Some cool stuff

I guess it’s time to finally say something nice about a product, so here are two things that made a nice impression :).

Think of the following situation – while roasting some tasty chicken in the oven you decide to add some more spices. What do you do? Two options – open the oven, pull out the grate just enough so the whole thing doesn’t fall out or take it out completely (requires you to actually put on the oven mitts first). Well maybe this process could be optimized. This ancient stove you see here is made by Siemens. Here’s what happens – the whole tray comes out and you are free to do whatever you want (also you don’t have to ever stick your hands in the oven, so you can’t burn yourself).

The Siemens stove

The Siemens stove (yeah –  I wasn’t roasting chicken, but you get my point 🙂 )

OK great! Now you’ve added the spices and closed the oven door. You suddenly feel thirsty and want a glass of tap water. Of course before pouring a glass you let the water flow for a second to be sure not to get the hot water that was waiting in the pipes. Well this tap here measures the water temperature and the built in color LEDs light up in blue (cold), green (just right) or red (hot). This way you know if the water is good for drinking and you don’t even need to turn on the light if it’s dark and all you need is a glass of water (imagine getting up in the middle of the night and trying to avoid turning on the light, cause you’ll be blinded).

Blue/Red/Green tap

Cold / Just right / Hot

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A horrible water heater

Here’s what I came across – a tankless water heater. I guess those are getting more and more popular recently (just hope this particular model isn’t).

Unusable tankless water heater

The horrible water heater

What do we see here?

  • on/off button (that’s clear)
  • knob with some red and blue markings on the bottom

What do I need to know when washing my hands?

  • how to regulate the water temperature
  • how to regulate the water flow

So how am I supposed to do both with that single knob? Here’s my mental model: turning the knob left/right would control the temperature and the more you turn the more water comes out… but wait – if I turn more to the left would that mean that it also gets hotter? Well I played around with it for quite some time and it turns out that the knob only controls the amount of water and the temperature always remains warm (never hot, never cold). I asked the person next to me (this water heater’s power user :D) how to set it to cold (I simply wanted to drink) and he replied that the only way to do this is to TURN IT OFF.

Well what’s the point of such a thing anyway. You can never drink from the tap and the temperature remains in a position preset by the manufacturer. What if it’s too cold/hot for me?

Walk buttons at pedestrian crossings in Germany

The wide variety of walk buttons inspired this post. I’ll cover the three types I’ve personally come across, but surely there are more.

Let’s start with the worst example. This one here is apparently touch sensitive, but touching the red dot results in absolutely nothing. There is no feedback and no way for you to know if you actually did something (it may as well be a placebo button). It’s so bad that they actually put a large label to explain the usage. And they even messed up the label! It’s written in both German and English, but there’s no separation between the two (and clearly “Touch” is not the direct English translation of “Fußgänger roten Knopf bitte berühren”).

The "no-feedback" walk button

The “no-feedback” walk button.

Now this next one’s a bit better. It’s also touch sensitive, but at least once it registers your action it displays a red sign which tells you everything’s fine. It’s certainly better than the previous example. So what’s the problem here? Well I just don’t like this “let’s use touch sensors to seem more technologically advanced” attitude. I’ve seen people (young and old) trying to press it in all kinds of ways – from touching it gently with one finger, through pressing it 3-4 times just to be sure, to slapping it as hard as possible with the whole palm. And of course the only way to be sure you did it right is to look directly at the device and wait for the red sign.

The advanced touch sensitive walk button.

The advanced touch sensitive walk button.

And here’s my favourite – simple, robust and reliable. It has a real button in the form of a large plate that clearly affords pressing. There’s strong haptic feedback and you’ll be sure of your actions. If not – there’s a red lamp on top (just in case). Too bad someone labeled this as outdated technology, because in my opinion it’s still the best.

Old school walk button (Photo Credit: http://goo.gl/0hJYz)

Old school walk button (Photo Credit: http://goo.gl/0hJYz)