In case you didn’t notice (and if you didn’t, you seriously need to lay off the Tylenol Cold & Flu),  I made a few changes around here. I’d been rocking the black background for a couple of years, and figured it was time for a change. I’m like that sometimes – I just have to switch shit up for my own amusement. For as infrequently as I post these days, the changes may well go unnoticed anyway. But who cares – I like it. Until I don’t.

Actually, there’s another reason for the change. I’m taking (read: auditing for free) a class called Human Computer Interactions, which is a course that outlines the principles of designing – designing software interfaces, designing airplanes, designing whatever people use. It’s an effort to improve my career, and to learn something new. Plus it’s pretty damn interesting. But when you learn about design principles, you quickly learn to spot things that are not designed well, such as doors that don’t clearly indicate whether you should push or pull them, or websites that make your eyes wish they carried firearms just so they could pop a cap in the ass of the person who made them. So after learning a little bit, I came to realize that my blog’s design was…well, it was bad, people.  White text on black background is bad business, no matter how cool it may look. I welcome your feedback on the new look – I’m willing to make changes where I can, folks. I give and I give.

As a part of taking this class, we have to do homework and other assignments, which you would expect. One of those projects was a brief paper describing a bad user interface. There were no stipulations on what the interface was; it just had to be one that would make you dry-heave at the mere sight of it. At first, I thought about all the bad software design I’ve seen in my day, but that was way too mundane. What follows is what I submitted for my example of bad user interface design.


Poor User Design in Recreational Refreshment

Good or effective user interface design encompasses several different elements: usability, aesthetics, safety, and social awareness, among others. The example above (it’s actually below, but don’t skip ahead, dammit) fails in all areas.

From a usability perspective, the water fountain suffers from poor design planning. The fountain’s height does not make it easy for adults or taller children to easily use it. Additionally, the water fountain is so short that it cannot be easily seen from beyond the fence behind it, meaning that it would be difficult to see and identify from a distance. The mechanism for dispensing the water is not clearly visible, which could cause confusion for anyone approaching the fountain, because it is not immediately nor instinctively clear how to operate it. In the photograph, it actually appears as though the two girls are reaching down inside the fountain to operate it. The spigot is recessed inside the “mouth” of the device, which also detracts from the device’s intuitive nature. The reclining, semicircular shape of the upper basin could potentially flow water from the spigot, directly onto the clothing of the user, if the water stream extends beyond the edge of the lip. 


The safety of the fountain is another concern. The stone ring around the base, while moderately helpful for small children, also poses a risk to taller users because a taller user could easily stub his or her toes while attempting to use the fountain. The fact that the fountain is made of stone (rather than a hardened, burnished steel or equivalent material) means that the fountain is much rougher to the touch, and also possibly much more slippery when wet, which could cause a placed hand to inadvertently slide when any weight or pressure is applied to it. The curved bottom of the upper basin invites accidental knee strikes. 


Aesthetically, it appears that very little thought was put into designing this fountain. It lacks vivid colors (or any color at all) that would enhance its overall appeal. The flat untinted stone coloring tends to make the fountain blend into its surroundings, particularly the ground below it and the fence railing behind it. Its unusual shape does not enhance the fountain’s functionality or visual appeal, nor does it provide a level of uniqueness that would make it more noticeable. The fact that the dispenser is recessed into the mouth gives the impression that the fountain is somewhat unsanitary, and that users must insert their hands inside the basin. It is unclear why the fountain is comprised of two separate pieces – the upper basin and the lower stand – or what function that construction serves.

The lack of social awareness in this fountain’s design is clear: the fountain resembles a phallic symbol. In certain cultures, this design implementation may not have severe ramifications, but in the United States, it would be considered unacceptable. Standard drinking fountain designs usually take on more traditional shapes and appearances, including exterior fountains, and although this design is definitely avant garde, it is at best in poor taste, and at worst, offensive.

This drinking fountain’s design encapsulates many bad usability decisions. Its functional drawbacks and aesthetic missteps combine to create a product that very few would want to use.

Now for the picture of the aforementioned water fountain. I'm not that thirsty. I'm not that thirsty.

I haven’t gotten my grade back yet, but I can hear my professor’s laughter all the way from here.