Which way does the door open?

There are tons of badly designed doors. For example an oddly placed bar to keep design consistency or the door opening in the wrong direction. It's hard to believe but there are two simple rules with doors:

  • Doors in people's home open inwards (the hinges are on the inside so it is not easy for burglars to just take off the door to enter the house).
  • Door in public buildings need to open outwards or in the direction of fire exits (for safety reasons while evacuating the building).

However, it is not always easy to figure which is the right way (especially inside the public buildings where fire exits paths are not obvious). In such cases, the door needs clues so people handle them subconsciously. Take this door as a bad example.

Entering the corridor, I have two handles on both doors which suggest that I need to pull them. Everything fine here

When exiting the corridor (the same door) I have the same handles again! This would be fine if the doors would swing in both directions which is not the case. Obviously someone complained and they solved the issue with two small stickers over the handles which say "PUSH".

Whenever I exit the building I subconsciously grab the handle and pull. Then I realise that I need to push it. The sticker is of no help. Who reads manuals to open the door? Such simple things shouldn't have manuals!

This can be easily solved by removing the handles. If there's nothing to be pulled, people with instinctively push it.

Remote control - hide bad design with the size

Remote control units (RTU) tend to be complicated, over-covered with buttons that no one ever uses and coupled with a non-ergonomic shape!

Some argue that complicated designs were a long term tactic of media companies ;).

"... Maybe all of those legacy buttons that no one ever uses (the various 'Picture in Picture' controls and the colorful A,B,C interactive TV buttons) are part of a deliberate design strategy? Maybe they are there precisely to add to the cognitive load – the accumulated effect being that valuable functions, like fast forwarding, are much harder to learn. ..."

Good for the network companies which can now embrace DVR's. No one will skip the commercials because it's impossible to find the right button (or combination) for it.

I recently passed by a Radio Shark and saw this SupaLens Jumbo 8 in 1 RCU! Apparently you can beat complexity and ugliness with size. Or at least authors of it thought so. To my surprise, the net offers tons of such products.

The good thing about it: IMPOSSIBLE TO LOSE! The product beside is a UK electricity plug which is HUGE (compared to EU or USA plug). So The Remote is little less tha 30 centimeters long and 15 wide. The target audience is older people. But does it really have to be this ugly?  And complexity is still there! There was a good article about HCI for elderly in ACM INTERACTIONS a few years ago I cannot find. The RCU's were one of the bad examples. Anyone remembers this article? I'd be glad to read it again.

However, not all RCU's are badly designed. TiVo's RCU for example has a nicely designed peanut shape with essential buttons on it (combined with the on-screen menus). Another one is activity based Harmony remote.

When a sign and a mental model don't match - a poor interaction

This is a genuine example of wrong mental model mapping. When I look at the sign, I'd expect the A floor to be the TOP floor. Quite opposite.  A floor is at the bottom of the building and C floor at the TOP. Passing this sing I always have a strange feeling climbing the stairs to get to the C floor :). It should be two stories beneath the ground.

EDIT 31. 1. 2012: Here is the actual photo of the building with marked levels (thx lil)

Taps 8: why britons use separated taps and how to mix water from them

Edit: 18. 1. 2012 more images of custom mixing received from friends

British separate taps are a "classic". Most of foreigners wonder why?. These are the 4 short explanation:

1. (historical) reason
"Going back, bowls and baths were filled with water from jugs or pans heated on the fire. You then washed using the water in the bowl." Alan. So one reason was to preserve the interface. People still use their sinks the same way they used bowls in the old days. Plug, fill, wash, unplug, empty [rinse under the cold if e.g. washing hands].

2. (historical) reason
"In the UK only the hot water systems has a header tank in the roof, the cold water comes to your tap directly from the mains. The hot water system is therefore a source of potential contamination and there is a whole raft of legislation and rules intended to prevent contaminated water entering the public water system."
Alan. The UK started to build the public water systems in the early 1800 [1]. Taps in those days did not have the non-return valve. The mixer tap was patented only in 1880 [2] ... I guess they were expensive at first. And the non-return valve was patented in 1907.

3. reason (why people still like and install them)
Because these taps are old fashioned, people like them and install them even in new houses (nicely designed ones or even styled in Victorian). On the other hand, the cheapest models are just simple spouts with a simple valve (e.g. no aerator). These can be found in some new public bathrooms or student accommodations. While the old houses still keep them as Britons don't usually change things if these work (my humble observation).

4. (environmental) reason
I heard the claim that plugging the sink, filling it with water (of desired temperature) can save the amount of water in comparison with the running mixer type tap. I even heard that washing hands with cold water only is an incentive to get it over quicker - again saving water. However, the mixer taps usually have an aerator that reduces the amount of water coming out of the spout. It also depends on a person how much water will get wasted, and not all Britons are environmentally savvy (a lot still paying a fixed sum per month as old houses have no water meters - there were no water meters in the 1800 :)).

But HERE comes the GREAT INVENTION for all the foreigners!

Or a more sophisticated one




However, if you find yourself in the public bathroom, here's how to use the separate taps

[1] WD-WSEB-16-2. 1999. A Partial History of Public Water Systems.

[2] Mario Theriault, Great Maritime Inventions 1833–1950, Goose Lane, 2001, p. 33.

Pegeout 5008 dashboard too far away

I recently drove MPV (Monovolume) Pegeout 5008. I nice car, very spacious and responsive.

5008 has a nice clean dashboard and driver's surrounding. I liked the door controls for windows and locking the controls on rear doors (which is something our current car lacks and children abuse it constantly opening the windows and leaving them open). 

I also liked "the new" manual brake button which I thought I'd hate it. Still more comfortable with the "old"  hand pulling handle and the feel of wire rope below the car :).

The only annoying thing was the distance between me and the dash board. Sitting normally I couldn't reach the dashboard without leaning forward. Which means that I couldn't e.g. set the temperature or change radio station if I didn't move my upper part of the body towards the control panel. My fingers were more than 20cm from it.

This is the first car in which I had such experience. I usually memorize dashboard quickly thanks for very good designs in cars. And I usually control the dashboard without even looking at it keeping focus on the traffic around me. I couldn't do it in this car :(.