If you build the Golden Rule into your design process, you will always design something that your target customer loves.
I am in a love-hate relationship with my coffee maker. Let’s find out why.
Here’s my Breville You Brew Coffee Maker. I love this device and I hate it. It is simple, elegant, and terribly complicated for a coffee maker. I can see how Breville’s design process attempted to take into account customer need for a good cup of coffee, yet did not go all the way. Instead of designing more out of the machine, they attempted to design more in. It reminds me of the King Tiger II Tank and other German engineering feats of WWII. Fantastic, formidable, and flawed. Simple and yet over engineered such that there were too many failure points due to complicated parts. As one Amazon reviewer noted, the machine is “Well engineered, but not without flaws.”
Why do I hate this coffee maker?
I have to take care of the machine like a pet. It has 11 parts that can be removed and cleaned. There are 5 parts which must be cleaned after each batch of coffee. I know some people don’t clean their coffee makers often, but I take my coffee seriously enough to clean the main parts each time. In fact, this machine won’t let you make more coffee until you clean the filter assembly.
Power consumption: it is unclear how much power it draws when plugged in and in sleep mode. I would normally unplug it, but then I would have to reset the clock.
Why do I love this coffee maker?
Breville made a serious attempt to design a system which solved many common coffee maker issues from a user perspective.
- Splashing or overflow of carafe: solved with tight carafe top and filter connection.
- Loss of heat in glass carafe: great, solid steel insulated carafe with high quality seal and top. This is by far, the best part of the YouBrew. I have left coffee in there for 3 hours and found it fresh and hot.
- Flavor loss of beans was solved with a tightly closed bean hopper so you can grind the beans only when required, thus not losing the flavor oils.
- Portion Control: carafe cups and single cup ounces.
- Coffee carrier or cup size: you can take out the bottom overflow holder for tall travel mugs.
- Creating a Great Cup:
- Takes high temp water seriously.
- Include a gold, re-usable filter. I love it when things are included. This filter is durable.
- Burr grinder with intensity control. This is why I wanted a machine like this. I wanted a burr grinder.
- Durable: stainless steel construction and high quality plastic.
So why do I still feel Breville designed this wrong? For the same reasons I love it:
- Lack of Grinder Control. No grinder fineness control other than Intensity. The intensity setting seems to determine the amount of water pushed through. I prefer a fine, espresso like grain. I know the machine could do this if it were allowed to.
- Lid rim: why is the lid rim designed to prevent me from pouring out the last drops of delicious black goodness? The design seems to favor sealing over pouring. The lid rim also prevents me from thoroughly cleaning the carafe. It does seem to require less scrubbing…but how do I know it is really clean unless I scrub the inside directly?
- Failure points: there are too many moving parts. The filter holder has a hinge and latch. The water tank lid prevents foreign objects, but the door could break. The filter assembly has a plastic hinge. The grinder and bean hopper have hinges and latches. The ground chute has moving parts. I treat my appliances well, however, I could easily see someone who is less careful accidentally breaking at least the filter assembly.
- Slow Clock. There is just no excuse for an inaccurate clock these days. I just set it two days ago and it is already 5 minutes behind.
- Grinder is massively loud and scary. Wow is it loud. If the clock were accurate, I could just set this as my alarm.
- It is Large: Mr. Coffee and Black & Decker have various sizes and are known for their space saving versions. The YouBrew is not a space saver. It cannot fit under a cabinet with the standard space between counter and cabinet in the US. The key features of the machine, such as the bean hopper and grinder, are a liability in any kitchen where space is a problem. The height and weight needed to make the machine work well did not take into account a typical kitchen setup. Most people put their coffee maker under the cabinet, or in a cabinet, so to have to find a special space for this coffee maker is a serious design flaw.
Design should lead to delight. Not delight and frustration. Breville attempted to solve many common coffee maker issues, but over designed it!
I know design sometimes requires balancing different needs and aspects to build something that has a profitable audience. In this day, however, when there are so many ways to create niche markets or serve such markets, there is no excuse for poorly designed appliances. There are too many alternatives for people to choose from.
