Just spent a very interesting hour talking with the end user of one of our customers’ product, a product that is literally used on the front lines. We had hand assembled the beta prototypes in our lab, using printed plastic parts, a whole slew of adhesives, and some rather clever yet distinctly jerry-rigged assembly processes. So it was slightly intimidating to hear from actual users as to how those prototypes had performed under some rather extreme field conditions.
When he said “the buttons work really well” I started to breathe again. For the buttons were the worst part of this design (which we had inherited from a long-since-gone design shop). We had spent a ton of effort developing and testing workarounds, between some design goobers and the inherent tolerance issues of printed plastic parts, but still it felt a little scary. But the buttons were working out fine despite heavy use, and beyond that the beta units had apparently been performing well. Nothing had broken (another worry with printed plastics), nothing had leaked. Hooah.
Even better, this user group has a slew of good inputs as to what they wanted and didn’t want in the redesign, the real purpose of the call. A redesign that we will be walking point on, with no one to blame but ourselves if we don’t make it a lot better–more rugged, better functionality, and better manufacturability–than the first version. So we’re excited. And breathing.