Case Study 6 Development of New Home Use Printer for Key Asian Market

Business Needs

A manufacturer of computer peripherals wished to design a color printer that would meet the specific and unique needs of consumers in one specific Asian market. In this market, space in the home is at a minimum, and rooms typically serve multiple purposes. In addition, home users often purchase and use color printers to make specialized forms of cards and correspondence for use at various holiday times during the year. The particular needs, likes, dislikes, benefits and barriers to printer preference and choice - including factors in the environment that affect these aspects - would have to be very well understood by the client in order to design a winning product.

The Study

We recommended that the study be conducted in two phases: an initial series of in home visits employing a structured ethnography technique (observation, photography and active questioning), followed at a later date by focus groups to test product prototypes.

The goal of a "structured ethnography" (sometimes also called "Voice of the Customer") approach is to drive the design of new and improved products that provide benefits beyond those already achieved by current products. In this process the exploration of customer requirements and perceptions is a critical component. The information gathered through this process is then categorized and aligned with the internal design functions of the client organization.

In this study, 24 home visits were conducted among various types of home PC and printer users (families, singles, students). Each visit incorporated visual observation of the environment, processes, methods, etc. currently used by respondents to accomplish the tasks at hand. In addition, a structured series of probing questions were employed to understand how the current product is used over several typical types of user experiences, and what the respondent likes, dislikes, is frustrated by and wishes he or she could do with the product. The questioning and observation are geared toward identification of unmet needs (expressed and latent. Finally, respondents were asked to envision improvements and potential future applications.

At the conclusion of the interviews, we generated a report and a long list of categorized product needs and attributes. A workshop with the Design Team followed to further sort and prioritize the list of needs and map them to potential product features.

When concepts and prototypes had been designed, we launched Phase 2 of the study to test consumer reactions to the new printer product concepts and prototypes. Focus groups were conducted in Asia. At a later time, additional groups were conducted in the US to determine how well these concepts were received in other markets.

The End Result

The Design Team was able to engineer printer products that met the unique needs of home users in this key Asian market. By understanding the environment where home printers are used and the current likes, dislikes, frustrations, and desired improvements of users, the newly designed products offered features and functionality not available with other brands.