Engineers, Too Smart for Their Own Good


As Atomo Diagnostics CEO John Kelly ran into packaging problems and issues with user instructions, he found that the engineers behind the company's award-winning AtomoRapid self-test device might be too smart for their own good.
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"Engineers have a certain amount of assumed knowledge that they project into a product," Kelly says. "When we gave the product to someone without a technical background, their perception of the product, and the intuitiveness of it, was very different than the engineering team's perception. We quickly came to the conclusion that products need to be designed for an end user
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, and the end user typically isn't someone with a mechanical engineering degree, or a chemist with a microbiology degree. We needed to make sure that what we assumed to be obvious, was obvious. Early in the process, we focused on having all of our design validated by the user rather than the design team. This is the only way to be confident that it was meeting user needs."

Engineers on the project each spend time in the field, running the trials in test facilities in Africa. They come back with their eyes open to realities of the product use. After all, why tell an engineer what isn't working when they can see it for themselves? Usability issues can't hide when you're in the field.

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"I think engineers think they know best, and maybe they do, but not everyone that is using the product is an engineer," Kelly adds. "One of the biggest failings of a lot of products is that they end up with a lot of bells and whistles that engineers think are important, but users just want something that is simple, safe, and easy, which isn't always the main design criteria. Moving forward, companies that focus on the user, rather than the engineer delivering the specifications, are going to deliver products to market that are much more successful."

Posted from: Product Design and Development Magazine, Sept 2014 edition

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