Back in February the Guardian asked “are our household appliances getting too complicated?” and since then there have been over 620 comments on the piece, many of which are people sharing their own frustrations and bafflement at the complexities of various everyday items.
“Who needs a kettle with four heat settings? A washing machine with a ‘freshen up’ function? A toaster with six browning modes? What happened to the good old days of the on/off switch?”
CHI+MED is interested in learning about how the safety of medical devices can be improved, but there are lessons to be drawn from the design of devices that people use in the home or when out and about. Here are two videos that illustrate this.
In the first video Microwave racing, from Dom Furniss, we ask several people to perform a straightforward task on a microwave and see how long it takes them to do it. Not all microwaves’ interactive panels are created equal.
As part of our public engagement work we’ve taken microwaves to Hove Park Upper School for their annual Science Festival. Queues of schoolkids take it in turns to find out which microwave is easier to use. We ask them to think about why and what designers can do to make them better, by racing the microwaves to heat some microwaveable popcorn. We always appreciate an easy-to-use vacuum cleaner at the end of these sessions.
The second video, from Harold Thimbleby, Saving lives by design focuses on medical device design and how it could be improved.
“Everybody makes slips (mistakes) and obviously what’s good about hospitals is that everyone’s professional and those slips get sorted out. What worries me is that people make slips and the technology isn’t part of the team that stops those slips turning into catastrophes – and the cash machine is a really good example of how the ‘catastrophe’ of losing your cash card is a problem that’s been fixed by redesigning the cash machine so that you can’t leave your card behind (because most machines don’t give you your money until they’ve returned your card), because you don’t leave it behind now – you want your money. That is a good illustration of how redesigning infusion pumps … would make hospitals a much safer place.”
Harold begins the video with an observation that the coastguard telephone near a local beach instructs users to dial 999 (which is what they might expect to dial in the UK) however the device confuses users by giving them only the options of 1, 2 and 3 with which to do this.
His paper “Reasons to question seven segment displays” will be presented at 2pm at the CHI2013 conference at 2pm this afternoon (30 April 2013) in the Blue room. It won a ‘best of CHI award’ and you can download a free preprint from our document store.