Technofear: Its influence on the design of consumer durable P products

Date of publication: June 15, 1992


Companies involved in the design and marketing of consumer durable products with a level of technical complexity have to cope with the situation where the technical sophistication of the product may outweigh the technical sophistication of the people who use (or are potential users) of such products. In cases where this happens , the direct cause can be due to a number of factors . The end - user may be incapable of following the array of guidelines , instruction manuals or booklets provided by the manufacturer due to a lack of intelligence , a fear of the technical terms / jargon used in the instructions or a general unwillingness to embrace a product whose functionality is dependent on the end - user climbing a "learning curve" in order to master the instructions . Words such as "technofear or "technophobia" are beginning to appear as issues which can impact on the ultimate success or failure of new product developments. This paper examines whether in fact the notion of technofear as a concept does exist or if it is a pejorative word which fails to adequately describe the nature of the problem . A review of the somewhat sparse literature in this area is carried out in the first section of the article . Extensive use is made of a case study involving Honeywell Controls Systems Europe. This documents how Honeywell tackled the problem in the design and subsequent marketing of their portfolio of central heating control systems. The latter section attempts to draw on the experience gained by Honeywell and presents some guidelines for other companies manufacturing products which require a level of human interface. The central theme of this paper is that while problems undoubtedly exist, the issue of technofear also provides opportunities for manufacturers as they strive to identify, develop and sustain a competitive advantage in markets where the options for achieving such a position no longer revolve around product quality, customer service or price differentials.

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