Wednesday, December 21, 2005

DIY UX

Call me cheap, but I still rely on my old HP LaserJet IIIP printer, purchased in 1991. It's built like a tank, prints at a whopping (enhanced) 300 dpi and is so outdated that it isn't even pictured on HP's site.

In its first three years, it churned out more than 20,000 copies and needed service only once to replace worn parts in the paper path. With greatly reduced duty after that, it reliably printed until a few years ago when I had to lug it into the shop for repair.

I listed the problems and the technician added up the damage: About $150 to restore the printer to like-new status. At the time, new lasers with significantly better print quality were about $300. So I put the technician on the spot. "What do you think?" I asked. "Should I just buy a new one?"

He hedged, of course, reluctant to turn down work. "Well, that's up to you. But this one will last forever." He paused; an eyebrow raised. "Have you looked at the new ones?" His implication was clear: They don't make them like this any more.

I shelled out the $150, more out of nostalgia and loyalty than anything else—but I knew it would be the last time. And that IIIP purred happily along until last week when paper started jamming.

This time I was prepared. I pointed my browser to fixyourownprinter.com. In one click, I diagnosed the problem and in two ordered the part. It was shipped the same day. Following the color photo-illustrated instructions, I fixed the printer in ten minutes.

Cost: Twenty bucks. Bonus: A great user experience.

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