Creating an easy and efficient unpacking experience for users requires attention to the following aspects:
Goal: Get components ready for setup quickly and easily; accurately verify that everything needed is present; and minimize the mess.
Where to begin unpacking should be obvious and intuitive.
Where, how, and in what order the boxes are to be opened should be very clear. When the product consists of multiple boxes, it may be important that the user opens the box containing setup instructions first. That box should be clearly identified and all other boxes should tell the customer to look for that box first. If boxes should be unpacked in a certain order, unpacking instructions should be on the outside of the first box. However, in case the box is damaged or these instructions become otherwise unreadable, these instructions should also be the first item inside the box. For example, unpacking instructions might be printed on the inside flaps of the box itself, or appear in "Read Me First" instructions.
Avoid the need for unpacking instructions.
Unpacking is the first hands-on experience for the customer and it should be one of the easiest. Unpacking instructions shouldn't be required unless the contents of a box are particularly heavy or awkward. Safety and user assistance information, such as how to remove heavy items, setup tips, and "In Case of Difficulty," should be among the first items the user sees. If a particular box should be opened first, label it with something like "Open this Box First.". For information label it "Getting Started" or "Read This First." Make sure there is only one box or set of information that will be used first.
Use approaches for sealing boxes that make it easy to open.
Sealed boxes should use tape that can be easily removed or broken. Avoid using staples or glue. Provide tear-strips and pull-tabs that indicate where to begin and that facilitate opening the package.
No tools should be required.
If the customer chooses to use a tool, a common object such as a car key, a pair of scissors, or a penknife should suffice.
Tell or show the user what to expect.
Provide a brief but complete overview of the unpacking and hardware setup process in simple steps with clear illustrations. Include a list of the box contents including the model numbers of packaged components. Avoid ambiguous statements like "You may have." Make any information and lists of parts as specific to each model and packing configuration as possible. Information might also tell the customer how to arrange the parts as they are unpacked, to facilitate setup steps that may follow.
Separate essential and nonessential parts.
Identify parts essential to setup and configuration and keep them separate from nonessential accessories and options. If one part has been substituted for another but is not an exact replacement, or if a part is back-ordered, tell the user what their options are and help them cope with the situation.
Use durable shock absorbing packing materials.
Shock absorbing cushions should be easily removed and should not break or disintegrate during unpacking. The method of unpacking should leave the packaging intact so that it can be re-used for transporting or storing the product.
Minimize the amount of left-over packaging material.
Unpacking should not be messy. For example, enclose foam "peanuts" in plastic packages instead of using them loosely. Avoid using materials that may require the user to vacuum clean the area after unpacking.
Use specially designed packaging for heavy and awkward components.
Avoid requiring the user to lift large or heavy components out of a box. Packaging for large or heavy components should lift off of the component, or allow the component to be removed from the side with minimal effort. A person of very modest strength should be able to safely lift consumer-oriented equipment. Consult Human Factor guidelines, such as Humanscale by MIT Press, to determine safe lifting limits on a case-by-case basis.
Provide handholds and thumbholes to aid in opening and carrying boxes.
Thumbholes or slots should be used in all boxes having covers to be lifted. These holes make opening the box very intuitive. Handholds should be provided on large interior boxes to aid in removing them from the exterior box. Equipment cases should also provide handholds appropriate for the weight involved.
Provide confirmation that the product selection decision was a smart one.
The unpacking phase is a good time to thank the user for acquiring the product. A brief Thank You note is appropriate. Lengthy memos and product marketing literature should be avoided at this stage because the user is probably most interested in getting the product unpacked and working. A brief Thank You in the "Read This First" information is sufficient. A memento such as a T-shirt, coffee mug, or key ring might be appreciated. Such mementos can be used to provide ongoing advertising and awareness for the product and brand.
Make sources of assistance obvious and easily accessible.
Sources for assistance should be prominently displayed in case the user encounters some difficulty. For example, list phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and Web sites prominently in the unpacking information. Place this information where it cannot be easily overlooked, such as in "Read This First" or "In Case of Difficulty" information. Make sure the sources provided match the skills and experience of the intended users. First time computer users may not know how to use e-mail or the Internet so for them a phone number is more appropriate. Instructions should include some troubleshooting tips. For example, provide information labelled "Before you call check these things...", to make sure the user unpacked and has all required parts. Also, tell users what information to have handy when they call.