9/11/2011

09-11-11 - Shitty Product Design

I feel like a lot of "design" is making product worse. With lots of products there is a well known good way to make them, just fucking leave it alone, stop changing things for no good reason, you're fucking them up.

A good example are "stemless wine glasses". Uh, WTF, you moron, the stem is there for a reason. You just made it look trashy and made it much worse. Oh yes, I want finger prints on my wine glass. Yes, I love to warm up my wine when I hold it. Oh yes, I don't want to be able to hold it up to the light properly.

(Classic designs are not always right though. I really don't see the point to double hung sash windows. Why in the fuck do I need to be able to open the top part? When do you want the top sash open and the bottom closed that you couldn't just have the bottom open instead? In my experience with these fuckers, the only thing the top sash is good for is letting in massive air leaks, or falling down slightly and getting stuck and being incredibly hard to slide back up because it has no handles or anything.)

And now for a photo tour of horrible designs around my home :

Pushing a window open with my hand was much too difficult. It only took a second and was easily adjustable, but I had to lean over. I'd much rather crank on this fucking floppy handle for five minutes. The result is that sometimes I want the window open but I just can't be bothered to take the time to crank it a million times, so I just open another window that isn't on a "convenient" crank.

These kind of faucets are horrible in many ways. The mode clicker at the end is always flakey (this one happens to work mostly), the fucking retractable head is totally unnecessary and just makes it wobbly and lower flow, but worse of all is the fucking joystick water control. It makes precisely setting the flow volume and temperature almost impossible. The variant of the joystick which pervades cheap hotel showers is the real pinnacle of shitty water control design. Fucking hot/cold knobs worked great. They're easy to adjust precisely, they hold their position and can't be easily bumped into scalding or freezing, they aren't fighting gravity so they don't slip. If you really want to change it would could do flow & temperature knobs, but don't fucking abandon the two-knob design! Knobs are perfect! I think water control peaked when the two faucets for hot and cold got combined into one faucet, but you still had the two knobs, it's been down-hill ever since.

I've done this one before, but it was in my sight so let's do it again. The Melitta single cup dripper is such a clear case of taking a near-perfect product that does the task it is designed for, and just fucking it up for no reason. (the only thing I would change about the original single cup dripper is I'd make it a bit bigger, because I like to use an obscene unreasonable amount of grounds for one cup of coffee).

Product designer : Why would anyone want to grab a drawer handle from above? I know, let's seal off the top and make a big surface to get dirty!

Quick - find the Stop button. Too late, your burrito exploded. Thank god for the "vegetable" feature. I'm sure glad there's a "hold warm" and "light timer" feature. And WTF is "cook" ? I bet they could cram some more buttons on there and it would be even more deluxe.

You could do the stop button test again. Think about how much your hand has to move around the panel just to set it to bake at 350. There's just no fucking thought about usability. Touch pads like this in general are just horrible interface devices, and sadly are getting more and more common (see for example washer/dryer rant). Two knobs is the perfect interface for an oven. One for temperature and one for function (off/bake/broil) (physical radio buttons would also be okay for function).

WTF are you product designers thinking? Do you actually think you're doing good work? You're not. You're making shit worse. You should be ashamed. You should feel humiliated and miserable every day at work as you take good products and make them trendy or "modernize" them or make them slightly cheaper to mass produce.

There needs to be something like a hippocratic oath for product designers ; "First, don't make it worse".

16 comments:

Ian McMeans said...

Don Norman discusses this in "the design of everyday things" - consumers think they want the fancy version with a million buttons because they're afraid of missing "features".

But if you interview them post-sale, nobody actually learns how to use their stupid complex machine and they end up hating it.

Product designers know this, but "features" is what sells products to people who do side-by-side comparisons in the store.

Nino Mojo said...

That's really depressing when you think about it for a minute. It tells you everything you need to know about the modern world.

Pinky's Brain said...

