A small design decision can make or break a customer’s experience

201604-pappasitos-crayonsMy wife and I have two young boys. They’re both under two years old. Among other things, that means our house is a circus.

We got brave on Saturday night and decided to go out to dinner as a family. We went to Pappasito’s, a Mexican restaurant here in Houston. We made sure to go early (a little after 5pm), to try give us the best chance for quick service. Also, the boys start to struggle in the evening, so the earlier we go, the more likely we can avoid a meltdown.

Two things stuck out for me, in terms of small design decisions that made our evening super pleasant.

First, the Crayons they gave us had a triangular shape. You can see them in the image for this post. Why does that matter? They didn’t roll off the table.

I love it when restaurants give us Crayons and a kid’s menu my son can color on. It doesn’t occupy him for that long, maybe a few minutes, but those minutes matter. He likes scribbling across the paper. We’ll take whatever we can get that occupies his attention.

The problem with Crayons, though, is that they roll right off the table. Once my son notices that, he tries to roll the Crayons off the table, deliberately. It’s more fun than coloring. And that’s when he and I have to fight our first dinner battle.

It seems like a trivial thing, but those triangular Crayons are fantastic. My son can focus on coloring. I don’t have to scoot chairs around and dive under the table to pick up Crayons. Everyone wins.

Second, the plastic kid’s cup they gave us didn’t leak. When you looked at it, it was just a cup and a lid. It looked like any other cup you’d get at a restaurant. But somehow, this set was a little more fancy.

My son likes to tip the cup until its nearly horizontal, even though he drinks out of a straw. Tipping the cup offers him no advantage. He doesn’t care. He keeps doing it.

I’m used to having my napkin ready, so I can catch the liquid before it spills on my son’s shirt. Then I have to wipe the cup down after he drinks. But this time, nothing spilled at all. It was leak proof.

Believe me, I know how ridiculous this all sounds. I couldn’t have imagined any of this stuff mattering before I had kids. But now that I have kids, these kinds of details are critical. Because the Crayons didn’t roll off the table, and because my son’s cup didn’t leak, I could actually enjoy my meal.

These small design decisions, (a) to make the Crayons triangular and (b) design a cup and lid that don’t leak when tilted, made our meal much more enjoyable. We’re more likely to return to Pappasito’s, knowing we have a better shot at enjoying our meal. And the service was fantastic, which helps tremendously.

These kinds of design decisions probably seem small when you’re making them. But if you can put yourself in your customers’ shoes, you can find easy ways to delight them. It works for restaurants. It works for cell phone manufacturers. It works for you, at work, when you’re writing emails, building reports, or giving presentations.

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