For questions involving physical interfaces and interactions with "real world" objects.

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362
votes
20answers
27k views

Why do people clear the screen multiple times when using a calculator?

I've noticed that most people when using a real or a virtual calculator, they hit the Clear button multiple times when clearing the screen (even though hitting it once is enough), so I started ...
230
votes
24answers
35k views

How can users be prevented from pouring water into the bean compartment of a coffee machine?

Typical coffee machines have two user-accessible compartments: one for water and one for coffee beans. Pouring water into the bean compartment kills most machines, the repairs cost a fortune. Now ...
205
votes
15answers
38k views

Why do washing machines have windows?

I'm curious why every front-loaded washing machine I've seen so far comes with a window, while other household machines, like dishwashers, don't. From a design or UI/UX perspective, why would one ...
185
votes
15answers
34k views

Why do most public toilet doors open inwards?

The design of public restrooms usually pays great attention to hand washing, providing facilities like wash basin - sometimes with touch free taps - soap dispenser, hand drier or paper towels... All ...
114
votes
14answers
9k views

Who needs an external on/off Wi-Fi button?

It puzzles me that there are Laptops which are shipped with external physical Wi-Fi buttons. I see no real use of it, but it might have a historical explanation?! The only time one notice the external ...
97
votes
19answers
12k views

Which way should be “on” for a switch?

Most of us use switches every day in various forms. And although there are sometimes general norms in countries as to which direction is "on", there is variation between countries. So when ...
96
votes
20answers
12k views

Toilet flush buttons

This question has been bugging me ever since I've started learning usability. I am talking about the two buttons for the flush : Full and half container. On one hand, the button shape has to ...
84
votes
7answers
8k views

What reason could Nintendo have had for putting the A and B buttons the wrong way round?

When Nintendo brought out it's first game system, the NES, it had a controller with four buttons: Select Start A B However, somewhere, a designer, in their infinite wisdom, decided that the A and ...
72
votes
9answers
7k views

Why is the “Record” icon always round and usually red?

I've been wondering why the symbol for 'record' is universally (AFAIK - has anyone seen exceptions?) a circle and usually red. Cameras, VCRs, voice recorders, smartphones, web apps... I've seen cases ...
63
votes
4answers
5k views

Why do numpads on keyboards and phones have reversed layouts?

I came across this on the web. It's supposed to be funny, but we all know better :) So, why are the numpad layouts different, and what are the reasons behind each?
59
votes
8answers
14k views

Why do traffic lights have three separate light bulbs instead of having one?

Recently, I checked out a concept design for a traffic light with only one light. Do you know the exact reason for having three lamps in a row, instead of one like in this concept?
56
votes
14answers
4k views

How could you prevent users from leaving their original copy in the photocopier?

I've done this myself on many occasions, even though I know it's a common mistake I need to watch out for. The steps seem to go as follows (with typical thoughts in brackets): Walk up to ...
53
votes
6answers
7k views

Why don't ATMs give you cash before your card?

I live in Australia, so this might not apply worldwide, but here, when withdrawing money, the ATM will give me back my bank card, then several seconds later the cash comes out. This typically leads ...
49
votes
8answers
10k views

“Do Not Disturb” tags in hotels, how can they be improved?

We've seen keys being replaced by key cards, new LCD TVs, WiFi and LAN in each room but the one thing that doesn't seem to have changed is the "Do Not Disturb" tag that can be hung on the doorknob ...
48
votes
12answers
14k views

Why did early telephones use a rotary dial instead of 10 individual buttons?

I was watching a video of little kids trying to figure out how to use a rotary phone, and it was not immediately clear to any of them how the rotary mechanism was supposed to work. That got me ...
42
votes
13answers
3k views

Why do Microwave oven UIs fail?

I’m not a professional chef, but I do know my way around the kitchen and its machines. The dishwasher, the fridge, the freezer, the stove and the oven all works as expected in many homes. Could you ...
40
votes
2answers
2k views

Why don't ATMs show blank arrows for unused buttons? [closed]

Have you ever had trouble lining the arrows up with the correct button on ATM consoles and other similar interfaces? Height of user can affect perceived alignment, as well as poor installation or ...
38
votes
7answers
4k views

Why do ATMs need to take your card in?

