Left Out in the Kold: The User Experience of Keurig

Jeff LeBlanc


Jeff is Director of User Experience for ICS. He has extensive experience developing custom Qt solutions with a strong focus on applying human factors principles to UX design.

By Jeff LeBlanc | Monday, May 16, 2016

One of the perks of being a technology company, is we get lots of fun toys around the office. For example, we’ve had a few Keurig coffee machines in our office kitchen for several years now.  They are quick, simple to use and produce adequate caffeinated beverages to feed our morning addictions. So when I heard that ICS had acquired a Keurig®-KOLD™ machine, I immediately headed for the kitchen to see how it compared to its warm-blooded sibling.

(Note:  We’re based in Boston; we have ‘soda’, not ‘pop’.  Just go with it.)

Sadly, I was not impressed. Having used the other Keurig machines for a while, I figured I had a good grasp on what to with this new one, pop the top, drop in the pod, close and brew, right?  That’s called transfer of learning. I already have a mental model of how something similar works and this new thing should behave the same way.  Except, not quite in this case. The pods seem to have a notch that you need to line up to drop them in, and it wasn’t obvious from looking at one, so I spent a few seconds twisting and turning to get it seated. Moreover, if you fail to remove the foil from the bottom of the pod, as I did my first try, all you get is a cup of seltzer water.

Now, one could argue I should have read the directions. However, the point of good design is that you shouldn’t need directions! That’s what user-centric design is all about. Especially when you have an existing product that looks pretty similar to the new one, transfer of learning should get you through. This is something user testing would catch quickly.

The other big negative for me was the time it took to “brew” the beverage, which was roughly 90 seconds. You can read people all over the Internet talking about that, but I have a different spin to it.  Yes, it took longer than expected, but I also had no idea how long it would take.  This lack of feedback is also a very big usability gaffe. If an operation is going to take longer than a user expects, and in this case my expectation comes from the existing Keurig, then I should get some kind of feedback to set my expectations.

Hopefully, Keurig will fix some of these issues in the next version of the hardware. This is why we are in business, to help others enhance their business. And, if you guys need any help designing away these kinds of problems, you can find us right here, drinking soda from a can.

 



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