During a team building event a colleague recorded some videos. After transferring them to the computer we recognized that some of the videos where recorded headlong. A search in the internet included such helpful advise like "just hold the mobile phone in the correct position". When the user wants to record a video in panoramic screen format, how should the mobile phone be held correctly (sketch below)?
My colleague noticed that the mobile phone's internal algorithm identified the orientation of the mobile phone correctly and displayed the video correctly to him in either of the two possible orientations while it was recorded. Nobody would imagine that the video orientation changes when the video is transferred to the computer.
This week I have been on a conference and noticed one of the classic usability issues. There were of course a lot of presentations and there was a remote control move back and forth between the slides. Besides the buttons to switch between the slides, the remote control also included a laser pointer. This laser pointer was activated with a red button on the front of the remote control. Typically a red button is used to turn a device on or off, and so this obvious red button happened to confuse some of the presenters...
Lately I recognized a usability limitation in the control interface of an elevator that I use often. The elevator doors tend to close very slow. Naturally people want to make the process faster and press the button in the elevator interface that closes the doors. However, the button to call the service is placed between the buttons to "close door" and to "open door" (sketch below). All three buttons are very close together. As I went to work this morning still feeling sleepy, I nearly pressed the service button. Fortunately recognized the mistake in time. I wonder how often the service is accidentally called at one day.
The department which I work for moved in another building. The building consists of three interconnected houses (or three single houses if you ignore the connecting way). Each house is similar in design. The design integrates an easy fire escape route, but does not integrate the fire safety concept well.
One side of a house consists of big open offices and the other side of meeting rooms and smaller offices for higher management. I'm working in one of the big offices. It is the room right to the kitchen in the sketch below. The office can be accessed through two doors, both of them are fire doors. Each level has two kitchens and two restrooms that are located in the opposite corner of a house. The nearest kitchen for my office is the one marked in yellow in the sketch below. The nearest printers are on the other side (left) of the kitchen. People working in my office need to go through the fire door and pass by the kitchen to access the nearest printers. So the nearest kitchen and printers for people in my office are located behind the fire door. Following, the fire door towards the kitchen is used many times each day. According to safety standards the fire door is self-closing. Whenever it closes it results in a specific noise. I can only imagine that people sitting in the vicinity of the door feel disturbed by that noise and leave the fire door open. More exactly, I have hardly seen the door closed. Leaving a fire door open is of course contra productive to the fire door's purpose.
Positively, the escape route leads through the staircase in front of the kitchen which is a common way to enter or exit the building. Integrating an escape route in a common way in the building layout is a preferred design. People are already familiar with such a way and can easier orientate themselves in an emergency situation, compared to an escape route that is not typically used.
Taps are an everyday item that comes in a great variety of designs. Unfortunately, this can leads to usability limitations. Before I introduce exemplary tap designs lets think about what a tap should indicate at minimum for a user to be easy usable:
whether the water flow starts manually or automatically via motion sensor. Automatic taps are can be indicated by an icon with a hand and two lines marking the motion sensor)
whether the water temperature can be adjusted (photo below, 2 and 3) or is fixed (photo below 4)
how to adjust the temperature (adjustment before the water flows through rotation of the button on top in photo 2 or while the water flows through movement of the handle in warm or cold direction in photo 3)
in case it works manually, how to start the water flow (push the handle (photo below, 2) or pull the handle (photo below, 3) or rotating of the handle in (photo below, 4))
While visiting friends I found another interesting tap design (photo below). Their shower had two taps, one for cold water and one for warm water. The taps are color coded with a little blue dot indicating cold water and a little red dot indicating hot water. Those color coded dots were placed on the side of the taps, impossible to see from top down. For a user it means either the color code is memorized or he/she needs try and error to adjust the water temperature. To add an additional level of difficulty the two taps have inverse opening directions, one opens when turned towards the user and the other when it is turned away from the user. My friends told me that they end up with a lot of trial and error to find the right temperature (sh*** that was the cold water, oh no why did the warm water get less...).