In every ATM I've seen, the card is "swallowed" by the machine, and returned at one point or another (or not, if you type the wrong PIN 3 times or whatever). This leads to people forgetting the card, ...
36
votes
6answers
1k views

Can stairs have a user experience?

Is there any UX consideration that goes into the design/construction of stairs? I know there are various local building codes and the ADA which regulate these things to some degree but stairs at ...
35
votes
9answers
5k views

Why don't most elevator panels let you unselect?

We've all seen it in the movies where a kid will push all the buttons in an elevator. We've all likely done it - accidentally hit the wrong floor. There's no unselect after you select a floor in an ...
31
votes
7answers
4k views

Why don't sandwich toasters have an on/off switch?

The absolute majority of electrical appliances have an On/Off switch. However, the absolute majority of sandwich toasters do not - you just plug them into the socket and unplug them when you're done. ...
31
votes
7answers
2k views

A better condom user experience

The lack of use of condoms is one of the most critical issues in global health today. However the problems with condoms have little to do with how effective they are when used. Instead the problems ...
29
votes
7answers
2k views

What are the usability benefits of using multiple monitors?

I've read a lot of articles suggesting that work patterns are more effective when using more than one monitor. But why is that the case, from an HCI perspective? And as follow-up questions, are there ...
28
votes
14answers
5k views

Traffic lights: why yellow before green?

Traffic lights around the world use the yellow light to warn people that it will soon turn to red, so that people can stop before. This is perfectly understandable. However, I found out that in some ...
28
votes
9answers
3k views

How can wiring systems be designed to not rely solely on colour?

Yesterday I was faced with the challenge of replacing the stock radio in my vehicle. The stock radio had broken, and it was time for a new one. As it is, building the proper wiring harness is already ...
28
votes
12answers
1k views

Real-life UX: What's wrong with our coffee maker?

At Stack Exchange, we have a very expensive espresso machine - professional quality. However, we are having a persistent, companywide problem with its use. It seems that after using the wand to ...
27
votes
12answers
744 views

How to stop people becoming marooned on a causeway

This question is based on a real world scenario… There is a causeway, roughly 1/4 of a mile long, over which the tide rapidly rises twice a day, rendering the tourist hot spot at the wrong end of it ...
27
votes
7answers
2k views

Why don't chinese teacups have handles

I am mystified over the difference between an English tea cup and a Chinese tea cup. The difference is that a chinese teacup does not have a handle/"ear" while an English teacup does have a ...
27
votes
11answers
4k views

Touchscreen devices: why did the stylus fall out of favor?

It seems to me that devices (such as navigation systems) that use a stylus for touchscreen interaction have become out of of favor. Instead most new devices are intended (i. e. larger buttons etc.) to ...
27
votes
10answers
2k views

Traffic lights: “yellow” is progress, not state

When thinking about how (real-world) traffic lights work, I wonder if there is a more intuitive way to display the yellow light. The meaning of Green and Red are states: Green: Ok, you can go! Red: ...
27
votes
2answers
1k views

Why do coins in some countries not display their denomination? [closed]

Coins have two levels of interfaces: a physical interface (their size, shape and weight) -- usable by vending machines and to certain extent by people with long-established habits of using these ...
26
votes
4answers
2k views

Why are normal water coolers so low?

A lot of water coolers look like this: You usually have to bend down in order to place your glass under the spigot and fill it, which is annoying it if you're doing it more than a few times a day, ...
25
votes
8answers
5k views

Why do people mount TVs so high on the wall in their homes?

