User comfort

Bedienkomfort



The demographic change taking place in industrialised nations presents the product development process with challenging tasks. For this reason, Miele has been carefully examining the needs of its customers, especially their demands in terms of appliance use and operation, for quite some time. The company's drive to offer products which deliver equitable ease-of-use to all consumers – regardless of age or physical constitution – is already included as a development factor to the greatest possible extent. The technical term for this is "universal design" or "design for all". To Miele, this means offering products that neither exclude nor discriminate against any user and can therefore be used fully and easily by as many people as possible. The conceptual rules of universal design include the following aspects: ease of use; the suitability, geometry, positioning and look and feel of controls; the physical force required for operation; device sounds; and the readability of appliance displays. 

At an early stage of product development, Miele considers ideas about enhanced operating options for physically and mentally impaired customers and implements these ideas wherever possible. Important input for this process is gained through the company's contact with the German Federation of the Blind and Visually Impaired as well as internal studies on the perception of appliance sounds by the hearing impaired.

Products featuring universal design 

The "6000" generation of built-in appliances, which has been on the market since spring of 2013, features TFT (thin-film transistor) appliance displays. These displays provide excellent readability in terms of resolution and contrast. On its top models, Miele uses the "M Touch" displays, which feature touch functionality based on the operating concept found on smartphones. Here, a special search function included as part of the automatic programme helps to provide intuitive user guidance. The new generation of built-in appliances has been received very well by customers due in no small part to these easy-to-grasp operating concepts. 

As of early 2014, the Miele product lineup has included three modern induction cooktops which feature power levels that can be controlled using classic metal knobs instead of the sensor buttons commonly found on the market today. This makes operation significantly easier for people with visual and motor impairments.

As far as its dishwashers are concerned, Miele recently began offering fully integrated models with the "Knock2open" feature, which allows users to open the door by knocking twice on the appliance front. The bright LED interior lighting and clearly designed handles and adjustors on the baskets make the appliances much easier to use.

For the new W1/T1 generation of laundry care appliances (washing machines and dryers), and also for cookers in the H 2000 series, self-adhesive Braille foils are available for the front panels of the appliances. These foils provide the blind with easier operating options on three washing machine models, two dryers and four cooker versions. On a number of appliances, special acoustic signals provide users with additional orientation aids. Miele has offered its Braille foils as an option for many years and regularly updates them for use with appropriate models in new appliance generations.

In the W1/T1 series, Miele offers one washing machine and dryer each with DirectControl, which incorporates a haptical operating concept through the use of large buttons and a practical rotary selector switch. This concept is also characterised by an extremely clear user interface, extra-large labelling on the front panel and a generous display. On these models, Miele opted to exclude a number of additional features for the sake of simplicity.   

Guidelines and tools

Since 2007, Miele has been developing new tools to improve the usability of its appliances in an even more purposeful and systematic manner. Workshops held under the oversight of the company's internal Design Centre have thus given rise to a mandatory company-wide haptics guideline. This guideline includes specifications as to which haptical, acoustic and visual requirements the controls on Miele appliances are expected to satisfy. For example, it must be possible to properly identify an on/off switch at first glance, and it must also be possible to perceive the switch by touch. Internally designed measuring robots can sense the operating forces necessary to open and close washing machine doors, for example, and are also used to evaluate the permissible axis of play on Miele rotary switch selectors. Here, the goal is to design each and every control in such a way that customers can actually feel Miele quality.

In early 2014, the Design Centre introduced the "ERGO Index", an internally developed measuring procedure which allows an objective assessment of operating concepts based on how well they satisfy basic ergonomic requirements. This assessment looks at the size of the controls, their positioning and the type of feedback in response to user input, for example. The ERGO Index thus makes it possible to compare different design concepts, as well as competing products, in terms of ergonomic quality. At the same time, the Index's systematic approach helps to train the participating development engineers. Miele is presently developing a software solution that will ultimately be used for this process throughout the entire company. To evaluate complex controls, Miele has been using simulation tools since early 2014. These tools simulate customer behaviour and, as a result, simplify the development of appliance controls to a great degree.

Usability studies, volunteer tests and customer surveys continue to play a vital role in the evaluation of operating concepts. All of the aforementioned are carried out both in Germany and abroad on a regular basis. For example, Miele conducted design studies, operating simulations and customer surveys in preparation for the market launch of its newest series of laundry care machines and built-in appliances (financial year 2013/14). The resulting findings allowed the company to make product modifications while the appliances were still in the development phase.  

The ongoing demographic change in industrialised nations is an exciting and important challenge for Miele product development. After all, using Miele's domestic appliances should be a simple and enjoyable experience – regardless of the age or physical constitution of the user. In light of an ageing society, key concepts such as "universal design", "design for all" and "full accessibility" are extremely important – a fact that the Miele product engineers are mindful of when performing their work.

These engineers develop products that neither exclude nor discriminate against any user and can therefore be used fully and easily by the greatest possible number of people. The conceptual rules of universal design include the following aspects: ease of use; the suitability, geometry, positioning, and look and feel of controls; the physical force required for operation; device sounds; and the readability of appliance displays. 

At an early stage of product development, Miele considers ideas about enhanced operating options for physically and mentally impaired customers and implements these ideas wherever possible. Important input for this process is gained through the company's contact with the German Federation of the Blind and Visually Impaired as well as internal studies on the perception of appliance sounds by the hearing impaired.

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