The IA and UX of a can of paint

Recently an Experience Architect colleague pointed out some UX flaws in the way home improvement stores label their paint. He showed us a label that was very cryptic, failing the “Don’t Make Me Think” test. Worse, the name of the paint colour was truncated, so that two paints beginning with “Inspiration” might not be uniquely distinguished.

In my mind, that was just the tip of the iceberg. I recollected the cans of paint in my basement with the markup that I had added with a sharpie (“Family Room Baseboard”, “Martin’s Study”), and got to thinking how the overall labelling process could be integrated, for both user and business benefit.

I imagined a scenario where the staff at my home improvement store asked me for a personal label (“Martin’s Study”). Then they could print a label for the can including both the paint description and my personal label. Sure thing. From my point of view, a slight simplification of overall process, and a bit of cool factor to boot.

This store has thought about the bigger picture. They ask me if I would like an emailed copy of the composite label. Sure thing. Sometimes I throw out nearly empty cans, so this gives me a permanent record.

The store also asks if I want them to retain the label digitally. Sure thing. I don’t need to hang on to the email or the empty paint can.

So far, the store has provided value adds that its competitors have not. Perhaps these small services will encourage me to preferentially shop there for paint.

The store has actually thought about a much bigger picture. A week later, I get an email from them hoping that I enjoyed the look of my new study. Would I like to send a picture for their gallery? I might be selected to win a gift certificate, and by the way, here are some ideas for lamps and cushions that might look nice in your study.

I’m sure you can think of other business and personal uses for this combined information.  As a starting point, think about the life cycles of the paint can, the paint job and its maintenance, and how the room use or fashions change.


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