The Soft-Drink user-experience

User Experience is the quality of experience a person has when interacting with a specific design.

Don Norman, working as an HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) architect at Apple and later founding the Nielsen-Norman group together with Jacob Nielsen (the father of usability) was the first to use this term back in 1993 to represent a commitment to and focus on higher quality human-computer interactions as a key product differentiator. By 2000, the term almost exclusively focused on elements of web design and was generaly being interchanged with Usability or User-Centered Design

Currently it has moved more towards person-to-person interactions such as Customer Service, and has more to do with the full range of experience a client (or user) has when interacting with a certain product (or company) rather than focusing

just on the design and usability elements of a product.

Enough being said from an academic point of view… I’ll focus on an easier, more practical meaning of UX, let me introduce the Cola-Can… or in other words… the soft-drink user-experience…

Basically, Soft-Drinks appeared as early as 1819 as soda fountains, but people had to go to ice cream parlors or candy stores if they wanted a soda, not a very nice user experience if there was none near by or you fancied a soda at mid-night… by 1835, bottled soda water began appearing as a method of delivering the soda fountain experince at home… but bottles were heavy, needed a lot of logistics to return and refill and were easily broken, occasionally a “user” would find some object inside the bottle due to poor washing cycles… all this needed to change if we needed to deliver a better user experience.

Tin cans were introduced in 1938, but beset by leakage and flavor absorption problems from the can liner it did not sell much until the introduction of the aluminum can in 1957 but the fact that it needed a can opener to open it led to the introduction of the pull-ring tab in 1962…

Vending machines were introduced in 1965… all innovations driven by the need to deliver a full and better UX… seems that soft drink companies now deliver a great user experience, what more can a user want?

UX does not stop at the product itself or how it is packaged or how it is delivered, but how it is used, how the company interacts with the user…etc

In 1974 the stay-on tab was invented, it served 2 main purposes, first, the user did not have to worry about disposing of the pull-ring tab once it was pulled from the can, and second, the hole in the tab could now be used to hold in place the straw (which in many cases fell out of the can due to accumillation of soda)

1982, the talking vending machine was introduced, now blind people had easy access to soft-drinks (accessability)

In 1996, Coca Cola launched their first web site as an online version of their museum in Atlanta and as a place for traders, shoppers and collectors to meet… today, the Coca Cola website is a huge multi-lingual world, each product has a subsite of its own…

Today’s consumers buy soft drinks from their grocery stores in aluminum cans four times as often as in plastic bottles, and thirty-eight times as often as in glass bottles. (hmmmm… they even do usability research on soft-drinks)

Soft-drink user experience is a solid example of how user experience exceeds the simple product design and its manufacture, delivery or packaging… compare your product to a simple soft-drink… think how you can deliver such a complete user experience to your customers, its the first impression when you first meet with them, its how you communicate, its how you market your product, how you package it, its how you first introduce your product to them, and how you respond to their reactions and ever-changing requests, its how you seek to enhace your product after it has been delivered, its how you collect your client’s feedback and how you use this feedback to make a better product, its how your product can be used by everyone, specially those with disabilities… its how you test your product and ensure its consistant quality…

Today soft-drink companies are working on the self-cooling or self-chilling cans…

Need more? just think why ipods+itunes is the best selling media solution in the world? think why google is the most widely used search engine? why facebook is so popular? why Coca Cola introduced Diet Coke, followed by Cola Zero? Coca Cola has been so successful in delivering a great UX that it is dominating an average of 50% of the whole soft-drink market worlwide.

Want to learn more about User Experience?

Being an emergent discipline, User Experience does not yet have a strong, formal body of knowledge. Formal books that include the term in their title often cover only subgroups of user experience. Here are some online resources to get you started:

http://www.uxnet.org/ – local and cross-disciplinary resources on UX

http://www.informationdesign.org/ – despite its label, the pre-eminent daily UX resource

http://www.functioningform.com/ – a consistently strong resource on the UX design process

www.nathan.com/resources/index.html – an enormous collection of UX- related resources

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