Last week I wanted to defrost a few chicken breasts. I took them out of the freezer, shoved them in the microwave, and programmed it to run for 4 minutes at power level 7. Sure, there’s a “defrost” button on my microwave, and it even has a setting for poultry. But I’ve never quite figured out how to use it.
At the Smart Kitchen Summit in October in Seattle, Good Housekeeping’s Sharon Franke argued that ease of use is the central barrier to adoption for any cooking device, in particular a connected one.
A survey conducted by Good Housekeeping found that 63 percent of people say it would be helpful to have recipes programmed into cooking devices. But Franke pointed out that slow cookers, ranges, and countertop ovens have had those capabilities for years. “Microwave ovens with sensor technology and combination cooking have been around for about 30 years but it’s rare that anyone uses anything but the number pads or a minute plus,” she said. She attributes the problem to small buttons, hard-to-find recipes, and small screens. If these new devices are as intuitive as an iPhone, though, things could change, she said, citing Innit and Whirlpool’s connected oven as an example.
Franke’s point reminds me of Con Edison’s new slogan: “Our app is so easy to use, even an adult can do it.” Its app simply lets customers pay their bill, check payment histories, and send meter readings to the company: not brain surgery, by any means.
Similarly, ease of use is vital for connected devices: Without the app letting you know that you need to, for example, physically hit the “start” button on the device itself, no one will ever use these products in real life. Sure, it’s neat to have an oven that will set the ideal temperature and tell you when your ribs are finished cooking, but if it doesn’t work without an IT team on the phone and isn’t fun to use, forget about it.
In other words, “the future is not just about convenience or mechanics of cooking,” Franke said. “It has to be about the whole experience too.”