In my quest to improve general usability in everyday life, I’ve been looking at things I use every day with a more critical eye to see how major manufacturers have either hit the nail on the head, or completely missed the nail altogether.
My latest gripes is Oreo cookie packaging.
That’s right, I’m “all growed up” but I still eat Oreos — “double stuf, to be exact. I hate their packaging, it frustrates me every time. Thankfully Oreos are so good that I brush aside this inconvenience. This evening however, I opened the kitchen pantry and found Chips Ahoy! cookies. What a nice change from Oreos. I proceded to rip open the bag and consume. Upon trying to close it, I ran into the same design/usability flaw that Oreo cookies have – the packaging is frustrating to use. I got all wound up, complained to my wife about package design, she rolled her eyes, and I proceeded to take pictures of the poor design, convinced that I’d point out all bad things about it on this blog (I later realized that Chips Ahoy! has an improved package design, I just didn’t see the label — read on for details).
Here’s my dilemma:
Similar package designs – open from side, slide tray out, slide tray in. Tray design makes it difficult to slide back into package.
This is what happens – the package gets caught on grooves of the tray.
The only way to keep Oreos fresh once they’ve been opened.
The design is great from a packaging standpoint in that it keeps the cookies fresh while on the shelf. However, when a consumer takes it home, how do they keep the cookies fresh after they’ve opened the package? Well, throw it in a ziploc bag of course. No re-seal capability on the Oreos package. Plus, it’s really hard to shove the plastic tray back into the packaging, too (this is the most annoying part, for me).
But wait, there IS a better way!
Well, I discovered that Chips Ahoy! has actually improved their packaging ten-fold, I just didn’t notice the label. They have a new package design that allows you to conveniently open from the top and re-seal it for freshness. What a concept!
Now, they just need to do a better job of making it obvious that you open the package from the top. Their current design makes it look more like a promotion than a design improvement. The tab is really small and you don’t see it. Since we’re all used to opening these packages on the side, a simple note on each end of the package would eliminate all pain points!
So, kudos to Chips Ahoy! Oreos on the other hand, needs an update to packaging. Just make it easier to shove the cookies back into the packaging as a first step, I can deal with putting them in a ziploc baggy. Or, kill 2 birds with 1 stone and handle both usability/design faults at the same time.
How does Oreo cookie packaging apply to website usability and design?
Sites are designed by engineers with business rules to satisfy, just like packaging is designed by a packaging engineer with shelf-life dates to satisfy. It must meet certain technical standards in order to be released to consumers. However, technical standards do not take into consideration how consumers will actually interact with the product, and sometimes the best intentions with designs become your largest hurdle. Odds are that your site probably has competition on the Internet. Unlike Oreo cookies (once you bring them home, you’re stuck with them until you eat them all), your website can easily be passed up for a competitor site if a consumer finds any pain points with it.
Do your due diligence and test your site with your target audience, and the average consumer who is not web savvy. It will open up your eyes to how everyday people interact with your creation. Don’t take it personally if they don’t “get” how to navigate your site, what a particular button or link is supposed to do, etc. — it’s up to you to interpret these results and make it easier for them. At the end of the day, they make your site successful. Don’t fall victim to Oreo cookie packaging because it meets standards for shelf life.