User experience shittery

I love collecting examples of weird, confusing, surprising, infuriating, or just plain inexplicable user interface / user experience design. I want to share my collection with you. I want you to share your collection with me.

I’m more interested in realia – inscrutable signs, Norman doors, frustrating packaging, whatever. Software interface stuff is… fine. But I think examples from the real world are where it’s at.

Anyway, share what you got! Gasp in awe at the catalog of horrors! Let’s say not more than… three? different examples in a post. Commentary encouraged but not required.

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Here’s a few favorites that I’ve collected.


This is a sign on a university campus. I’ll post a spoiler later if you’re curious WTF it’s supposed to be saying.

Then there’s this asshole right here:
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This one is subtle, but it’s one of my favorites:


It takes some reverse engineering to unpack:
Building on the right owns everything to the right of the fence. Building to the left once had some sort of gentlemen’s agreement about using the right-hand building’s property for parking. Then relations soured. Now you have a narrow strip of useless pavement and a row of useless half-parking spaces.

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I’ve never seen anything like the gas pump one. I can only assume it’s because (as far as I’ve ever seen), the buttons are always in ascending or descending order, and they’re taking advantage of that to trick people into buying high or mid grade gas when they see the number they don’t want on one end and slap the button on the opposite side.

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Yeah, it’s 100% dark pattern / asshole design. My thinking is that some regular-test people would hit the left button by muscle memory and end up paying a buck extra per gallon for useless-to-them octane.

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Yes, please.

By the way, the first door on that ‘Norman’ door article didn’t look that bad to me. I’d have said that’s fairly obviously a pull bar and the angled nature of it tells you which side to pull on.

I mean, it’s not super-obvious and I can see the sign is probably necessary for lots of people and that’s bad but there are doors that are so much worse that one could showcase instead.

This kind of thing for example:

I’d never come across the term ‘Norman’ door before so thank you for that.

I was thinking more:

Photo by George Plunkett and copied from this website which seems quite interesting:

http://www.georgeplunkett.co.uk

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I guess the issue with the Norman door in the article is that the pull bar is identical to the push bar on the other side. You can get a hint of pull-ness from the wear pattern but horizontal bars generally communicate “pushability” over “pullability” even though obviously both could be supported by this design.

As for the university sign:

The building is called the 1911 Building. Its street address is 10 Founders Drive. Its campus facilities designation is #036.

This picture of another sign for the same building clarifies exactly one of these points:

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:slight_smile: I like the university campus one now I know what it is. Very elegant if completely useless to uninitiated.

But then I’m used to old UK style places of education where new students or staff can be recognised by the way they wander around completely lost, not knowing where “Belcher’s Quad” is or which completely unmarked door to go through to cut through five buildings and save yourself an hour’s walk.

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I am responsible for mail delivery to one of the buildings on a business campus.

It’s 6 stories, with a mailroom on each floor. The mailrooms alternate irregularly.

1st floor room is on the south end. 2nd floor south, 3rd north, 4th south, 5th north, 6th both north and south.

Took me forever to memorize

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I can think of a reason to have pull bars on that side of the doors… Often with doors like that, if you push them 90 degrees they’ll click and stay in place fully opened. Then, to shut them you need a pull bar on that side, unless you want fingerprints on the glass.

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The tricky “no one told you but you probably know without realizing” thing is that vertical handles suggest pulling and horizontal handles suggest pushing. This rule gets violated all the time, but all things being equal there’s an established semiotics to door handle design.

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Yes, exactly. So that’s why I’m saying that the vertical handles are there for when you need to pull the door shut.

Yup, they’re saying “If your hands are full, you can use your hip” :slight_smile:

Edit: Oh, maybe just for us taller people I guess. Probably elbow or upper arm for shorter people.

This is sort of software, but of the firmware sort, combined with the physical interface:

EVERY MICROWAVE OVEN IS TERRIBLE.

Here’s an example interaction session. I want to cook for 2 minutes at 50% power. Button presses in [brackets], messages on the display in “quotes”, ellipsis indicates a pause of a second or two:
[2]
microwave starts cooking at full power for 2 minutes
[cancel]
microwave stops
[power level]
“the”…
“power”…
“level”…
“may”…
“not”…
“be”…
“changed”…
“at”…
“this”…
“time”…
“2:00pm”
[time cook]
“enter”…
“cook”…
“time”…
“0:00”
[2][0][0]
“2:00”
[power level]
“the”…
“current”…
“power”…
“level”…
“is”…
“PL-10”
[power level]
“the”…
“current”…
“power”…
“level”…
“is”…
“PL-10”
[5]
“the”…
“current”…
“power”…
“level”…
“is”…
“PL-5”
[start]

A microwave should have two knobs: a power level knob marked from 0 to 10, and an egg-timer-style twist timer to set the time and start the thing going. Why is that so hard?

Other appliances are equally terrible. Last time I visited my parents I had to ask for help multiple times to get their new oven to work - and usually I’m the one they go to for help with computers…

Laundry machines always have baffling modes like “permanent press”. What is that? What does it mean? What is the difference between “normal” and “delicates”? Why can’t it just have clearly labeled knobs for temperature, speed, etc?

Stoves are the only appliance which remains usable. Though I’ve heard of some electric stoves moving to microwave style thin-film button panels. Kill me.

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I have a personal rule I call “Occam’s Kitchen Razor,” which states, “Logic boards shall not be multiplied without necessity.” Basically, the electronics of kitchen appliances ought to tend simpler rather than more complex. I make a minor exception for microwaves because they deal with quantum mechanical phenomena (and dial-operated microwaves are either commercial or from the 1970s). Dishwashers also seem to be strictly electronic now. But stoves, fridges, washing machines, blenders… just give me some relays and switches.

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Just wait for microwave ovens with voice control build in.

Or, as a matter of fact, for doors and elevators. I hear the rebranding to Happy Vertical People Transporters will probably be skipped, and resources will be focused on how to integrate the functionality with Alexa, Siri and GA.

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“Does it have to work, or is Siemens okay?”

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I bought one at METRO maybe 3 months ago.

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My new stove has touch controls: but they emulate dials, so it’s mostly okay.

For the range, at least. Even our old antique stove had buttons for the oven.

Literal user experience shittery: The electronic automatic-flush sensors in the bathrooms at my workplace are designed for people much, much taller than me. I enter the toilet cubicle; sensor thinks “ah, there’s someone here!”; I sit my short self down; sensor (now sensing over my head) thinks “ah, they’re gone! FLUSH!

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Oh god, Honeywell…

My last house had a Honeywell thermostat, and my parents’ new house has one too. I think our current house had a GE, but in any event I immediately ripped it out and replaced it with a Nest. For all its warts, a Nest is basically a dial that sets the temperature. It’s a FUCKING THERMOSTAT! THAT’S WHAT I USE IT FOR! I actually never figured out how to just set the fucking temperature right now on the goddamn Honeywell. Haven’t been able to figure out my parent’s one either. I found the manual online, it still didn’t help.

The trick is, never let an engineer design things. Every button on the Honeywell does about eight different things, depending on what buttons you pressed previously. I’m sure in doing so the engineer who designed it saved twelve whole registers! But the up and down buttons don’t actually change the temperature unless you press a bunch of other buttons before or after. Or maybe they never change the temperature? At best I would get it to change the temperature for a while, but then a random amount of time later it would change.

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