Engaged or vacant

I traveled down to London recently on the train, it was a Virgin branded old Intercity 125. Whilst traveling down, from where I was sitting I noticed fellow passengers trying the toilet door, several passengers tried before realizing it was engaged.

I took a closer look and here’s what I found. Approaching the door it is hard to see if the toilet is engaged or not, it is placed under the door handle, from the perspective of a adult standing up approaching the door, this is hard to see, if fact it requires bending down slightly to see if the door is locked or not.

Adult eye view approach to the toilet door. Door handle hides whether the toilet is engaged or vacant
Adult eye view approach to the toilet door. Door handle hides whether the toilet is engaged or vacant. Photography: Neil Dickinson

On closer inspection, the engaged sign on the door is not clear. A faded red shape to denote to toilet is engaged, no words, no braille for passengers with vision impairment.

Engaged door, a faint small red shape under the door handle
Engaged door, a faint small red shape under the door handle. Photography: Neil Dickinson
Vacant door, a strong small white shape under the door handle
Vacant door, a strong small white shape under the door handle. Photography: Neil Dickinson

Hidden push paddle

Recently I used a paper towel dispenser. It was straight forward to use, clear affordance1 to pull the paper down and tear to use and graphics to support this action. However, the paper teared inside the semi translucent covering, and there wasn’t enough room for my hand to pull the paper towel down further.

Black paper towel dispenser with blue paper towel hanging down
Black paper towel dispenser with blue paper towel hanging down. Photograph: Neil Dickinson

Luckily, there was another call-to-action – a push paddle for more paper, this was initially hidden behind the paper towel.

Black paper towel dispenser with Push paddle hiding behind the paper towel
The hidden Push paddle hiding behind the paper towel. Photograph: Neil Dickinson

This got me thinking, why was the paddle hidden, might it be better to have it on the side of the dispenser, clearly visible and the primary interaction with the dispenser.

You could do away with the graphics to pull the paper down altogether since this action lead to the paper tearing within the dispenser more than once during the times I used it. I assume this was also the born out in the user testing of the product, I suspect this was why the push paddle was added to the dispenser.

  1. An affordance is the possibility of an action on an object or environment.

Wasteful hand wash dispenser

This brand of Carex is by no means the only type of pump based hand wash dispenser product with (https://www.google.com/patents/US7762427) I get annoyed with, it’s the one my wife buys all the time.

Carex hand wash - look at the unused liquid
Carex hand wash – look at the unused liquid. Photograph: Neil Dickinson

You see the liquid at the bottom of the bottle, you can’t get anymore out without taking the top off. as you can see there is still fair amount of liquid left available to use.

Carex hand wash
Carex hand wash – a closer look. Photograph: Neil Dickinson

The current design of the bottle flows the liquid to the edges of the bottle away from the the pump mechanism. To be less wasteful, might we redesign the bottom of the bottle so the liquid flows to the center*1 allowing the pump mechanism to use more of the available liquid?

illustration of bottle with inverted bottom to allow liquid to flow to the center
Illustration of bottle with inverted bottom to allow liquid to flow to the center. Illustration: Neil Dickinson

Just Eat – order total on mobile device

I really like the Just Eat service, I usually use the site on my desktop computer to order food but the other day I decided to use the iPhone and I came across a baffle UI issue which had me stumped for a few minutes before I worked out why I couldn’t progress.

The part of the screenshot to focus on is near the bottom, the message ‘You need to spend £6 or more to order for delivery’, and the yellow button below it.

A screenshot of the Just Eat website from iPhone 6
A screenshot of the Just Eat website from iPhone 6. Screenshot: Neil Dickinson

So I added Fish & Chips to my basket, and got to the screen you see above, the total (£7.29) in the yellow button is higher than the £6 required to order delivery, why is it showing this message, I have more than £6 worth of items in my basket, right?

Well no. The total of the food that I added to the basket was £5.79 (the Fish & Chips), the total in the yellow button is the food total plus the delivery total – £5.79 + £1.50. Total value of the order including delivery on the button lead to my confusion.

Perhaps a better way to present the information might be to either;

1. not add the delivery cost to the value on the button (food total £5.79)

not add the delivery cost to the value on the button - food total £5.79

2. tell the user the delivery has been added to the total (total £7.29 inc delivery)

tell the user the delivery has been added to the total - total £7.29 inc delivery

My preference is for the first option, there’s a clear comparison to make between the ‘You need to spend £6 or more to order for delivery’ message and the food order total, you are have either ordered above £6 or you haven’t. You would have to calculate the food total from the overall total like I had to in the 2nd option.

Diversity at conferences

I signed up to the Diversity Charter a few weeks ago. If you’re like me and you believe in range of opinions from different social & cultural backgrounds makes for better ideas and design, surely it would improve conferences as well.

“I fully support this Charter. I will make a point to an event organiser if there is lack of diversity at their event.”

Interested, then why not sign up yourself.

Availability for volunteering

Just a quick note, I’m making some time available to do some volunteering for non-profit or charities. Ideally this would be in the evening, maybe 1 or 2 days a week.

If you have a project that maybe requires web design & development skills, or artwork and branding, get in touch via email or use Twitter.

Hello

This is my second time starting a blog, the first I deleted after not being happy with the content and writing often enough. I thought that it might actually be nice to document my thoughts on the design of everyday things that frustrate or puzzle me, as well as projects, conferences and workshops I have attended.