When I was a kid, movie theatres tended to have the screens fairly high and the seats were all at or near ground level (very gentle slope), meaning we all looked up at the screen. Over time people ...
25
votes
2answers
2k views

The reasoning behind book dust jacket while there is a hardcover

I am wondering, what is the reason behind adding a dust jacket when a book has a hardcover as well. Initially, the purpose seems to be obvious: to protect the hardcover below it, so that it does not ...
23
votes
9answers
3k views

How to stop car lights being left on

The lights in cars can be a very frustrating experience for users. Most of us who drive have left our lights on and quite a few of us will have come to our cars to find them completely unusable for ...
23
votes
11answers
1k views

How to design a great unboxing experience?

I'm looking for examples or case studies for designing a manual for a physical as well as a digital product. We have an app which needs to be controlled by a physical checklist. Now I'm starting to ...
23
votes
6answers
981 views

Why do department stores create bad experiences with escalators?

In my local department store (House of Fraser, High Wycombe, UK) there are 3 floors with escalators in the middle of the store. It drives me a little bit crazy, because the direction the escalators ...
23
votes
7answers
2k views

How can a TV Remote's UX be improved?

TV remotes have the astounding distinction of having about half as many keys as my keyboard and one thousandth the functionality. The problem stems from the (perceived) need to present every possible ...
22
votes
5answers
1k views

Why do public restrooms place the paper holders so low?

Most public restrooms that I've used (in the US) place the paper holder very low, with the bottom of the roll (where you can grab the paper) below knee level when seated. This is not true in the ...
21
votes
6answers
878 views

Bathrooms near elevators

Some office buildings have communal bathrooms (British English: lavatories). By this I mean bathrooms for use by the tenants and guests of all the offices on that floor, as opposed to bathrooms under ...
20
votes
6answers
5k views

Why does the Redbox machine have barriers around the credit card swipe reader?

Perhaps you've seen one of these before. A couple of inches above and below the magnetic stripe reader are protrusions that allow just enough room to swipe a credit card. The barriers are a ...
19
votes
12answers
1k views

Why are child-resistant packages sometimes easier to open by kids than adults?

Based on discussions with friends and colleagues there seem to be difficulties opening child-resistant packages in general. There are even stories of parents letting their kids (supervised) open child ...
19
votes
9answers
3k views

Why do alarm clocks not all come with 5/7 day alarms for the working week?

In all the advances in usability why do alarm clocks still wake us up on Saturday? Why not only Monday to Friday instead of being set every night? Do we have to rely on our mobile phone if we want ...
19
votes
3answers
653 views

How do blind people know where to find Braille signs?

On many occasions I have seen signs, with the equivalent in Braille underneath the text. Which is great. But what baffles me is this: how do blind people know where to find the Braille text? I don't ...
18
votes
5answers
449 views

Which placement of list of ingredients is most convenient for the cook?

In the process of doing the layout for a cookbook, I'm faced with the problem of placing the list of ingredients for each recipe. I've looked at several cookbooks and seen numerous approaches. I can ...
16
votes
4answers
966 views

What’s the use of vertical guide lines when filling out forms using handwriting?

I’m quite fast making shopping lists via handwriting, and I think I’m not alone using small notes instead of trying to make lists in my phone. But when I come to the store and they give me a discount ...
16
votes
7answers
2k views

Why are AC adapters (wall warts) designed to block adjacent AC outlets?

The AC adapters for a lot of equipment seem to be specifically designed to block the AC outlets around it (this is in the US). Is this a safety feature to minimize the power to that outlet or just ...
16
votes
5answers
3k views

Why do light switch buttons have up/down direction when it's really a toggle function?

If you do a quick image search on your favorite search engine on "light switch" you get a large number of images. Most of them have up and down direction, to represent state. Up for on in the US, and ...
16
votes
5answers
795 views

Why do most dashboards use capital words?

Most car manufacturers seem to use ALL CAPS for the interiors's buttons and switches, at least when they are not using symbols. Example: They even use capitals for things that are not even ...
15
votes
7answers
922 views

Is a book more user friendly than an e-book?

Lately I've had this thought that books were more user friendly than applications. Why do I say that? Because of these reasons: You can visibly see, at a given time where you are and how much you ...