Love & Hate Of Everyday Things

It is the duty of machines and those who design them to understand people.

-Donald A. Norman, The Design of Everyday Things

My most favored appliance: the Nespresso Aeroccino.

Exercise A: Have you ever fallen in love with an everyday object?  Is there an object that you use every day or frequently that you appreciate for it’s touch, appearance or usability? Most of us have attachments to things. What is an object  that appeals to you because of the way you interact with it? Describe the appeal of the object to you and analyze what you love about it and why.

Let me forewarn you, this is going to be a straight up ode to my precious Nespresso Aeroccino. This machine has one button and does four things: hot frothy milk, cold frothy milk, hot foamed milk and cold foamed milk. This makes for endless delicious coffeemaking options, and as a coffee extremist, it has played a big roll in my day-to-day activities. The Nespresso Aeroccino is simple, intuitive, works without fail, and I was absolutely impressed the first time I used it.

Assemby – The Aeroccino essentially has five parts: the base, that plugs directly into the wall, the pitcher, which holds the milk and fits seamlessly into the base through one simple socket in its bottom center, an airtight lid, a foaming bit and a frothing bit. The appliance does not come preassembled but I never once looked at an instruction kit in order to figure out how to use it because its design is incredibly intuitive.

Intuitive Design -The Aeroccino looks like what it does. It is a pitcher that holds milk. But it is also a machine that either warms or makes cold milk, and creates different levels of froth. This is how:

  1. There are two lines on the interior of the Aeroccino pitcher. One line has the symbol of the milk frother next to it, and is the higher line, indicating without instruction that if you are going to froth your milk, you can fill the Aeroccino with milk up to that line. If you are going to foam your milk, you can only fill your milk up to the line that is annotated with a symbol for the milk foamer.
  2. The Aeroccino comes with two small bits that lock into place magnetically on the lid of the pitcher and the base of the pitcher, respectively. The magnet inside the Aeroccino pitcher spins the bit rapidly to create the foam/froth as desired. You can switch out the two bits seamlessly depending on how you want to prepare your milk. You can even leave the unused bit on the lid of the pitcher as you’re using it. You might just need to clean it when you’re done.
  3. The button on the front of the Aeroccino is a different color (black) than the rest of the pitcher (stainless steel). It also has two circles lining the exterior of the button and a smaller circle on the interior of the button, like a bulls-eye. It is rubberized and cushiony looking, signaling that it should be pushed.
  4. When you push it briefly, the “bulls-eye” is illuminated red, to indicate that it is warming the milk. The machine starts. When it is finished, the light turns off. Your milk is ready. When you push the “bulls-eye” a little bit longer, it turns blue, indicating that the milk being prepared will be cold.

This has been wordlessly communicated to me by a precise and intuitive system that has been seamlessly integrated in the Aeroccino’s design. Lovely.

The Aeroccino’s interior also serves as a storage space for parts otherwise easily lost.

Ease Of Use -The Aeroccino is flexible:

  1. You do not need to unplug it and replug it every time you use it. Instead, you can keep the base plugged in, and only remove the pitcher and use it wherever you are serving or pouring your latte/cappuccino/short cap/flat white/cortado/cortadito I could literally go on for days.
  2. This also makes it easy to clean. Because there is no exposed electrical component in the pitcher portion of the Aeroccino, you can wash it without worrying about damaging the appliance as a whole.
  3. Storing the Aeroccino parts is also incredibly seamless. The frother and the foamer are relatively small components, but the designers of the Aeroccino have built a magnetic button into the top of the lid that allows the component to snap into place above for easy storage. The other bit can be stored in the bottom of the Aeroccino pitcher itself, in the same place the bit snaps into place for foaming/frothing use.

Durability -I have had my Aeroccino since 2009. It is still going strong and it is still the simplest design of have encountered that allows me to do as much as it does. Belissima.

Experience is critical, for it determines how fondly people remember their interactions.

-Donald A. Norman, The Design of Everyday Things

The bane of my existence.

Exercise B: What is an example of a frustrating user experience?  It can be a physical or digital experience. How would you fix that frustrating user experience? Focus on everyday interactions.

Here’s the deal. There is nothing “blysfull” about my BaByliss PRO ceramic hot tools straightening iron, and I use it every day. And every day, I curse the gods who made it. It is stupid. It has one purpose and it is by no means seamless.

Assembly OK so there’s a comb that you insert into the straightening iron that you can use if you prefer (as I do) to have a more controlled straightening process. The only problem is, the comb shimmies up the side of the straightener so that you need to keep pushing it back down into the slot that’s there for it. It gets really hot too, so it can burn you. This is not a result of many uses, either. It happened the first time I ever used it.

PSA: This comb does not stay in place.

Intuitive Design Ok, so they did a nice job of the two-button on/off switch. The button automatically lights up when you plug it in, and there’s a simple “on” button that lights green when you press it. Sometimes the straightener will randomly turn off, but at least you’ll know that’s happened because the off button will illuminate red again.

Ease of Use Ho boy. In addition to the issue of scalding myself every time I have to push in the stupid comb on the stupid straightener, and the ghost off  switch, I present, in no particular order, additional complaints:

  1. The temperature control dial is located on the interior of the straightening iron, dangerously close to the heated ceramic pads. Whyyyyy would you do that. It’s an invitation to burn your hand.
  2. The cord is ridiculously long. Like, old telephone stretches from the kitchen through the dining room and out your fire escape long. Are you going to straighten your hair on your fire escape? No, that’s dumb. It also (for reasons that I can only assume are spiteful), curls up into little knots as your straightening your hair, nulling the advantages of such a long cord and essentially forcing me to spend half of my time unknotting my straightening cord.
  3. It stays on forever. That is what we call a fire hazard. I’m pretty sure automatic shutoff or an idle function is a thing that can be built.
Design Expert: “Maybe if we switch the packaging they won’t notice what a shit product this is.”
User: Nope, still shit.

Durability Not only do I hate this stupid machine but I have to replace it every few years because it burns out and just stops working. And for fun there’s no telling when this will happen. No service light, just a day where it’s really important that you look presentable for a work presentation as a guarantee that you’ll instead show up to said presentation with patches of half straight/half curly hair like a crazy person.

Redesign

  • Get rid of the cord (charging station)
    1. Have cord of reasonable length to plug into wall if straightener isn’t charged. It should be the same cord that plugs into the charging station.
    2. It is an otherwise wireless experience.
    3. The cord should be retractable.
  • Have an idle/autoshutoff for obvious fire safety reasons.

  • Make it so the temperature dial isn’t right next to piping hot ceramic, and overhaul the display settings in general.
  • Have a case to put it in. If you boast that you can throw it in your bag for portability, then prevent it from melting plastic and some metals with exposed piping hot ceramic.
  • Make sure that the stupid teeth snap into place.
  • Make it last for longer that one year. Quality control is key.

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