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UX in the Wild

Once I started learning about UX, I couldn't stop seeing it everywhere. Anytime I was frustrated using a website, anytime something didn't work quite the way I expected it to, I had the thought, "this could have a better user experience."

So, I've started documenting every time I have this thought and compiling my findings here. These aren't fully fleshed out case studies - these are just some pain points I've encountered "in the wild" and how I would consider fixing them.


Water Cooler

I was at a human factors conference recently, and there, I ironically encountered this not so user-friendly water cooler:


I wanted to get some cold water. After seeing the red and blue circles above each water spout, I concluded that because these appeared to be buttons, I must have to press the button in order for the water to dispense. 

However, I spent an embarrassingly long time pressing the blue "button" and still no water. I ultimately tried simply pressing the cup against the rectangle under the dispenser, which worked. It turned out that the blue circle was not a button at all and had nothing to do with dispensing the cold water. 

I was then curious to get to the bottom of my misconception, so I tried getting some hot water. Here's where it gets a little more interesting. It turns out that the red circle is a button, and in order for the hot water to dispense, you need to press the red button while simultaneously pressing the cup against the rectangle under dispenser. 

Using an interlock to increase safety for the hot water makes sense to me and is to be expected. However, I take issue with the design of using two plastic circles that appear identical, but one of them is a button and one of them is not. 

I would suggest removing both of the plastic circles and using red and blue stickers to indicate hot and cold. For the hot water, I would simply have an additional lever or button right next to the dispenser that needs to also be pressed in order to get hot water. This is a design I've seen in many other water coolers and would avoid the confusion I've described above, since the lever/button would be unique to the hot water side. 

Elevator Buttons

I recently encountered these elevator buttons, which I found confusing. This was what they looked like when neither button was pressed:


As you can see, both buttons are backlit in the "unselected" condition. However, I would have expected the button to be dark when unselected, so I interpreted this image as indicating that both buttons were selected. However, I then tried pressing one of the buttons, and learned that when the button was selected, the light changed to red:


To fix this, I would have designed these elevator buttons so that they only lit up when selected to avoid any confusion about whether the button has already been pressed. This would be more consistent with the behavior I would expect based on my previous experiences with similar buttons. 

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