Edition 128, December 2023

Going for Gold—Creating iFixit’s Gold Standard of Repair

By Brittany McCrigler, iFixit

Working at iFixit means repair is always on your mind. As Right-to-Repair legislation passes and more manufacturers look to us for guidance, we find ourselves having more and more late-night conversations about what repairability really means.

Repair is a complex topic. To successfully repair something, you need a lot of things—information, parts, tools, and skill—each with its own myriad of factors, trade offs, and subtext. Even with all those things in place, common product design “gotchas”—like booby-trap cables or tar-like adhesives—can turn the entire repair to ruin. So many things can tank a repair: outdated or buggy software, parts pairing, poor/missing documentation, proprietary tools, the cost and availability of parts…the list goes on and on. With all that complexity, how do you know when it’s done right?

Many manufacturers are embracing the future of repair and repairable design, but they need help. We on iFixit’s Solutions team are here to do just that—help manufacturers get repair right, from designing easy-to-repair products to deploying full-scale repair ecosystems with guides, parts, and tools.

Our mission is simple—we want to help everyone fix every thing. But the closer you look, the more complex it gets. We’ve been working at understanding and developing repair ecosystems for twenty-plus years and are eager to share what we have learned. We wanted to distill our experience into a concise, helpful list that summarizes not only the basics, but our vision for excellence. So we set about articulating what we are really looking for in a repair ecosystem—defining the core tenets of what makes repair not only possible, but pleasurable.

Of course, we have been critical where things have fallen short before—poor designs with glued-in batteries, lacking or missing documentation, and even greenwashing in terms of repair programs. But it’s easy to be critical—what’s much harder, and even more important, is to be constructive, to paint a picture of the future we want to see.

Not to say that we’re not going to be critical—it is also important to point out areas where manufacturers can, and should, do better. But this “Gold Standard of Repair” that we are setting forth can act as our measuring stick—a tool manufacturers can use to hold themselves accountable as they take steps towards what will be increasingly required for a sustainable future. Beyond requirements, it outlines how manufacturers can do right by their customers by going further than just the legal minimum or greenwashing–crafting a great user experience through repair.

This Gold Standard will continue to evolve—the repair landscape is dynamic, changing as quickly as the technology that it intends to fix. We intend to continue refining this standard and showcasing examples of success as well as failures.

Along with this overarching view, we are working to provide manufacturers with state-of-the-industry standards, breaking each core concept into detailed levels so that they can evaluate their progress and understand specific, clear steps to move forward.

iFixit has always been an amalgamation of the aspirational and the practical. Our ideals inform actions. Repair is a necessary step towards a more sustainable future. And it is possible. Successful repair ecosystems and easy-to-repair devices already exist. If anything, our aspirations show our confidence in the intelligence of the engineers, product architects, technologists, sustainability teams, and innovators that develop our devices. We know they are up for the challenge and we’re looking forward to seeing what they create when they go for gold.

This article was originally published on iFixit’s blog page September 6, 2023: https://www.ifixit.com/News/80289/creating-ifixits-gold-standard

Brittany McCrigler