It was an early start this morning and as a result I dressed more or less in the dark to try avoid waking my wife. Unfortunately two toddlers jumping on the bed put pay to that.
Dressing in the dark, however, isn’t quite as simple as it used to be. Ten years ago most clothing had little silky tags in them. These tags were invariably in the back of the product, and had branding, sizing and care instructions printed on them.
Then, it seems, fabric printing technologies improved and we saw the end of the silky tag. Presumably this was of cost benefit to manufacturers as most of the low to mid-range high street brands have all followed suit.
But whilst I’m sure that the silky tag was never viewed as a customer design “feature”, a level of functionality has definitely disappeared from clothing with the changes: it’s that much harder putting your underpants on in the dark if you can’t easily tell by touch which way around they are. It’s even worse with a T-shirt.
There is an important lesson for UX design in all of this low light dressing up. Users can often turn unintended artifacts of the manufacturing or distribution process of a product into something of value. Indeed, in the case of SMS texting, service providers themselves can turn these artifacts into valuable services (it’s even the case for those little silky tags- http://www.kidsii.com/taggies/).
The consequences of changing things that are in view of the customer, even if not intended for their use, can be negative. I’ve learned that from my many years in IT. I doubt that there was any conversation at M&S or Next about the consumer impact of the changes in labeling. Are you considering it with your “technical” changes?