The Usability of Unboxing

by @edent | # # # # # | Read ~317 times.

I review a lot of tech kit. It is amazing just how bad the consumer experience is when you have a brand-new box in your hands. It can be as simple as difficult to open packaging, to the existential horror of a poorly translated manual.

The first time a customer holds your product in their hands should be a moment of joy. Something to reinforce the notion that they have been wise with their investment.

I’m going to walk through an example of a poor unboxing usability, in the hope that it will show you what not to do.

This is the Three Home Signal Box – it is a femtocell to improve reception at home.

It arrived in a fairly anonymous postal sack, and has an easy to open box.
Home Signal Box.

Knowing that the audience aren’t likely to be technical, it comes with some reassuring messages on it. Good!
Easy to use and ready to install.

This is, of course, a lie.

The instruction card is a little boring, but does the job.
Instruction card.

Just plug in the cables! Easy. There’s even a picture guide.
Getting Started guide.
So, I followed the instructions, plugged in the cables, but nothing worked.
"This Home Signal box can only be used at your registered address.

I checked the packaging. There was a warning sticker on there – obviously added after the box was printed. Revisions to packaging in response to customer feedback is sometimes necessary. A slightly ugly hack, but better than nothing.

I checked the flashing lights on the unit. Then re-read the instructions. The very last troubleshooting tip is check that the SIM card is inserted.

What SIM card? This was all that was in the box.

Cables in the box. An ethernet and power plug.

I retrieving the postal sack from the bin. This is what I found inside:

A pair of SIM cards.

I’ve no idea why there’s a spare PAYG SIM there – or how many people get confused and put the wrong SIM in. But I do know that this is a crappy way to bundle necessary equipment.

Ideally, this is what Three should do:

  1. Pre-install the SIM.
  2. If they can’t, put the SIM in the same box as the device.
  3. Make sure the instructions tell people to plug in the SIM before they attach the cables.
  4. Stick some instructions on the back of the box, perhaps.
    Some anonymous ports on the back of a black plastic device.

To be fair, once I’d found the SIM, it did tell me what to do with it.
Instructions telling people to use this card.
Well, I say that. It didn’t tell me that I had snap the SIM from the holder. But the instructions on the card’s packaging say “For more instructions, see the getting started guide.” The same guide that doesn’t mention you need to install the SIM!

There is, of course, nothing on the Three website relating to this problem.

Usability testing isn’t finished until the user has the product in their hands and have successfully set it up. I’ve no idea how may dejected customer service agents are giving an exasperated sigh of “and have you put the little green card in the box?”

Make it easy. Make it right.

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