Belkin router out-of-box

An in-home study requiring participants to replace their existing router with one of three Belkin routers showed us that we had a lot of work to do. People surprised us at every turn, losing instructions, getting turned around in instructions, not understanding which cable was which, plugging things into the wrong places, etc. One nice lady even plugged the power supply cable into the headphone jack on her computer, because it sort of looked like it belonged there and she had missed the step where she was to give power to the new router.

Removing opportunities for mistakes became the order of the day. An order-tolerant setup process, pre-connected cables, and instructions directly on the parts in question scored very well when tested in the lab and among the public when sold. Setup-related support calls were reduced significantly and an entire class of wiring-related calls went nearly to zero.

In addition, we removed several opportunities for mistakes or confusion by shipping the router pre-secured, with a network name and password printed on a card. This could be changed by users at any time or during setup, and included blanks on the back to write their new settings if desired. Later routers included a slot on the foot for the card to be stored. This card significantly reduced the volume of “what’s my network password” support calls.

My role: lead designer and usability tester, led diagnostic in-home studies, cajoled Customer Care to analyze and report call data in ways that could spur action among Design and Product Management

Lessons learned: there’s always room to reduce opportunities for mistakes. User attention is fragile and singular; you can direct it where you need to, but not too many times. The emotional support role of a setup process dare not be neglected; when done well it inspires confidence in your product. When done poorly the person may not believe your product is working well even when it is.