Questions tagged [physical]

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

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479
votes
24answers
41k 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 ...
276
votes
24answers
41k 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 ...
257
votes
14answers
46k views

What's wrong with USB sticks that you need 3 tries to plug them in correctly?

You've all probably experienced this at least once: trying multiple times to plug in a USB stick correctly, because somehow it isn't intuitive what side goes up. This is especially the case when the ...
252
votes
15answers
51k 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 ...
236
votes
15answers
52k views

Why do most public toilet doors open inwards?

The design of most public restrooms greatly caters for the ability to wash hands after the use of the toilette, providing facilities like sinks - sometimes with touchless faucets - soap dispensers, ...
161
votes
12answers
28k views

Why do idle elevators close the doors?

If the elevator stops on a floor, opens the doors to let the passengers out, and hasn't received a command to go on another floor, why does it close its doors afterwards? If the elevator is not on my ...
153
votes
9answers
45k views

What's the purpose of “This page is intentionally left blank” we see in books?

What's the purpose of "This page is intentionally left blank" we see in books? Why not just leave the page blank and write nothing on it?
135
votes
15answers
14k 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 ...
125
votes
19answers
86k 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 ...
122
votes
6answers
34k 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?
116
votes
20answers
22k 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 ...
103
votes
13answers
26k views

Why do showers have “hot” and “cold” knobs rather than “temperature” and “quantity” knobs?

I do not understand the advantage of the popular "hot" and "cold" controls in showers, as opposed to "temperature" and "quantity" controls. Is it simply because the latter option is harder to ...
100
votes
8answers
16k views

What reason could Nintendo have had for putting the A and B buttons in a non-alphabetical order?

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 B ...
85
votes
9answers
13k 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 ...
83
votes
20answers
24k views

I'm designing a no-data USB cable : How should the end be marked?

I'm specifying a dedicated USB cable for a product, but it won't be a full cable, it will be missing the center conductors. In other words, it is functionally equivalent to a "charge only" USB cable. ...
74
votes
10answers
18k views

Why is sugar not in a shaker?

At most restaurants that I've seen, the middle of the table is set up with: One salt shaker One pepper shaker A small dish of a few sugar packets Why isn't sugar put in a shaker like salt and pepper ...
73
votes
12answers
12k views

Do signs printed on the road offer a significant advantage for the user over signs on a post?

I was driving earlier today and I came across a stretch of road that didn't have signs for the speed limit but instead had it written on the road like so: Image source It got me thinking that it ...
69
votes
8answers
24k 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?
67
votes
7answers
16k 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 ...
65
votes
9answers
7k views

How to convey: “don't move until the task is done!”

Our local public transportation system uses electronic cards (something like RFID technology) to validate rides. Users enter the vehicle and place their contactless card against a reader, and a beep ...
64
votes
14answers
5k 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 photocopier ...
63
votes
3answers
21k views

Why are aluminium soda cans typically round instead of square?

Why are beverage cans usually round? Considering the amount that are made, and the need to be transported - isn't a round design inefficient? (ie the lost space from not tightly fitting together). ...
61
votes
12answers
25k 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 ...
58
votes
11answers
16k views

Why do most smartphones not have a physical keyboard?

The vast majority of smartphones sold today use a 'bar' or 'slate' form-factor, with a large screen which uses an on-screen keyboard. Blackberry are the one obvious manufacturer who still produce ...
56
votes
17answers
19k views

What is the benefit of 2 drive thru lanes at a fast food restaurant?

The following photo shows the drive thru lane at a fast food restaurant. The lane splits in two to allow 2 drivers to place their order at the same time. The following photo shows an overhead view ...
56
votes
9answers
14k 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 ...
54
votes
14answers
8k 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 ...
48
votes
11answers
13k 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 handle/"...
48
votes
7answers
10k 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, ...
48
votes
5answers
6k views

Why are messages on the road printed in reverse?

After reading this question, something occurred to me that I've always wondered - but never thought to ask. Why are road messages/signs printed in reverse? (source https://xkcd.com/781/) Anytime I ...
48
votes
11answers
13k 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 ...
43
votes
8answers
17k 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. ...
43
votes
2answers
3k 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 ...
42
votes
6answers
2k 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 ...
41
votes
4answers
7k views

Why do we prefer shiny finish on cars and dull finish on devices?

Across the board, cars have shiny paint (which looks great), while computers, laptops and phones etc. tend to have a dull finish to them. What’s the logic/psychology behind this?
39
votes
12answers
11k views

Why do speedometers (in the US, at least) go so high? [closed]

Typically one doesn't drive much faster than 80 MPH. Even in an emergency passing situation, it would be extremely rare to drive more than 100 MPH. In fact, as far as I know many cars have governors ...
38
votes
3answers
13k 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 ...
37
votes
8answers
27k views

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

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 ...
36
votes
16answers
16k 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 ...
36
votes
11answers
12k views

Door handle on automatic doors - why?

I was traveling by train, and I came across the board toilet in the picture below: Unlike other board toilets I encountered so far, this one had an automatic door. At least this is what I suspected ...
36
votes
2answers
9k 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 coins;...
35
votes
1answer
4k views

Why put a warning sticker over the warning on this product?

My curiosity got piqued by a can of deodorant with a sticker with a "flammable" warning placed where the text was evidently already flowed around it. Peeling off the sticker revealed another "...
33
votes
5answers
3k 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, ...
32
votes
7answers
3k 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 ...
31
votes
13answers
3k 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 ...
31
votes
3answers
17k 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 ...
29
votes
9answers
4k 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 ...
29
votes
11answers
3k 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 ...
28
votes
12answers
1k 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 ...
28
votes
7answers
14k 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 negative ...