An Unexpected Interaction

I was surprised by a garden along my usual path of concrete and steel from the train station to my office. It was clearly marketing a product, but I was intrigued enough to look closer.

Ordinary midwestern garden vegetables. A nice contrast to my surroundings. I miss growing food, nurturing the little plants tending to them lovingly. Did I read that sign right? They want me to touch the plants? My mother’s voice echoed in my ears, “don’t touch”.

Garden sign
Touch the carrot plants

I reached out.

They giggled.

And gurgled.

I smiled.

tweet to water garden sign
Tweet to water the garden

This experience brought a moment of unexpected whimsey to an otherwise drab morning. Not only was the placement of the garden unexpected, but also how I was able to interact with it. To touch a plant and have it audibly respond was a small delight. A bit of marketing that gave back to me in exchange for my attention. I look forward to listening to the ripening tomatoes.

Car Seats: an 80/20 Rule Exception?

After I was done swearing while reinstalling the child safety seats in my car, I began to question why automotive companies don’t design seats that keep our kids safe. Why do we spend hundreds of dollars to purchase the work around seats for our kids? Our beloved 80/20 rule mandates designing for the most frequent (or valued) use case. How often do adults sit in the back seat of a car? For most automobiles, the primary back seat inhabitants are kids. We allow the auto industry to sell a product that does not safely accommodate our little ones.

Child safety seats are expensive, difficult to install, a flat-out pain in the ass. I’d much rather be able to trade them for a built in system of some sort. They do afford us control over our children’s level of safety at least the illusion of control. We research and select the highest rated, most expensive child seats and feel like we are protecting our children. Statistics show that most of the seats are incorrectly installed. That means that even with the workaround, we are not solving the problem for most families.

Does anyone else think this is a solvable problem? Should the manufacturers provide the solution? I for one think we should demand it.



May 29, 2013

It turns out that Steven Levitt posed a similar question in his TED talk in 2005.

Volvo has started incorporating booster seats into their backseats. See them in action.

Tools Not Included

While working on my presentation for Mobile Camp Chicago 2013, I’ve talked to fellow user experience pros about mobile user research. After multiple stories that involved everyone doing their best MacGyver impression to capture usability feedback, I got fed up. Why aren’t usability testing tools part of operating systems? Think about it. We know that the best solutions are created when the people who create them watch real people trying to use what they are building. OS creators have a vested interest in providing the best platform that delivers the best experience. So give the people who build the things people use on your machines the tools to do this easily.

Microsoft, Apple, Google, everybody listen up. Here’s my feature request: An integrated, standardized tool to screencast, with audio while recording.While you’re at it, please capture clicks and gestures. Throw in the ability to capture the user’s face with the camera at the same time. And make it a part of the operating system. For every device.

The world of UX will write you love letters and you will have the best, most usable software for your customers. It seems so obvious. Let’s do this.