Sorry, it's just a sauce bottle

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08 March 2016

Just give me the damned sauce

Improved usefulness of sauce bottles is a result of technological advancements; not the wonderful process of human-centric design. Claiming it is a tremendous feat for User Experience is a dramatic misunderstanding of both User Interface and User Experience; and ultimately that they aren't both aspects of the same process.

Why then if no one seemed to mind how sauce was delivered—at a speed of 0.028mph from the glass bottle—is there all this hoopla about the modern sauce bottle being a great example of User Experience?

I suppose, the same comparison based argument could be made for a number of other similar products. One could argue that:


We don’t make any of these argument or comparisons however because they’re comparisons that make little sense.

For a century the humble glass bottle was the pinacle of sauce delivery and hardly anyone cared. Heinz still sold a hell of a lot of sauce, and consumers had sauce on their food. Everything was fine.

It wasn’t until much later when, like most scientific advancements, the design and discovery of the modern sauce bottle valve was uncovered serendipitously1 with another purpose in mind2 that it was even considered that a more efficient way of delivering sauce was an option.

The valve-laden sauce bottle is definitely a much better mechanism for delivery, though is it any more User Experience focused than the original bottle? To argue that the glass bottle has no understanding of UX is also quite incorrect. The glass bottle was designed with user experience and expectation as well as the core product firmly in mind.

The clear bottle was used to demonstrate the quality of the product, while tilting the bottle at 45º provided perfect pouring, and the interface was pretty easy to understand: Invert bottle, receive sauce. Easy.

Sure, the experience was sometimes finicky, and a breadknife may need to be employed for extraction, though Heinz ketchup, and ketchup in general, is also intended to be thicker than sauce, so a viscosity conducive to pouring was never intended.

We may see some marginal improvements to the happiness of customers while delivering sauce to their favourite food item, though it is doubtful that an increase of speed is noticeable. The harsh reality is that this comparisson of two similar, but vastly distinct, product packages is probably not a great example of UX.

Experiences and Experience Design is a process of exploring and uncovering the ways of which a user desires to experience the whole scenario. It takes into consideration the motivations and needs of a user (emotional or otherwise). Where UI is more commonly the aesthetic applied once a rigirous UX process has been undertaken.

Still, it’s nice that we’re doing a huge amount of free marketing for Heinz in a $3bn sauce market.

1 http://bbc.co.uk/programmes/b053721m
2 http://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/top-down-approach-rekindles-our-love-affair-with-ketchup/