April 14th, 2008

Usability a Useful Test for Green Home Products

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There was more than a splash of green at the International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago in March. In line with the official theme for the 2008 show, many products were designed with environmental friendliness in mind. Buyers keen on ‘green’ could benefit from testing the exhibits for user friendliness. Regardless of any green features in the design, difficult-to-use products are consigned to landfills before their time, defeating their green potential — and their green credentials.
 
The show at McCormick Place drew some 2,000 exhibitors and more than 60,000 people from the trade representing manufacturers, distributors and importers from more than 100 countries. Products promoted as green included cookware that may have a smaller quantity of chemicals in its no-stick coating, and many bamboo products like cutting boards and decorating accessories.

The usability yardstick could be held up against all of the exhibits, whether they were representative of high-end international design or trendy basics.  

NineStars displayed a line of garbage cans that open without touching, using infrared technology. NineStars says you can get 10,000 openings on the energy from four size D batteries.  Provided the cans are reliable and easy to use and maintain, this product could find a welcome in health facilities and restaurants as a way to lessen the risk of disease.

If it’s as easy to use as the product promotion suggests, the same welcome could be extended to the "Foot Flush" manufactured by FFI Corp. The pedal control for the bathroom floor means the toilet can be flushed without using the hands.

ITouchless Housewares & Products Inc. showed off its Biomatic Fingerprint door lock. A fingerprint is the key to open the door.  Usability is addressed at one level because it eliminates the irritation of fumbling with or losing keys, yet there are questions to be asked. If the designers have worked through all the issues that could prevent reliable service from the device, then it is probably safe from an early ride to the landfill.

The Knork by inventor Mike Miller is a knife-fork that looks like any other fork but can easily cut through a raw carrot. In a Washington Post article about the invention, Miller said it could be the answer for cutting food on airplanes, for the blind or disabled or for just eating in front of the television. 

The fact that the fork, knife and spoon have been around for centuries proves their usability. Knorks would need to better or match the usability of basic cutlery to stay out of landfills.

Source: 2008 International Home and Housewares Show; Washington Post



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