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Bad Interfaces

Bad Interfaces

    The other day I tried to change my address through a company’s web site and it wouldn’t accept my new address because I “already have a phone number.” WTF??? I tried various workarounds including no phone number, and a fake phone number, but it insisted that once you have a phone number, and the system knows it, you can never change your address. So I asked myself, am I the first person who ever owned a phone and wanted to change his address?

    On a daily basis I am astonished by the bad design of things. In my last home, the switch for the garbage disposal was on a panel with a light switch, and looked just like it. Approximately 50% of the time I turned on the light when I wanted to dispose of something, and vice versa. I tried to memorize which switch was which, but I always got confused by my own memory tricks. Were the switches ordered the way I thought they should be, and that was my memory trick, or were they ordered the opposite of how I would have done it, and THAT was my memory trick.

    So now we have a button on the countertop for the disposal. It’s obviously not a light switch, which is good. But when you press it with your inevitably food-dirty fingers, I imagine debris falling into its little well hole until someday the button just decides not to work. I wonder how that meeting went when someone suggested putting the button where it would be guaranteed the most slime. Did no one raise a hand to suggest that might be a bad idea?

    Our new light switches have light indicators to tell you when a switch is turned off. That’s right: The “on” light indicates that the switch is off. At least that’s how my brain has interpreted it nine hundred times in a row. I understand that they want to make it easy to find the switch in the dark. But did they ever test how people use these things? And while I know the off indicator light uses almost no power at all, I can’t get past the fact that it’s sitting there wasting energy while its only function is to confuse me up to three dozen times per day.

    Perhaps my biggest interface pet peeve is alarm clocks in hotels. I stare at the controls for about ten minutes, give up, unplug it, and use my BlackBerry as my alarm clock. I have to unplug it because the last guy might have accidentally set it for 3 AM.

    What is your biggest interface peeve?

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