Design for a different culture

Microwave_usability_1While the article accompanying this image I found online is geared towards interfaces and websites, the cartoon, on the other hand, captures well the issues that arise when creating products that are going to be sold in a market different from your own.

So, how long do you you set it to heat naan?

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5 Responses to Design for a different culture

  1. Great image. I remember when “popcorn” buttons started appearing on microwave ovens in North America, when it went from a general “appliance” to a more localized and task-specific device (and interface). I wouldn’t ever trust the popcorn button (nor have any desire to eat microwave popcorn) but I would bet that many people who work in offices have indeed figured it out.
    I got a kick out of the toaster ovens in homes in Japan that cooked a square item (rather than the 2 slices astride that shape a North American device) and if I recall had a pizza icon on the interface. It was a mini-pizza appliance, called right out in the design and interaction – I got a kick out of the foreignness of it.
    But the pizza and popcorn are just abstractions on the basic function of the item – a microwave and a pizza oven will always (?) be able to be operated a certain temperature and a certain time – enabling the operator to cook a sandwich (who the hell microwaves a sandwich?) or naan or whatever.

  2. Niti Bhan says:

    With refrence to what you’re saying about abstracting the basic functions, whats interesting to note is the one my mother has in Singapore. Because no single south east asian market is big enough for that level of customization, I remember noting that these microwaves had settings for a more general grouping – one cup of hot beverage, reheat one plate of food, reheat a bowl of food, defrost etc that I found far more useful than the “baked potatoe” & “popcorn” settings prevalent. I think it was a Sanyo…
    They also tend to give litle recipe books that show you how to make local food using a microwave, i.e. if mom is stir frying veggies, she’ll use the microwave to ‘steam’ broccoli etc for the dish.

  3. Niti Bhan says:

    btw I thought the same thing, forget nuking a sandwich, why would you need more minutes for a sandwich than for spaghetti 😛

  4. Hilmir says:

    Hmm, think you might be on to something there, Niti.
    It is MUCH better to suggest a quantity, like say in an icon of a plate or bowl of food, as opposed to the kind of food. Plate or bowl size would be a better gauge for “nuking time” (and even the size of the food portions to nuke..) Since “baked potatoes” could range from 2 to 10, and one type of potato could vary in size too, considering the various kinds of potatoes out there, it would be much easier to fit as many big or small potatoes you can on an equal sized plate and nuke away, hehe.. 2 big ones, and maybe 5 smaller sized ones, might take approximately the same cooking time, then 🙂
    That way, the user would be urged to engage in trial and error, using their own plates n bowls as standards, after which, they would form a customised solution to best utilise THEIR microwave oven. Once they’ve actually deciphered the device & become familiarised with it, it might even evolve into brand loyalty?
    “Mum, for the new place, what type of Microwave oven should I get? Small one or big one, the one with the dial or the timer buttons..??”
    “Doesnt matter, just get the Sanyo one with the pictures of plates and bowls on the meter lah..It’s easier for you in the end!”

  5. niti bhan says:

    Hilmir,
    Now that is truly an innovative idea for the interface of a consumer appliance that needs to take in so many different cultural factors for its use – a microwave is used for so many different cuisines in Malaysia and Singapore alone…

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