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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Worst...design...EVER!

Heather Marie and I went on a Valentine's Day date to the Celtic Grill in Bentonville this afternoon. It's a really neat place for fans of Irish food and atmosphere. It's not in nearly the same league as Kilkenny's in Tulsa or O'Flaherty's in New Orleans, but it has definite potential and some really good food. And, of course, it has Guinness on tap!

After eating lunch and perusing the shelves of Barnes & Noble, we stopped at Office Depot to get a new ink cartridge for our printer. This is where the worst design rant starts.

Even though I don't like it, I understand the printer company business model: sell printers cheap and charge through the nose for proprietary ink refills. That's fine, in its own way. My complaint is the horrible design decisions they made in the process. We have an HP DeskJet. Why are there at least 20 different black ink cartridges for HP printers? Would it not have been dramatically more efficient to design a univeral HP ink cartridge interface? At most, they could have 5 different black and color cartridge sizes.

Granted, that would make it easier for 3rd party manufacturers to compete with the manufacturer's own cartridges, but I suspect that was just a "happy" side-effect of their poor design decisions, rather than an intentional obstacle, and the benefits of consolidated manufacturing and lower customer confusion would seem to be well worth it. They don't even have to lower prices, just make it simpler and less confusing!!!

Not to pick on HP in particular. None of the other manufacturers are significantly better as far as I know. But when a crucial part of your business model is structured around gouging your customers to various degrees, it's probably time to re-examine some things.

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