An end user should not be using a mediocre product, and let me explain how marinara sauce relates.
Before super-mega-markets, I would imagine markets had fewer varieties of many products. Those products were likely produced to try to please as many customers’ taste buds as possible. Let me presume that customers only had different preferences between texture and spice of sauces. The two axioms below represent the design space and two functional requirements for each user and the product placement is depicted by the sauce jar, relative to the consumer desire on the two-dimensions.
As depicted above, a product that tries to serve all end users isn’t very effective at capturing much of a market – it’s mediocre for most customers.
The neutrally spicy and neutrally textured marinara sauce doesn’t appeal to anyone who prefers a sauce that is any single characteristic of smooth, chunky, spicy or plain. It’s a tragedy of compromise.
Instead, differentiating the pasta sauce into specific varieties provides many more customers a reason to purchase a marinara sauce variety that fits them well. For figurative purposes, the graphic below shows a sampling of varieties you might find on a store shelf today.
An ideal goal of a design is for everyone to have a product that fits them perfectly, but it’s obviously impossible to reach this.
Pasta sauce aside, back to technology and mechatronics..
A conical example of a technology design choice initially gone wrong: the all-in-one printer-fax-scanner-copier. It took years to master the design, and mediocrity was the main theme of the device for a long time after its introduction. No single function worked well, and often the machines didn’t work at all.
A recent trend I’ve seen are so-called do-it-all robots. One module-based robot from Louisiana State University looks promising, but I don’t think I’d want a single robot that tends my yard, cleans my toilet, and detects intruders. First, I’d rather have a robot that does one of these well. More on this mechatronic design in a future post.
A product time line often starts as a widely-targeted (mediocre) product and slowly adapts to specialized user-centric product designs. This may simply be the nature of adoption in a market, but many technologies have had large growing pains during their proper specialization. Computers evolved from a few consumer types, to many diversified types. I predict the next big diversification will occur in robotics, once a niche for robotics booms, it can be exploited to fund further specialties.
My questions to you: Why are conveniences often introduced as all-in-one and do-it-all devices?