I started writing this post about 1.30am this morning when I couldn’t sleep. I had lots of thoughts running through my head so I wanted to clear my mind hoping that it would help me drift off to sleep.
Apparently I point out a lot of things that my friends and family don’t even think twice about. They say “Oh, you only noticed that because you’re a designer, nobody else would have thought that.” Here are some examples…
Example 1: Misleading affordances
Every time I go to a meeting on another floor at work (which is a lot) I have to push a button to unlock a door that leads to a staircase. The door in question has a handle and every time I try to open it I attempt to pull the handle and every time I get it wrong because despite the handle indicating that it’s a pull door it is in fact a trick and you actually have to push it. However when you want to come back in from the other side the handle is there again but this time you do need to pull it but I always try to push it because in my mind I’ve just learnt that the handle affordance is wrong and I should ignore it. It’s not just me, my colleagues do it too and we all say what a bad design it is.
Example 2: The unattainable plug socket
There was a plug socket in my hostel room in Chiang Mai last year that was approximately half way up the wall. It was the only socket in the room that I could reach (the other one was about a foot down from the ceiling and used to power the fan) and it was just ridiculous. The length of my charging cable was shorter than the distance from the floor to the socket so every time I wanted to charge something I would have to make a little tower out of my luggage to balance it on. I was travelling light with only a small backpack so this task involved a lot of careful stacking of objects on top of my bag only to realise afterwards that I needed something from my bag so I would have to disassemble it and start over again.
Example 3: Chaos in the deli
And lastly (for now) there’s this deli near where I used to work that had absolutely no system whatsoever that drove me so crazy that I had to stop going there as it made me so agitated I couldn’t enjoy my lunch. There were two counters but although you could order from both (wraps from one, hot food from another) you could only pay at one which meant that if you wanted something to order a wrap you first had to queue and order from the wrap counter and then you had to queue up all over again at the other counter to pay. It just didn’t make any sense. After paying you were given a piece of paper with a number but nobody told you what to do next or where to wait and nobody seemed to know what to do next or where to wait. Everyone would just look at each other and shrug their shoulders in confusion. Eventually somebody would shout your number from across the room and you had to make your way through the crowd to collect your lunch by which point I couldn’t wait to get out of there.
So there you go.
Although this post has basically been about some of the things that have irritated me in the past year I hope it doesn’t give the impression that I’m a negative person because quite the opposite is true. Every time I encounter something like this I think about what could be done to change the situation and improve usability. A small table or shelf placed underneath the socket, a simple “Push” sign on the door and a process that streamlines sandwich ordering, payment and collection – order here, collect there, lunch ready, happy customers. These things are all easy to resolve and I think that’s what bothers me the most about them.
Small changes, big improvements.