While on a flight I noticed a new type of cutlery. I was served a noodle salad in a see-through plastic bowl. I received only the bowl. So I began to wonder about the cutlery. Nothing obvious was attached to the bowl and there was no hint on the bowl whatsoever. Looking around I was ensured that I was not the only one confused. The bottom of the bowl brought somewhat insight. There was a huge sticker. It was not obvious and there was no hint, but that sticker needed to be removed to reveal a small hole in which the cutlery was. Below you see a photo of the cutlery.
What it revealed was a merge of spoon and fork, it maybe called spork or foon. The combination was good to pick up the noodles with the fork like top and grab the small cut pieces of vegetables with the spoon like end.
My old mobile phone is a device that I bought around the year 2000. At that point of time it was stylish to own a mobile phone that can be flipped open. It has a small display on the front which shows the time and when it is flipped open there is a larger display and a keypad (photos below).
The most important functions of a phone are to enable the user to call other people, answer to calls, and in some cases also to refuse a call without answering it. This last case occurs if the situation is not convenient to answer the call. For example, one is taking part in a meeting or a lecture. To call someone the phone needed to be open for obvious reasons. A call can be answered when the phone is open, but also with a closed phone. However, to refuse a call the phone needed to be opened. In an inconvenient situation where the call needs to be ended quickly it is additional "lost" time to flip the phone open.
The design might lead to another unwanted situation through the volume control buttons on the side of the phone. It was possible to activate those volume control buttons while putting the phone in a pocket. Therewith a former vibration notification could turn into a loud ringtone. My current (smart) phone similarly has the volume control on its side. However, the volume control can only be activated when the phone is not in standby which avoids an unwanted interaction.
In this first article about the usability of everyday products I want to talk about the experience with my mp3 player. I used it often while cycling or walking to work. It is an interesting example because the design limitations are not visible while using the design in, e.g., a shop before it is bought. I noticed the limitations only after using it for a while.
The mp3 player is designed as a USB stick. Songs can be put on via connecting it to the computer. The most important function of an mp3 player is the selection of songs and to adjust the volume. For both of those interactions this device offers a joystick like button. Moving the joystick to the right/left selects the next/previous song and moving it up and down adjusts the volume. Those joystick movements reflect a logical design pattern.
Another important function of an mp3 is to deliver music on the go. I use to carry the device in the pocket of my jacket or trouser while cycling. This, however, shows a limitation of the design. The joystick extends slightly over the shape of the mp3 player which often led to an unwanted interaction jumping to the next or previous song.
Another limitation is the interaction required to switch the device on or off. The user is required to press and hold down a small silver button for 3-4 seconds. The button is placed on the bottom of the mp3 player. The interaction might not sound difficult, but if the button is pressed the music immediately stops playing. This can lead to the wrong interpretation that the mp3 player is switched off. However, to switch the mp3 player off the user is required to hold the button pressed down for 3-4 seconds. The display shows a bar marking the shut-down process. While cycling I do not use the display and miss this information. In general, from a non-technical perspective, it is not clear why the designer chose such a long process to switch the device off.