I’ll have a thin crust user experience with extra pepperoni please

08 Feb 2022 3min read

I like pizza. A lot. So a few years ago I decided to treat myself to a pizza oven. I found that for a few hundred pounds you can buy a gas powered, tabletop pizza oven that heats to 500°C and will cook a pizza in 90 seconds, giving an extremely authentic Neapolitan flavour. I decided it was the best, most cost-effective technical solution to get me what I wanted.

Instead of buying one however, I instead put in months of back breaking labour, digging foundations, building a wall and constructing a wood fired oven at significantly greater cost. The resulting product is difficult to set alight, takes over an hour to get warm, needs constant maintenance and ultimately doesn’t cook a pizza quite as well as the much cheaper gas oven does.

Why did I do this? After some thought, I realised what I wanted wasn’t actually the best pizza, it was the best pizza experience. Using a traditional wood fired oven simply offers a more authentic user experience than just turning a knob to light a gas flame.

But I’m being foolish aren’t I? Surely efficiency is the only thing that matters?

Pizza Oven User Experience

Why user experience is key

As far as medical regulations such as ISO:14971 are concerned, the efficiency and safety of your device are indeed paramount. However, while focusing on efficiency may make a compliant device, it is not the only factor that will make your device a success. The user experience should also be put at the heart of your design process, to make sure your device not only works well, but is easy to use and accessible.

A good user experience means the user is more likely to engage with your product and use it correctly, something which is extremely important when it comes to medical devices. An asthmatic patient who isn’t using their inhaler correctly won’t be getting the treatment they need to stay healthy, no matter how efficient the mechanism and engineering may be. It doesn’t matter how technically excellent your device is if the user experience leads to misuse, or even worse, lack of use.

Despite its foibles, I use my oven regularly during the summer and have used it to cook all sorts of things other than pizza, because the experience simply brings me joy.

As a mechanical engineer it is easy to focus on technical perfection in my professional life, however it’s equally important to consider the human factor and usability of a device in all our work. Luckily, I have these real-world examples, like pizza, to remind myself to look outside of my own niche every now and again. It also helps that Team Consulting has a group of world class industrial designers and human factors experts to help us engineers out when things start to get subjective!

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