This morning while going through my wake-up routine, I suddenly thought about the example Cor Noltee used when he explained that it’s vital to observe instead of asking how people use a product.
I found myself irritated when I couldn’t get the toothpaste tube open. Normally I buy toothpaste of another brand that uses silver foil to seal the tube. I checked the tube and also the extra box it came in to see if there was any indication how to open the toothpaste. There was no hint. I was at the point of grabbing scissors, but I refused to accept the product designer could have been so dumb. There must be a built-in solution…
Then I took one final look at the cap and saw a similar form that I also saw on the tube. I reversed the cap, placed it over the tube and at that moment I felt like Indiana Jones. I unlocked the mystery…, the cap fitted perfectly and now with a simple twist the toothpaste was ready for use. Nice design, but not very intuitive. Luckily, after some Googling, I found out that more people had this problem. If I had used the scissors (or my teeth), I would have got it open and I was probably just OK with it.
This experience with opening the toothpaste felt similar to the example Cor used in his presentation. He used two slides inspired by Tom Kelly, that pointed out why we should observe as designers. An old lady was interviewed about how she used the medicine and she said she had no trouble opening the bottle. She got it open, so she was doing fine! But when you ask her to show how she opens the bottle you learn that she uses a very unconventional method. Simply observing behaviour gives great inspiration for improving user experience.