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If Someone Misuses your Design, it Sucks: Here's Why


Julian Galluzzo

When we see a friend or family member incorrectly use a simple machine, such as the burner controls on an oven, the controls on a TV remote, or even a simple door, we tend to laugh at them and wonder how they could’ve messed up such a simple task.

This is a weird GIF... I don't know if I'll sleep tonight.

Here’s the thing- It’s not their fault, it’s the products’ fault. Yes I know, it sounds ridiculous to blame anything on an inanimate object, but behind every product, there is a designer who is supposed to account for human error through their design. People have always, and will always make mistakes, and it is heavily documented by psychologists as to why and how people make mistakes.

A good designer doesn’t make a product for the times when everything goes well. Instead, they design for the times when things go wrong; when we are in a rush and not focusing, when someone tries a product before reading the instruction manual, (does anyone actually read manuals anyway?), or any other time when we are using our natural human instinct, rather than our logic.

We can all recall at least one product that is so easy to use, no thinking is required. One example of this would be a push bar on a door.

Ah, the door that'll never make you look like an idiot for trying to open it the wrong way.

Some places actually have laws that require these push bars (which I’ve just learned are called “crash bars”), to be on all hallway exits in schools, hospitals, and other public buildings. That’s because the design of these doors is so perfect, that even in times of panic, like a fire alarm going off, humans will instantly see this and know to push, not pull.

We use products to complete tasks, (in this case, go from one room to the next), but if we had to read a manual or take a lesson every time we wanted to use a new product, life would be chaotic. If your product is designed well, it’ll help people, and don’t even think about marketing if your product doesn’t help people.

Nobody likes trying to figure stuff out.

What’s the lesson to take from all this design talk? Number one, if you want an easier life, buy simple products that get the job done without thinking, and number two, if you’re designing a product, remember that every time someone misuses your product, it’s not their fault for slipping, it’s your fault for designing it wrong.