I recently got some (plastic 😬) bottles for home.
Not proud of it. But anyway, I noticed a small design anomaly with them.
Normally, the neck of most bottles are only slightly shorter than their lids.
Now while these bottles are fine otherwise (except, plastic!), I wonder how many people who’ve bought them have unintentionally spilled water on themselves while drinking.
When we reach out for a bottle, we unconsciously gauge the height of the neck (also the mouth diameter), and the brain magically calculates an approximate “how much to tilt”…
But with these bottles, that seems a little misleading. You expect a taller neck than the lid hides, which means water will be out at a smaller angle of tilt than one expects.
Ideally, always either match or exceed (i.e. err on the safer side of) user perception.
This bottle’s neck design is like having a negative margin of safety.
Say a product has a 100 kg payload limit. It is designed with a margin of safety, meaning it will deform or buckle above 100 kg (maybe at 110, or at 120 or even higher), not exactly at 100. But then imagine another similar product with the same 100 kg payload claim, but one that buckles at 95.
This bottle neck is that. Not always desirable.
There is a beauty to how some products (and software) are designed.
Think scissors. If we want to cut something fast, we use the forward section of the blades (speed multiplier). Want to cut something fatter or tougher, use the rear end of the blades (effort multiplier); and cut slower, or risk breaking the scissors.
And Mixer grinders. Need to grind coffee beans to a powder? Start with the low speed, and slowly increase. Jump to the highest speed fast, and you could damage the blades or motor.
Cars (MT) and commuter bikes follow a similar rule. More torque for climbing on lower gears, and better speed on higher gears. Try climbing in a high gear, and you’ll stall. Go fast in a lower gear (or drop to a low gear at high speed), and you wear out the gear.
Think Software. I’ve always admired the MS Office suite. Layered, so novices like the teenage us got some basic fun. And as our task complexity deepened, the software opened up to keep pace.
Physical products have manuals. Tech service cos would benefit if they spelt out the expertise/ features they offered. Many of us use online services not knowing half their features; many of which could simplify our work or make things more enjoyable.
Make layers appear as the user gets ready for them.
Firstly, should laptop charging lights be put on the side the charger plugs in?
That is where the charger plugs in, but not where we sit. Which means many a times, it would be an effort to confirm charging.
How about on the front? Better, since most often, many of us (remember to) charge the laptop only when using. Still not the greatest place since it might require a slight head movement to check.
Or should it be placed someplace else?
Of course, there’s also the flip-side, that of prominently placed lights being a subtle distraction to the user.
Till date, Apple’s indicator on the charger end logically seems to be one of the best spots.
Though surely there are other spots or angles that might be more easily visible to the user.
Where do you think the charging lights should be?
And, on the topic of laptops..their keyboard sizes in particular… guess most of us assume what we buy is all we get…
I stumbled upon a clip of a 1995 IBM ThinkPad 701. Surely pricey at $1500-3200 a laptop, but look at that keyboard!
Incredible! Why isn’t this feature standard in laptops now?
Makes you wonder why the most useful of technology never seems to survive time.
Researching chopping board designs…
..in the search for a better one.
Researching chair designs…
..in the search for a better one.
The gap between good intentions and impact of the resulting action (or choice) has been an area of interest to me.
A decade ago, a Brad Pitt linked non-profit messed up an affordable homes project [2008-2015] in New Orleans.
Meant to be green and sustainable, the homes had severe structural and mold problems. 6 of 150 are in good condition. They were not even adequately designed for heavy rains the region received.
Even the best intentioned plans must cross the Usability bridge and be adopted by users to achieve their purpose.
However often, noble intent overshadows recipient needs.
Few years ago, the Delhi government messed up a similarly noble homeless shelter project.
Growing up here in India, another amusing example I’d hear of, is slum redevelopment.
Governments built apartments for city slum dwellers in city suburbs. But oftentimes, many of these dwellers would rent out their new accommodation (thus gaining a new source of income), and move back to their old slum, which was familiar as a place, people, and place of employment.
In all of these cases, the beneficiaries are not to blame. They are not too demanding or picky or greedy.
Despite the best of intentions, it is simply a failure to design a more caring solution for them.
How most food ordering/ delivery service apps work is, you make your selection, pay (or CoD), and confirm the order.
However, there are occasions (or lack of them) where you might want to order something, but without any time constraint.
These instances might include, remembering to order a birthday cake for tomorrow, or have some starters or dessert sent anytime this evening. In such cases, at present, you’d have to remember or set an alarm to place the order in a broad time bracket.
But what if instead, like with Scheduling a ride with Uber, you could simply place the order in advance, and either pick the day, or a broad time within the day, for when the order could be dropped.
It would be convenient to customers who might risk forgetting or risk ordering too late.
Companies could insist on prepaid orders only.
Companies benefit by being able to bunch orders only when a rider is headed in a particular direction, rather than sending them with a lone minimum order in a direction.
Might help marginally with easing traffic, and make rider trips a little more efficient, while being convenient for customers.
This Idea for Food Delivery Services was part of an initiative called RattL ’em.
What is RattL ’em?: We are constantly fascinated by companies, products and services.
So, every few days, we send out an email to, or share an idea online about a random company anywhere in the world that caught our fancy. The email either contains an idea for a new product or service, a concern area to focus on, or a new feature or improvement to their portfolio.
We do it for free. And for fun. And the company that receives it is free to use the idea, with no financial or other obligation toward us. We think of it as our way to be the best at what we do in the field of innovation and design strategy consulting.