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quidity (1296)

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A relapsing reformed physicist.

Journal of quidity (1296)

Saturday July 10, 2004
07:33 AM

Design of Everyday Things

[ #19783 ]

I've recently returned from my holidays, and some trips with work, with a lot of sitting around in planes and airports and trains which leads, as ever, to a lot of reading.

One of the books was me eventually getting around to The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman. Overall it was very good and fairly thought provoking. One thing, though, did hit me. He spends a lot of time on taps, and how they ought to be obvious, and mentions that the little ones they use on planes are very good because there's nothing you can do but push down on the handles to get water out.

Of course, moments before getting to the bit about taps I'd encountered the very ones, and, just to prove his point, I'd first tried to make them work by lifting up the paddles, rather than pushing on them as intended. This probably suggests that I'm odd.

My favourite taps, though, are the ones in the Tate Britain. These are just spouts over a sink with no visible signs of how to use them. People wonder up, wave their arms under the spout, wave them over the spout, peer under the sink for peddles, start to clap, and well, try all sorts of other actions. Eventually they get so perplexed that they lean over the sink to look beind the spout to see if there's anything there, and lo, water streams out.

The sensors, you see, are installed in the ceiling above the sinks, and aren't sensitive enough to trigger until a whole person is between them and their sink. Funny, really, and probably -- as Donald often suggests -- award winning.

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  • What amazes me is the diverse and weird ways to turn on the water in the shower. At least in the US, this feels like a bizarre IQ test often enough. The Design of Everyday Things made more sense when I started traveling in that part of the world :)

    In Sweden there's maybe two pretty standard ways of doing this. Either there is one knob for temperature and one for water pressure (good), or there is some kind of handle which you can manouvre to do both things (ok). Older devices often have one knob for cold