matthew ephraim

Usability, Browsability and…Sniffability?

As any cat owner (or roommate of a cat owner) knows, there are times when a scented candle becomes a crucial component of maintaining one’s own sanity. Recently, when posed with a situation in which I found myself lacking the proper oder masking equipment, I took a stroll over to my local big box retailer and made my way to the home and garden section. There I began my search for perfect flame activated cat stink deterrent.

Now, anyone who’s ever tried to choose a winner among a wide variety of competing scents knows that there’s really only one way to figure how a particular candle matches up with your own scent preferences. You pick it up. And you smell it. Unfotunately (as you will see below), with many candles this obvious scent comparision technique is difficult, if not impossible. Clearly, the companies who make the candles that are most difficult to smell are indifferent to or ignorant of how their target audience actually browses their products.

Perhaps it seems a little silly to analyze the usability (and sniffability) of scented candles. After all, candles come cheap. If you buy the wrong one, you can just buy another one next time. However, I would argue that a few simple packaging changes can make all the difference in the world when it comes to making a candle easy to smell.

And with that, I’d like to show you a few examples of what I found during my candle adventures.

First, the Good

The companies that make these first 3 candles clearly get it. The packaging is easy to open without breaking and one candle brand even includes holes to allow sniffing without opening the packaging. This is how candle packaging should be designed.

A good candle A good candle A good candle

Now, the Bad

I’m not a candle expert, so I can’t tell you why so many candles come in glass jars. What I can tell you is that glass jars that aren’t easy to open make for a bad candle browsing experience. Not the worst candle browsing experience, mind you. That experience is reserved for the candles below.

Some bad candles

And finally, the Ugly

Two types of candles, and two types of impossible to preview packaging. Let’s hope the description on the package is vivid enough to evoke an accurate scent in the consumer’s mind. Otherwise, you’re really rolling the dice when you choose to buy a candle that you can’t actually smell.

An ugly candle Some ugly candles

User experience is a hot topic in the world of web design right now. And usability certainly is key to making a good website. However, a good user experience is vital everywhere. Even when it comes to things as trivial as candle shopping. I’d like to think that the candle makers who took the time to truly consider how their customers would seek out their products will be rewarded with success.

And yes, I bought one of the easier to sniff candles.