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Design flaws

Posted on April 28, 2006 by Kat.

As a matter of habit, I try to nurture in myself a "design sense" in everyday life — that is, I take the time to notice things that I run across that either work really well, or really badly.  It's a way to inform myself of what's out there, to cultivate my awareness and ability to "see" things from a design or aesthetic point of view.  It's the habit of a good artist, a form of "practice" if you will, a way to keep my senses and talents sharp.  It also gives me ideas for elements or combinations of elements to try (or NOT to try), and fresh perspectives on my own design challenges.  I admit I'm not always good at keeping it up, but I try.

And my design "practice" isn't always visual design.  Product design, if done exceptionally well or badly, comes across my radar too.  For example, last night on my way home from work. I take a city bus on the last leg of my journey.  The city transit system uses two types of fare cards now — the old magnetic strip cards, and newer RFID (radio-frequency ID) cards.  The new cards are nice, I have one (being a geek and an "early adopter"), and they usually allow for faster boarding since I only need to touch my wallet to a touchpad, rather than digging out the mag card and inserting it into the reader.  Most of the time the touchpads work well enough that I don't even have to slow down.

Except yesterday we came across a problem.  Each bus has two fare card readers nowadays, one for the mag cards, and the touchpad for the RFIDs.  So while someone is fumbling their mag card out of their purse or backpack, I can usually just walk around them, touch my wallet to the pad, and sit down without waiting.  However, yesterday I learned that if someone inserts a mag card that doesn't have enough money on it for the fare, none of the fare card readers will work until they've made up the difference in cash. Not even the touchpad, which is an entirely separate machine from the mag card reader.  So here we have a bunch of people standing in the door of the bus, hanging out doing nothing for two or three minutes while someone digs around in her purse for an extra dollar.  In that time, the entire line, or at least those with RFID cards, could have "touched-in" and gone to sit down.  Instead, we can't get the bus loaded until someone who may or may not make a habit of carrying change gets her fare sorted out.

Now, the city transit system is certainly not as bad as it could be, but at the same time I've lost count of the number of times in the past five years that I've waited more than 30 minutes for a bus during peak periods, or seen four or five of them right in a row.  This seems like a major design goof to me.

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April 28, 2006 in blog publish, company blog, company magazine, corporate magazine | Permalink


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