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Wow! Sprawled in front of me were dozens, if not hundreds, of miniscule plastic pieces. To the side sat my 3 year old niece, eager for me to magically transform this mess into the delightful dollhouse pictured on the box. She had instantly fallen in love with this gift, even before the last shreds of wrapping paper fell from the package.

 

Just getting to this point felt like such a triumph. I had already conquered the seemingly impenetrable fortress of clamshell packaging. This alone was a complex process, requiring such brute strength, that any sane person would have armed himself with a special weapon. (Note to self, buy one of those Zip-it openers. It’s no surprise this item is a top-20 office product on Amazon.) However, there was no time to rest on my laurels. My niece was getting fidgety, and my work had just begun.

 

Studying the assembly instructions, my eyes began to glaze over. I was more than 20 steps from stardom and that heartwarming smile that would emanate from my niece as her doll entered its new home for the very first time. This next obstacle was no easy task. The instructions to guide me on this journey had no words, mediocre illustrations, and they seemed to have been produced using a printer with an ink cartridge that was well beyond its prime.

 

As I contemplated my next move, a warm glow caught my eye. In a near religious experience, my wife was “unboxing” her gift – an iPad mini. It was fully charged, and in a handful of graceful swipes and taps she was rapidly succumbing to a glorious state of app nirvana. If you’re not familiar with the term, “unboxing,” urban dictionary, describes it as the “trend of showing photos or video from the unpacking of a retail box of some desirable product, such as the latest laptop or portable music player.” Apple puts such care and attention into the design of its packaging and that initial user experience that the brand has become synonymous with the unboxing – a search on YouTube reveals a plethora of these videos.

 

Apple wants you to revel in your purchase from the moment you open the box. The packaging enhances the experience, yet it also stays out of the way, and in just a few simple steps you are enjoying the technology. Even for the most complex Apple product, the instructions are rather simple, and there is certainly no clamshell packaging.

 

What if Apple had designed the dollhouse sitting in front of me? How would they have transformed the experience of assembling this product? It’s a bit of an apple and oranges comparison, because Apple products generally don’t require assembly. However, if it did, the instructions would certainly not be similar to those sitting in my lap. They would be concise, well-designed, and interactive - perhaps with a bit of gamification or even an educational component. And, coming from Apple, the instructions would definitely be optimized for iPhones and iPads.

 

It’s this type of user experience that the SAP Mobile Innovation Program had in mind when creating SNAP, an iPad app that provides elegant, guided 3D step-by-step instructions (watch the video demo). Whether you are building a dollhouse, assembling a bike, or fixing your lawnmower, SNAP turns that dreaded Sunday project into a fun experience. Plus, if you need to replace a missing piece or access additional warranty/support info, it's just a tap away.


Unfortunately, this dollhouse manufacturer didn't subscribe to the Apple approach of wowing the customer. There was no app to turn this project into a snap, so I had to hunker down and do it the old-fashioned way. It took much longer than it should have, but the resulting smile on my niece’s face made it well worth the extra effort.

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