3 of my biggest Bugbears – because users were ignored

25 May

“In medieval England, the Bugbear was depicted as a creepy bear that lurked in the woods to scare children” – Wikipedia, May 2011


Hand dryer

I’m generally a pretty happy go lucky chap, but even I have moments when certain things irritate me. I call these my Bugbears. They are reoffending irritants, and I should really know better than to lower myself into a rage every time I encounter them.

In an attempt to better understand my Bugbears, I have realised that they are irritating and frustrating because someone in the chain of development has not thought about the user. Or more accurately, has thought about the user but has chosen to ignore them.

Let me share three of my bugbears:


1. Hand dryers that don’t dry hands

I’m sure you’ve all experienced this. After going to the loo in a service station, restaurant, cinema, etc, you (I hope) thoroughly wash your hands, amble to the hand dryer and place your dripping wet hands under the machine, only to be greeted with a meek outflow of air. It’s like the machine has a little fairy inside blowing on your hands. After a few seconds you realise that this isn’t going to work, and walk out wiping your hands on your trousers, or covertly drying them in your pockets.

I don’t believe that the manufacturer has tested these and thought, “you know what, these dry my hands really well”. And I don’t believe the buyer has tried the hand dryer and thought, “my customers are going to love these hand dryers”. I imagine what they have thought is, “hmm, these hand dryers are pretty crap, but they are cheap, and I’m sure the users won’t mind”.

Well, they do mind! At least I do. Isn’t it bliss to see a Dyson Airblade or a World Dryer Airforce hanging on the wall?


2. Coffee full to the brim

I love my coffee. Judging by the number of Costas, Neros, Starbucks, etc, there are these days I’m sure a lot of people do to. I generally order an Americano with hot milk. When I’m taking my coffee away, the Barista has the job of topping up the coffee with the hot milk. Now, the fact I’ve ordered a take away suggests I’m walking off somewhere with my coffee in hand, so how come the Barista tops up the coffee to the brim of the cup, then squeezes on a lid?

The result is me arriving at my destination with wet, burnt fingers, coffee smudges on my shoes, and a coffee cup and lid that do not look healthy.

All the Barista has to do when they’ve topped up the coffee is pour a little away. Surely they look at the full cup and realise that it is not possible to walk this anywhere without spilling it? But they still carry on and pop a lid on. To all you Baristas, just think about the user experience when you top up a cup. I won’t ask for a discount because you pour a little away to save my fingers and my shoes!

I shouldn’t have to ask the Barista to pour a little out for me!


3. Ticket machines that don’t give change

I don’t really need to explain this one. Regardless of what they say, there is only one reason why a council would install non-change giving ticket machines in public car parks, and then charge tariffs like £1.30, or £2.80. When the decision makers sat around the meeting room table discussing which ticket machines to install, surely someone in the room raised the point that customers will be pretty pissed off at not getting change. I’m sure this was even discussed. But the user experience was not considered important enough over making free money.

So you see, these Bugbears exist because common sense user experience practice has been ignored somewhere along the development or delivery process. All it takes is for someone in the decision making process to champion the user and maybe we can rid the world of Bugbears!

What are your Bugbears, and are they because the user experience has been ignored?



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Ali Carmichael

About Ali Carmichael

Ali (or Alasdair) is an experienced project manager who loves his Gantt charts and milestones! He has over 12 years' experience managing successful online experiences for world class brands. Ali is responsible for ensuring our clients love what we do for them. Follow Ali on twitter @AliJCarmichael

  • http://www.halfwaytoreality.com Simon Thompson

    I'm completely with you on the hand dryer front. Except, perhaps, I've seen too many Dyson dryers with peeling sides and pools of run-off water below. And, more than a few children (and adults) who are frightened by Airforce dryers.

    Low price and looks seem to be more important than functionality. But when you get your customers back in your bar or restaurant sooner, or don't have to take a member of staff off other duties to clear up the inevitable piles of paper towels, you must see some kind of benefit.

    Not only does this ticket machine meet your needs, it does so philosophically: http://www.flickr.com/photos/halfwaytoreality/433

  • Alan Butters

    Mine tend to be verbal. I'm thinking of running a campaign to ban Sarah (Gunner) Montague from The Today Programme on Radio 4. "The weather is GUNNER be fine today". "The Chancellor is GUNNER tell The Commons this afternoon". Another one is the patronising use of "pop" as a verb by female workers in the health service. "Just POP your jacket off". "We'll POP your glasses on the shelf for you." "Just POP yourself in the cubicle and POP your clothes in the basket". After the last one, she actually said "The basket will follow you out of the cubicle". It didn't. I had to carry it.
    I could rant on, but not now. Nice theme. Alan Butters.

  • AliJCarmichael

    Yes, it is always difficult to create the perfect user experience, but they're certainly moving in the right direction. The priority objective is to dry hands, and they're doing that.

    I haven't seen the issue you describe with the Dysons. It sounds like they have the usability pretty good but the user experience needs attention. All you budding UXers, this is a good (if a little loose) example of the difference between the two.

    Airforce can scare children, I have a friend whose son won't use them (but that might be all hand dryers), so maybe they should deisgn a childrens version that looks more fun to use to encourage interaction?

    Thanks for the ticket machine image. We need more of these in our car parks!

    I'm gunner finish this response now and pop it into the comment field :o)

  • http://www.stuseddon.co.uk Stu Seddon

    • It's about time someone came up with an easy open jar lid. Every time I struggle to get one open I think how difficult and frustrating it must be for the elderly.

    • Lack of wheelchair friendly stations throughout the London underground. The accessibility closely represents an Escher sketch – not good enough.

    • Unintuitive pedestrian crossing lights: If there's no one there waiting, then they should be clever enough to abort the pending red light. If an automatic door can 'see' a waiting person, then surely something similar can be used on a crossing so it knows whether there's someone waiting near the kerb.

  • AliJCarmichael

    Great ideas there Stu. We need a site like http://theinternetwishlist.com/ for all areas of design, not just digital!