Words From Andy
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The usability of NyQuil

I'm just getting over ether a really bad cold or a really mild flu. Or, it could have been a sinus infection. Anyway, long story short, I, like many humans, reached for some cold medicine to help relieve me of my throbbing headaches and inability to breath through my nose.

One night I reached for a bottle of NyQuil. To be perfectly honest, it could have been any over the counter brand, so I'm not trying to single out Vicks for this, because almost all over the counter medicines do this. While opening the top and getting ready to pour out the liquid to relieve my nighttime sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, fever, and give me the best sleep I ever got with a cold medicine, i realized something. I had no idea how much of the stuff I was required to take. I did the first thing anyone else in my position would do. I flipped the bottle over to the back side.

There, listed out before me were all the drug facts I could have asked for. All except for one, how much am I supposed to take. To get to such information, I had to pull the label back to get to it. So I began pulling at a corner for a few minutes, right where a small white arrow was pointing. It wasn't until I looked at the other side of the label did I notice the graphic indicating to open the label on that side. What was that other arrow for? My only guess is it's a printer's mark of some sort.

So finally I got the label open and was able to find out how much of the stuff to take. So then, what's wrong with the usability?

1. Failure to recognize the consumer: Vick's consumer, in this case, are individuals who are sick. And people who are sick, are, for the most part, irritable, cranky, and not the quickest people on the planet. So then, why would you play hide and seek with such cranky people, especially when they are about to go to sleep? Vicks, and really all medicine people, fail to realize that an ailing individual only wants to know how much to take and when.

2. Hiding info important to the user: In this case, I'm the user, and all I want to know is how much. Are the warnings important? Yes. Do I want to read them? Am I going to read them? No. I have no health issues that I know of, if I did, then I would, but I don't, so I won't.

3. Mix up of signs: Users rely on signs to help them figure out how to use something. Arrows generally point to areas of interest, so using an arrow as a printer's mark, or what ever that one was there for, is generally NOT a good idea. If the mark was absolutely necessary, a simple line could have been substituted.

Devil's Advocate: Now I realize there are probably very good reasons why the usage info is placed in the back like that. The reasons I speak of wear suits, carry brief cases, and go by the title of counselor. It would not surprise me at all if this is a legal move and a form to protect medicine companies from law suits. By placing the information out of the way, one would have to glance over the warnings first. That would be fine, if it worked. But chances are you are only further annoying the sick by forcing them into a game of legal hide and seek. And aren't the sick annoyed enough as it is?

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