The Pareto Principle Myth: Why 80–20 Is a Flawed Rule for Designing Customer Experience
The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80–20 rule, is a popular concept that states roughly 80% of effects come from 20% of causes. The rule has been widely applied across different fields, from business and economics to sports and health. However, despite its popularity, the 80–20 rule is a flawed rule to follow.
As a designer, one of our primary goals is to create a positive and memorable experience for the end user. From the moment a customer first interacts with a product or service to the final touchpoint, every step of the user journey is critical. While some touchpoints may appear less significant, overlooking them can negatively impact the overall user experience and the brand’s reputation.
Consider the example of grocery delivery. As designers, we optimise every customer touchpoint, from app usage and payment to timely and quality delivery. However, the packaging used for delivery is another critical touchpoint that is often overlooked. Although it may seem insignificant, the quality of the packaging and how easily it can be opened can significantly impact the user experience. If a customer struggles to open the package or the contents arrive damaged, it can leave a negative impression, reducing customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.
Another example is the packaging box used for the iPhone. While the phone is undoubtedly the main attraction, the packaging box’s quality and design are just as critical. According to the Pareto principle, the box may be considered an insignificant touchpoint, but Steve Jobs, Apple's late co-founder, knew that every detail mattered. Jobs recognized people's emotional connection with their phones and made opening the box a ritualistic experience that increased customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.
Steve Jobs’ approach to the iPhone packaging box exemplifies why the Pareto principle is a flawed rule to follow.
Coffee Cup — Regarding coffee, taste and quality are undoubtedly the most critical factors. However, the cup in which the coffee is served also plays a significant role in the overall experience. Consider the example of Starbucks’ iconic paper cups. The cups’ design features the signature green logo and white background, creating a recognizable and memorable experience for the customer. While the design may seem insignificant compared to the quality of the coffee, it’s an essential touchpoint in the user experience.
The design of the Starbucks cup is a perfect example of how even the smallest detail can play a significant role in the customer experience. The cup's design enhances the aesthetic appeal and creates a sense of familiarity and brand recognition. This recognition can lead to an emotional connection with the brand, ultimately leading to brand loyalty.
Website Design — In the context of website design, the Pareto principle may not accurately reflect the impact of various design elements on user experience. For example, a website’s loading speed is a critical factor in user experience, as slow loading times can lead to frustration and lower engagement. While the Pareto principle might suggest that 20% of the website’s design elements are responsible for 80% of the user experience, slow loading speed may be caused by various design elements, not just one or two.
Furthermore, the impact of different design elements on user experience can change over time. For example, as technology and user behaviour evolve, the importance of certain design elements may increase or decrease. Neglecting any design element can significantly impact the user experience, leading to lower engagement and customer satisfaction.
To create a positive user experience, website designers must take a holistic approach, carefully considering every design element and its impact on the user experience. Website designers can create a seamless, satisfying experience that meets users’ needs and expectations by optimising every touchpoint, from loading speed to visual design and functionality.
Mobile App — In the context of mobile app design, the Pareto principle may not accurately reflect the impact of different features and functionalities on user experience. For example, users may spend most of their time on a few key features, such as the app’s home screen or primary navigation. However, other features like settings or customization options may be equally critical to the overall user experience.
Furthermore, the impact of different features and functionalities can change over time as user behaviour and needs evolve. Neglecting any feature or functionality can significantly impact the user experience, leading to lower engagement and customer satisfaction.
Hospitality — In the context of hospitality and tourism, the Pareto principle may not accurately reflect the impact of different touchpoints on the overall guest experience. For example, hotel guests may spend most of their time in their rooms, but other touchpoints, such as the check-in process, concierge service, or food and beverage options, are equally critical to the guest experience.
Furthermore, the impact of different touchpoints can vary depending on the guest’s needs, preferences, and expectations. For example, a guest who values convenience and speed may prioritize the check-in process, while a guest who values luxury and personalized service may prioritize the concierge service.
To create a positive and memorable guest experience, hospitality and tourism providers must take a comprehensive approach, carefully considering every touchpoint and its impact on the guest experience. By optimizing every touchpoint, from the room design and amenities to the customer service and food and beverage options, providers can create a seamless, satisfying experience that meets each guest’s unique needs and preferences.
Automobile — In the context of car design, the Pareto principle may not accurately reflect the impact of different design elements on the overall user experience. While certain features such as fuel efficiency, engine power, and safety features may be prioritized by car buyers, other seemingly minor design elements can also play a pivotal role in shaping the overall driving experience.
For example, car buyers may not consider the quality of the car’s interior plastics or the strength of the steering as significant factors when making a purchase decision. However, these elements can significantly impact the overall user experience by affecting the car's comfort, handling, and durability.
Similarly, design elements such as noise proofing, vibration reduction, and door handle quality may not be top-of-mind for car buyers. Still, they can greatly influence the perceived quality and build of the car. Even seemingly minor design elements, such as the side glass lowering motor sounds and the wiper fluid reservoir lid, can significantly shape the user experience.
To create a positive and memorable driving experience, car designers take a comprehensive approach, carefully considering every design element and its impact on the user experience. By optimizing every touchpoint, from the door handle quality and interior plastic materials to the sound of the horn and the design of the rubber beading, designers create a seamless and satisfying experience that meets each driver’s unique needs and preferences.
While the Pareto principle may be a helpful heuristic in some situations, it may not accurately reflect the complex cause-and-effect relationships in car design. Car manufacturers can create a positive and memorable driving experience that builds brand loyalty and drives business growth by taking a user-centric approach and prioritising even seemingly minor design elements. The attention to detail shown by brands such as Volkswagen is a testament to the importance of considering all touchpoints in car design, regardless of their perceived importance according to the Pareto principle.
In conclusion, as designers, we must recognize that even the smallest detail can significantly impact the user experience. Neglecting any touchpoint, regardless of how insignificant it may seem, can significantly impact overall customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. By carefully considering every touchpoint and its impact on the user experience, we can create a memorable and satisfying experience for the customer, ultimately leading to long-term brand loyalty.