For the product designers and market researchers out there, can you see how Breville might have used legitimate research-design techniques with valid conclusions and yet still arrive at an unremarkable outcome?
- In-house studies: to me, it is clear Breville did not watch how people use coffee makers.
- Focus Groups: Breville definitely did this. The focus group themes were likely:
- Automatic start really saves me time.
- Automatic grinder is great, I don’t like pre-ground or I don’t want to do this in the morning.
- Stop spilling!
- Heat loss with glass carafe is bad. Auto warmers burn the coffee. (so true!)
- Need to get out the door with my coffee mug.
- Freshness is important for coffee aficionados.
- Conjoint Analysis: someone setup a nice trade-off survey with a similar group of coffee addicts and aficionados. While it is difficult to see the exact weights given, it seems that Breville’s design team tried to balance the needs of coffee addicts vs. aficionados without creating a $600 espresso machine. Except they never separated the two segments, which then led to a “kitchen sink” design which satisfied no one completely.
And they listened exactly to this research they paid good money for. So I end up with a product that I both LOVE and HATE at the same time.
Asking Golden Rule Questions at each stage would have avoided many of these issues. How would I re-design a coffee maker using the Golden Rule? Here you go:
Start with the Golden Rule: Treat Others as You Would Want to be Treated in the Same Situation.
Ask this question every single time someone brings up a feature or shows you a sketch of a potential service or product.
The Golden Rule Question: Is this how I would want to be treated by a coffee maker?
- As a coffee aficionado, is this how I would want to be treated by my coffee maker?
- As a coffee loving commuter who cares more about speed than craft, is this how I would want to be treated by my coffee maker?
Ok, so for aficionados or experts, this could get dangerous because they might want to treat their customers to an amazing, crafted coffee experience. So if you are trying to reach peers or near peers who care about coffee as much as you do, that’s great. If you aren’t, then you need to step back from your experience and ask Who Are We Selling To and what would they want? Would coffee addict commuters want to be treated by their coffee maker the same way as a coffee aficionado?
The rest of the product design process could take the Focus Group themes along with the steps for making coffee, and combine them with Golden Rule Questions. Here’s what that process might look like:
Steps for Making Coffee
- Buy coffee grounds or beans
- Measure the amount of beans or grounds needed.
- Grind to desired fineness.
- Add water level to taste or need.
- Switch on.
- Heat water
- Pour coffee into mug.
- Clean machine. (Less enjoyable).
At each step, the designer should ask “Will the machine, as it is designed now, treat the target market in the way they want to be treated?
For Commuters, the answer might be no, Commuters don’t like to wait. Therefore an auto timer to start the brewing process and finish before we make it to the kitchen. We can even have it auto-grind beans. The designer can then organize a solution around speed for Commuters.
For Aficionados, the answer is no, they want better control over hot water and grind. So the machine will now offer finer controls over taste.
Perhaps both Aficionados and Commuters dislike cleaning, so the designer tries to balance each version of the YouBrew with fast cleaning. Except that Aficianados might have to trade off easy cleaning for better control of flavor.
If the carafe won’t pour out the last remaining half cup unless I remove the sealed top and then turn the carafe upside down, is that what I’d want? Would I want to fear spilling out that part all over the counter? Or on my clothes? Or ending up wasting it? Is that how I want to be treated by my coffee maker? Or treat others by forcing them into a difficult choice between possibly creating a mess or wasting precious coffee?
Breville should take a moment or two to read the comments at Amazon to find out what is preventing buyers from posting 5 star comments. The few people who have posted comments so far really want to love their purchase. But they can’t. Why?
Because someone forgot to ask “Is this how I would want to be treated by my coffee maker?”
I’m not promising that asking Golden Rule Questions will guarantee success. I do promise that each iteration of your product will be closer to what your target customers will enjoy. I do promise that each time you ask the Golden Rule Question, you are practicing the Golden Rule. I do promise that practicing the Rule will continually move you closer to your customers and what they want. And being closer to your customers, organizing a service that helps them because it is also a service level you would want will help you succeed.
Do you have an appliance you love, hate, or both? Let me know below.