Observation #6: Frustrating Faucets

While visiting my aunt and uncle’s giant home in North Carolina over Thanksgiving break, the routine task of taking a shower became something of a hassle.  When I leaned into the shower to turn it on, I was confronted with this view.

First, I was hesitant about which levers to pull on as neither of them were labelled “hot” and “cold” and there were no hints using color, letters, or anything.  Once I had the water running, my real challenge was toggling shower mode.  There was no little handle on the faucet that I was accustomed to pulling up on.  There was also no button to press.  I fiddled with that small silver lever for a while, but it did nothing.  Feeling as if I was getting nowhere down here, I looked up to the shower head as if it would enlighten me.

Upon Inspection, I figured maybe the small twistable-looking knob would turn this feature on, so I tried to turn it.  Again, I received no feedback whatsoever.  Getting frustrated, I tried turning separate parts on the showerhead itself, like the front circular plate.  Feeling as if I was wasting water and missing some sort of obvious option I hadn’t attempted, I then began randomly hitting and tugging at everything again.  Finally I gave up and walked out into the hallway to yell downstairs to people and ask how to turn the blasted shower on.

“You pull down on the thing on the faucet,” they yelled back at me, followed by, “… and you’re a student at Georgia Tech!”

To this, I responded, “It’s not my fault.  It’s poor design!”

As Don Normal says in The Design of Everyday Things, it is no longer fair to victimize the user for being unable to figure out a device by interacting with it.  There should be clear visual hints to enable us to use it properly.


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