I was squirtin’ some tunes on a Zune last week, when all of sudden I got a notification about a blog post on Onshape: Lessons From 5 Epic Consumer Design Failures.

In it, John McEleney, Co-founder of Onshape, breaks down some of, what many thought would be, the best products EVER. In one way or another, they FAILED, and we’re left with the tattered remnants of their memory and questions about how much to sell them for.

I bet you can think of A LOT more product fails (leave them in the comments if so) but we’re going to tackle John’s list and make-believe that we solved their mass-consumer uptake problems by kicking what-if scenarios into the nether-regions of the web-o-sphere.

We’ll give a brief overview of each and describe how we’d turn the product from a failure into a success. Read the Onshape post for more details on the products, fails, and lessons learned. Oh, and feel free to laugh at yourself if you thought any of these were shifting paradigms (we did). Here we go:

1. Coolest Cooler (2014)

The Product: The Coolest Cooler is an all-in-one outdoor entertainment solution including a blender, bluetooth speaker, USB charger, LED light, oversized wheels, bottle opener and bungee tie down.

The Failure: Cost of development, manufacturing and shipping. Communication with customers. Over promising, under-delivering.

Our Solution: This one is simple – simplify the shiznit out of this thang. Design principle #1 – Less is More. This was a cornucopia of solutions looking for problems. They would have been better served to build a simple foundation, open a design that their fans could build accessories on top of instead of trying to provide a scenario for every party barge and desert rave. Make it a box, that could hold 10 24-packs of PBR, and eliminate all the nooks and crannies for sand, dirt and party liquids to seep into. Lastly, make it cool better and cost less than a YETI or similar and you’ve got yourself a winner.

2. Google Glass (2013-2015)

The Product: Google Glass was a wearable, voice-controlled Android device that resembled a pair of eyeglasses and was aimed at eliminating mobile devices.

The Failure: It cost $1,500 and looked as appealing as wearing a pocket protector, not to mention the privacy concerns and an incredible lack of product support.

Our Solution: This should have been a collaboration with Oakley, GoPro or, at least, designed as a sleaker, more fashionable device (you’re trying to get people to wear glasses who DON’T want to wear glasses). And yes, it shouldn’t have been limited to GLASSES. Provide a base for it to be adapted into another type of wearable. They also should have provided low-cost dev versions with feedback/issues collected, collated, and addressed every few weeks. Marketing should have had a constant push on what was possible, what was being created, and the capabilities beyond current wearables.

3. 3D Television (2010)

The Product: 3D TV was television that allowed producers to provide a 3D experience for the viewer if they were ok with low-resolution and wearing some clunky-ass glasses.

The Failure: No one wanted to wear a clunky set of glasses to enjoy nausea every day, plus the lack of content hobbled sales and desire to create content. (A not to VR/AR headset makers?)

Our Solution: This is a chicken and egg issue and more about execution than the actual product design. This would have been a great example to see TV manufacturers and producers team up to push innovation, instead of racing to be ‘the first’. (However, the failure did form into the popularity of 3D movies and renewed interest in VR/AR, so there’s that.) The design downfall here was limiting it to a screen. The tech was there for wall or space projection but the scope was limited to what people were viewing on TV already. Refocusing on the consumer and allowing them to produce their own content (memories, videos, Google Glass?) could have propelled ‘3D TV’, and 3D content, forward.

4. Juicero Press (2017)

The Product: The Juicero was a $400 internet-connected joke juicer that used single-serving packets of chopped organic fruits and vegetables sold exclusively by the company by subscription.

The Failure: A completely over-engineered device (400 custom parts) that squeezed the juice packs as well as you could with your hands. It, the packs, and the subscription were expensive.

Our Solution: Again, a solution looking for a problem. With juicing the goal is BETTER HEALTH not BETTER JUICE – people will juice about anything because it’s healthy. They would have done better kicking their custom packet squeezer to the curb and creating a juicer ingredient subscription service and community – think Blue Apron meets the FitBit app – that people could use with ANY juicer and share their ‘secret recipes’ and health successes.

5. Microsoft Zune (2006-2012)

The Product: The Zune was a portable digital music player from Microsoft launched as a competitor to the Apple iPod.

The Failure: Microsoft was too little, too late with the iPod out over five years already. It didn’t innovate anything, just copied another idea in hopes of success by brand loyalty.

Our Solution: This is a lot tougher. You’re not simply asking, “How can we innovate [insert product]?” You’re asking, “How can we innovate [insert product] that has an established and massive community, massive backing, and massive dev resources?” It wouldn’t due to match it. Microsoft needs to do something pivotal here and, incidently, has now failed with music twice – Zune and Groove (music streaming platform). They may be done with music at this point. Mainstream music, indie music, streaming music devices – great solutions exist for all. I think there’s one possibility but… we’ll just leave this solution for y’all to solve. What could Microsoft (or another company) do to innovate on music products?

And there we are. Problems solved. Failures avoided. Designs improved. Perhaps some more thought could be put into each but perhaps thinking about these solutions will help you with some product design challenges of you’re own.


Josh is founder and editor at SolidSmack.com, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.