Learning how to use chopsticks is not an easy task. The fingers need to be in the correct position and it requires fine motor skills to successfully aim at small pieces. After struggling to acquire that skill myself, I wondered how little kids learn to eat with chopsticks. It appears that one option is to follow a guide such as this wiki instruction page. Another option is to invest in special chopsticks for children, also called learning chopsticks. A colleague just introduced the set below to me. Both chopsticks stick to a plastic holder (here a cat) with a springy effect. All a kid needs to do is to focus on holding them and apply slight pressure to close them. Once the grip is released the chopsticks extend themselves. If the child appears to have mastered the chopsticks, the holder can be removed and they can now be used like a typical set of chopsticks.Even easier to use is this infant version with a handle for a finger on each chopstick. The holder is similar to the one shown in the figure above. For those readers who are wondering how infants in Asia learn to use chopsticks, typically babies use a spoon first. When the babies get older, between 3-4, they are encouraged to learn to eat with chopsticks. If you are a handyman, there are also instructions to build your own handmade "learning chopsticks" set.
This article is more about the contrary of usability, how to make something not usable. The aspects that make a product usable can also be employed to design something hard to use. I recognized it some days ago in a hotel. My impression was that the shower design was implemented with the intention to make it difficult to use and uncomfortable in order to save water. Below is a guide to make to a shower difficult to use.
1) Use a fixed shower head instead of a hose. The result looks like this:
2) Do not let the user know how to adjust the water temperature. They will have to shower under cold water and for sure this shower will be quick.
3) Limit the amount of water. In case of this spigot the water run for about 15 seconds and then had to be reactivated by pressing a button.
The design is not perfect though. By leaning against the button I was able to get a continuous flow of water and avoided to have to push the button every 15 seconds. An improvement for an even more difficult to use shower would be to place the button horizontal against the wall. Then it would no longer be possible to lean against it for a continuous flow of water.
Recently I read about a construction project that run somewhat over budget. Then, the responsible people decided to cut costs in the design of the fire protection system.
The building is for tax collectors in Solingen (Germany). Costs for the new building are in the range of 16mio €. Costs for the fire alarm system were saved by implementing a special system that avoids expensive technical equipment. Some of the officials in this new building have an additional responsibility. In case of a fire it is their duty to blow a horn. The horn needs to be carried everyday in a dedicated drawer of their desk (holiday or ill?). But to be fair, the fire alarm system consists of another element. The gatekeeper receives information about a fire alarm and is then required to communicate the alarm to all telephones in the house. A weakness certainly is that people who are not at their workspace and, in general, not in the vicinity of any telephone (for example in the restroom) would not be reached. The designers did foresee the manual horn to communicate the fire alarm towards this group of people.
According to safety standards an automatic fire alarm system is not required as long as all people are alert. An automatic alarm system would have been required if the building would have included a room for relaxation. Time will show if this fire alarm concept is reliable. To achieve a reliable system, the procedure of the manual horn needs to be trained regularly. So that people can learn the procedure and retrieve it in an emergency case. Otherwise, if it is not regularly trained some people may forget the procedure, forget to notify someone else when a responsible persons gets ill ... and so on.This is an article with the detailed information. Unfortunately it is in German.
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.