We all offer our souls at altar of Mammon to a more or lesser extent, seems a bit hypocritical to single out product designers.

They are just giving people what they want to buy. It's not like people don't have a choice, regardless of price class it's easy enough to find appliances with non retarded interfaces.

Pinky's Brain said...

PS. reading the previous post about the washer/dryer I might have to revise my opinion ... are the appliances commonly available in the US just that much more retarded than in the EU?

ryg said...

"PS. reading the previous post about the washer/dryer I might have to revise my opinion ... are the appliances commonly available in the US just that much more retarded than in the EU?"
Being an European who moved to the US little more than a year ago, the short answer is holy shit, yes.

jfb said...

I like that style of window opener. If they're really floppy, maybe they were installed wrong?

As for microwaves, I've always wondered why don't just operate like toasters: knob for power level in watts, and a knob for timing. Maybe a start/stop/pause button for said timer? I don't need 'power level for chicken', 'power level for fish', I can figure that out myself if I care enough...

Thatcher Ulrich said...

I dunno, I found the appliances in our German rental apartment were pretty retarded.

Robin Green said...

Appliances in rental accommodation come from a completely different world, a world where convenience and functionality seem not to exist. Manufacturers must hand out a special list to new Landlords, part of the secret handshake.

Paul Lalonde said...

Double-hung sash windows are critically important in older homes without air conditioning. When you open the top on the sunny side of the house and the bottom on the shady side you set up a heat-pump-like cross-draft that moderates the temperature. You'll notice they pretty much always go hand-in-hand with 9+' ceilings, which help increase this effect.

In a modern well-insulated house they are pretty much irrelevant.

cbloom said...

" Double-hung sash windows are critically important in older homes without air conditioning. When you open the top on the sunny side of the house and the bottom on the shady side you set up a heat-pump-like cross-draft that moderates the temperature"

I'm not convinced that that tiny height difference does anything. In fact I suspect that it's weaker than even the slightest breeze.

In any case, it's certainly irrelevant in a multi-story home, where opening windows on different sides of the house on different floors would be a massively (massively) bigger factor.

The natural stack effect in leaky old houses would also be much stronger.

I do remember my grandparents having lots of tricks for passive cooling by setting up different air flows. That's one of those lost arts that people all used to know.

Thatcher Ulrich said...

I don't have AC here on the Vineyard. In the hottest weeks I play around a lot with the windows and ceiling fans but the best strategy is to go down to the basement, or to the beach.

I have newish wood-frame Anderson double-hung windows and I like them a lot.

cbloom said...

"I have newish wood-frame Anderson double-hung windows and I like them a lot. "

Why do you ever open the top instead of the bottom?

Thatcher Ulrich said...

I've never opened the top, I don't think. I could imagine opening the top in order to get less noise from the outside, but I have yet to actually do that. Mainly I just like that the windows look good and work well and are quick to open & close.

In NY I've opened the top so that stuff sitting on the windowsill doesn't roll out, but the windows are so big it's kind of a pain to reach up there.

cbloom said...

I like sash windows, I think they look nice, I just think the top half being mobile is bad. Once the top window stops staying up they become a pain in the neck.

BTW super awesome image :

http://kissmyglassnj.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/windowparts.jpg

Tom Forsyth said...

There's two plausible reasons to open the top sash.

First - kids. You can open the top window and they're not going to climb out and Darwin themselves.

Second - rain. If you have a decent roof & window frame overhang, you can often open the window at the top and not have the rain actually come in. Not so useful in Seattle, but in places like Australia it can be pouring with rain and still be annoyingly hot.

But I don't know if both of those combined actually warrant the complications and irritations of the things when they go wrong.

Amit said...

I've been fairly happy with the microwave oven I have (see pic) — I turn the dial to the time I want, and press start. I can open the door to stop it (although I have to press Stop/reset to clear the remaining time).

More and more I'm picking things to buy based on the controls and not the features.

old rants