Thursday, April 12, 2012

You're Making it Worse!

Here is a beautiful example of cascading usability problems I saw on a recent trip with my family.  The moral of this story is poor design is expensive.  This pump rages through two, maybe three, of these top five usability don'ts.  Here's the cascade...

  • The octane label looks like a button -but it's not (the red herring).  So customer after customer presses the non-button sticker and eventually the sticker wears through.
    Red herrings drive down user confidence and erode ease of purchase, plus they invite wear on components not designed for it (which can also beat a false path that misleads follow-up users)...
  • A stakeholder decides something has to be done and a new sticker is put on top of the worn out red herring (the bolt-on).
    Bolt on's can come at considerable expense, depending on their nature and scope.  There's the cost of the bolt-on itself, the opportunity cost of implementation, the brand degradation of damaged aesthetics and function, and the wildcard of unintended consequences that hasty band aids are want to incur...
  • Unfortunately, the bolted on replacement sticker came from a pump model that actually does use the octane label as a button and invites the user to PRESS the not-button.  This hastily applied backfire comes pretty close to user contempt, but is probably more about the apathy of a crushed spirit.

The red herring design tricks users into pushing a not button, wearing it out.  The bolt-on snatches defeat from the jaws of victory.

P.S.  I thought this was odd.  On the same pump, the buyers of 87 octane didn't seem to have as much trouble overcoming the poor design and finding the correct button.

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