Usability of a Hot Chocolate Packet

Hot chocolate packet that opens at bottom

Hot chocolate packet that opens at bottom

I have a problem. I’m obsessed with usability. I notice usability highs and lows throughout my daily activities. I guess it’s because I like to make processes as simple as possible. I don’t like when things become unnecessarily stressful or take longer than they should.

This is why I’m continuously baffled by the hot chocolate packets currently in my desk at work. The tear mark is at the bottom of the package causing me to struggle every time.

It may sound wussy to say “struggle” in reference to a hot chocolate packet. Making hot chocolate is generally a quick task, so let me explain my step-by-step process with these particular packets.

  1. Reach in to already open box and pull out a hot chocolate packet. (Note: Leaving the box open eliminates one step, making the process more efficient.)
  2. Though contents are settled in bottom of packet, give one quick shake for good measure.
  3. Attempt to tear open packet near the top edge.
  4. Wonder why the packet isn’t opening.
  5. Examine top of packet in search of “open here” mark.
  6. Since no “open here” mark is visible, begin examining rest of packet. Consider whether scissors may be needed.
  7. Find tear mark at bottom of packet.
  8. Rotate packet so bottom is at top.
  9. Shake packet vigorously to redistribute contents to new “bottom” of packet.
  10. Tear packet open.
  11. Pour contents in to cup of hot water and stir.
  12. Wipe up chocolate dust that escaped during step 10 since contents originally settled where packet was ultimately torn open.

If the packet were meant to open at the top like some other hot chocolate packets, I could have been to a warm beverage in an efficient four steps (numbers 1, 2, 10, and 11 above).

Sometimes life is about the journey and sometimes you just want the shortest distance between here and happy hot chocolate time.



  1. S'ra said,

    Sunday, March 8, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    Given your obvious snowy-day-hot-cocoa-makin expertise, I would turn to you over Starbucks any day. Excellent testament to usability in real-world applications.

  2. Simon Baker said,

    Monday, March 9, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    I am fairly new to the world of usability but think that I’m already in the usability mindset. I know exactly what you mean about being obsessed with usability, what currently makes me smile is a microwave at work, with buttons labelled “1” to “12”. How fantastically simple and time-saving. After you spend 10 minutes looking for the instructions to find out what the numbers mean! :-)

    For the first time, my company is giving serious consideration to usability, so its sort of new to us all. I’m looking to document our experiences on my blog.

  3. Sherri said,

    Tuesday, March 10, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    Simon- Usability is quite fun to observe (for geeks like me perhaps). I look forward to following your usability adventures on your blog.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: