UX: love hate relationships

· · · · · · · · · · · | Designing Meaningful Interactions

2A. Have you ever fallen in love with an everyday object?  Is there an object that you use every day or frequently that you appreciate for it’s touch, appearance or usability?

good old coffee maker 2

I use ^^this device everyday. A $10, 1 button coffee maker that I got from the dollar store.  I know there are fancier coffee machine’s on the market; one’s with timers and wifi connections but I don’t need them.

I thought of the coffee pot because of the article we were asked to read about the toaster. I found myself agreeing with some of the comments in after the article:

To label this as a ‘smart’ toaster compared to those ‘dumb-acting’ ones is exactly the problem here. Making products ‘smarter’ and more ‘clever’ is exactly why so many people get confused when trying to understand how to use it. In the case of a toaster it should be simple and easy to understand. You shouldn’t have to learn how to use a toaster (i.e. read all the buttons to know what they do), you should be able to instantly understand the product and interact with it. Those ‘dumb-acting’ toasters are probably easier to use, and isn’t that the point of good user interface?

Seems like 5 buttons and a slider is a bit overkill for a toast making interface. Old toasters had one control (the toast lever) which was self-explanatory, connected visually and mechanically to the function it performed, and did the job well most of the time.

Coffee is complicated and simple all at once. It’s ancient, has many histories, involves many processes, can be made in many ways, is entwined in many cultures BUT ultimately, it comes out of a simple idea: roast a seed, grind it, brew. As simple as tea.

This machine has one button, that controls both On and Off states and lights up when it’s on. The sides have clear panels and the coffee pot itself is also clear, the user can see the states of their water and the coffee it makes. They must must draw their own conclusions from there, but everything is fairly intuitive.  I can see the state of my beverage. I know if things are going as planned.

I use my coffee pot as a marker in my morning routine. I turn it on when I wake up and know it’ll be done by the time I am finished with my shower.  It’s doesn’t need a built in clock; it is one.

I could see many design changes that would make this machine work better but those have almost nothing to do with adding features or dramatically changing the aesthetics or function.  Auto-turn off would be nice (after 20 mins or so). Built in filters are nice. A better attachment between the basket where the grounds go and the body of the machine would mean I make less mistakes that turn into messes. But mostly it’s fine.

I have no idea what I would do with something like this “24-hour fully programmable” monstrosity:

fancy maker


2B. Also post to your blog an example of a frustrating user experience.  This can be a physical or digital experience.

Have you used the Navient website recently? I don’t know what the did but in a clear attempt to make things easier they recently redesigned their site to be almost entirely useless.

Navient  is a federally subsidized student loan company and I use their website to manage my student loans – of which I have too many – via my (semi)unique Navient web account.

Here is what my landing page used to look like:

navient old 2

navient old site

(this is not my homepage; found on google)

Here is what it now looks like:

navient new site 3

I don’t like this site. The side bar is bulky. I feel like the information is less clear.  I hate the addition of green to the color scheme. I DO NOT know what is going on with my student loans; I am confused!

I can see why this makes for a better mobile design:


navient old mobile


navient new mobile

But I mostly check their site on a computer. Not my phone.

This new design over complicates things, is over done, bulky, visually just gross and makes the site ineffective. If I use the site to see an overview of my loan information and pay bills, it no longer serves me.  The overview just plain sucks.

Both this example emphasize my intuitive insistence on not just sleek design but simplicity and FUNCTION. What is the point in making something more complex – adding more steps, more colors, more buttons- if all I really want is a simple interaction. I want to do one or two things – it should remain easy for me to do those things. Don’t confuse me with too many options and visual mess. Please!

side note: 

another website that could really work on it’s UX design is Fresh Direct. I mean where is my shopping cart? Why can’t I see it always? Watching your groceries accumulate is part of the joy and process of grocery shopping; getting a sense of what you have, need, and can get rid of; comparing what you might buy with whats already in your cart.


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