A delicate balancing act occurs every day between the marketing department and the user experience advocates in many companies. Though it can seem we have a conflict of interests sometimes, for a uxp pro, the bottom line is the same as it is for marketing: we want you to sell the products we worked so hard on and have assurance that users enjoy using them.
The first example I thought of for a potential issue when it comes to marketing vs user experience was a bag of chips. So often the bag seems half full, for a premium price, and the buyer feels ripped-off. A little experiment was done by Henry Hargreaves, a visual artist who finally had enough of the bag half-full sense of disappointment he perpetually felt when diving into his crisps. He said:
“Packaging and the display of food has become an illusion and a fantasy.”
Watch this video of his attempt to scientifically figure out the real volume of air vs product in different brands of chips.
It’s sad he hypothesized before beginning, that a 50% split of air and product would be the worst offender, but found that one bag contained only 13% chips! Clearly, that company needs some user experience evangelists to remind folks of the integrity of their mission.
This is one very important thing we do, as advocates of the user… we don’t mean to be a pain, or force opinions on others, but gently reminding teams we work with on a regular basis that a great user experience leads to a stronger foundation for the company and an increasing bottom line is just what we do, naturally. It is something we must do, as the “voice of the user.”
The air vs product discussion is highly debated, not just for chips but all sorts of food products. Frito-Lay claims that half the bag has to be filled with air to avoid breakage, but others dispute the amount of air required is entirely true. And if it were true, there is a real usability issue around the type of packaging. Pringles addresses this problem with canisters and chip shapes. What can’t be debated is simple psychology, and that’s what the user experience person brings to the conference table, or tries to: understanding how business decisions impact human factors which impacts the result.
The psychology of your users drives purchasing. Thinking of this potato chip buyer, a few sinking realizations they have over-paid for a product (whether accurate or not, we are talking about their perception, which is all that matters to them) and suddenly you could lose a customer. Maybe even a long-term customer, so thinking these sorts of things don’t matter as long as you can find someone else to buy, is short-sighted.
Don’t be afraid to speak up, especially if you are new and a junior uxp practitioner or in a new company. Be tactful and don’t assume the worst… developers, marketers and sales folks are just trying to do their jobs to the best of their ability too. But if you have that little spark of intuition that says “Uh-oh, that seems like it could be an issue for a user!” bring it up. Find ways to troubleshoot around it, or change the language so it is marketed more accurately, or work to get packaging adjusted so there is not such a disparity in the volume of air vs the volume of edible foodstuff, if that is your issue. Because…