motor
- What is the Warranty
- If it goes wrong then how do I get it fixed
- Will it physically fit under the kitchen cupboards
- Do components fit in the dishwasher, and can they be 
- International voltage in case I move country
- Spare parts if I drop and break something

Our analysis had us going to the Vitamix all of the time.

Oh, but the Cost Argument
A slight setback to our argument is that the Vitamix 350 with its quality and simplistic design costs 799 CHF (at least) in Switzerland.  And that the Princess device on the qoqa offer was only 199 CHF.

The Verdict
- For Marcus and Agata, our mostly occasional needs would easily be satisfied via the special qoqa.ch offer of the Princess Blender
- But if you are an expert cook, who wants a simpler and more professional unit, and somebody who has been obsessing about the ultimate Vitamix quality product, then the choice is clear
- Go for the superior, simpler and elegant Vitamix and to hell with the cost!

Vitamix vs Blendtec