The chair was unlike any chair ever seen up to that point. This new sleek, black chair, with controls for adjusting tilt and height were unheard of. The chair was subjected to a focus group review before being introduced into the marketplace and in each instance the group reviewing the chairs showed a marked dislike for the design. A number of follow-up focus group tests were conducted and in each case the results came back the same. The product was ugly and would not be successful in the marketplace. Fortunately for us, Herman Miller, ignored that feedback and proceeded with the launch of the chairs in 1976 … and in fact you are probably sitting in a chair modeled after this design, as you read this article!
The Ergon chair revolutionized office seating because it was designed for both comfort and user health. For the first time, businesses could provide their workers with seating designed for the way they really sit -- not for the way someone thought they should sit. With the Ergon chair, Herman Miller established the reference point for comfortable, healthful, and visually appealing ergonomic seating.
The moral of this cautionary tale is, that while, consensus building is an important part of understanding the user’s needs for any given product or service – sometimes their distinctive nature and their usability are far more convincing over the long term. Do your homework – but remember evaluating the success or failure of any product or service is more than achieving short-term objectives; it is often understanding the long term outlook and championing this in a workplace.